A Polar Legend:
Sir (George) Hubert Wilkins

1957 Bi-Polar Flight

Another one of my "coups"...bought for $10 from a dealer who had no idea of what a polar legacy he had reposing in his miscellaneous box! This flight has had several stories over the years in Ice Cap News, and I understand there is also a T.O. (trans-oceanic) catalog number (published by the American Air Mail Society) for it as well.

I think it is especially interesting in that he addressed it to himself in pencil, so it is really, in effect, a dual-autographed cover. There are several different versions of these covers as far as franking and different cancellation combinations, but the printed cachet is a constant.

Making this cover appealing, despite the dark US Liberty 3-cent stamp, is the socked-on-the-nose USN postmark from Little America, Antarctica. I suspect it was the typical USN Type 2 cancel bar, with the killers being off the envelope. 

It has the usual toning you might expect from a stock envelope after 42 years (incidentally 1957 was a VERY good year <g>)... another "visual" reminder for us collectors to always use a quality high cotton rag content envelope, (at least 25% cotton-I like 100% better) when making cover sendings... it certainly does makes a difference, as you can see.   As an aside, some of you might know that President Abraham Lincoln was fond of quality writing paper, and that is part of the reason many of the documents which bear his autograph are still preserved and in fairly good shape even today- he is reported to have liked the use of rag content paper (from a company that remains in business today, by the way-the Southworth company.)  He also used pens made by another company that is still in business, the Sanford company!


IGY marking from Little America and the omnipresent "DISNEY" Task Force 43 cachet

Wilkins died only about a year after this historic flight.  As an interesting postscript, Wilkins' ashes were scattered at the North Pole in March 1959, when re-visited there by the U.S.S. Skate (SSN-578).  The crew became known as "Pole Sitters" when they broke through the ice and stood at the Pole. The Skate had made history the previous year when it reached the North Pole by crossing under the ice pack.  Some years later (in 1975) Lady Suzanne Wilkins' ashes were also scattered at the North Pole by the crew of the U.S.S. Bluefish on its visit.

Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center holds the papers of Sir Hubert Wilkins. Go here for a biography and detailing of their holdings. There is also a historical link from their library at http://library.osu.edu/sites/archives/polar/exhibits/wilkins/wilkins.php


Here are several good links about the life of Sir George Hubert Wilkins.
American Philosophical Society Page

Wikipedia Entry
World History Blog: The 1931 Nautilus Expedition to the North Pole


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QSLnet/KG0YH page last updated 01 August 2009 1724Z

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