7th November 2017 South Pacific Air Mails + Clipperton Island

On Tuesday November 7th, the Society welcomed Laurence Kimpton who gave a presentation entitled ‘South Pacific Air Mails and Clipperton Island’.

Clipperton Island was a mystery to all of us at the meeting but Laurence was able to make sure that we went away well informed. Clipperton Island lies in the Pacific, 1100km SW of Acapulco. It is a coral atoll on the remains of a volcano and its ownership has varied since it was discovered – possibly as early as Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe in the 16th century. It has never had a long term resident population and its postal history is associated with the commercial mining of phosphates (guano) and visits to assert ownership. Laurence showed covers and stamps from a number of these ventures, particularly from Mexico and France who both laid claim to the territory and produced stamps for Clipperton Island. In 1909 the claim went to arbitration and in 1934 was decided in favour of France. During WW2 the US, Britain and Asutralia investigated using the island to support operations in the Pacific. In the 1960’s France considered it for nuclear bomb testing and between 1970 and 1990 radio ham operators, looking for remote sites from which to broadcast, visited and sent postcards to confirm their radio conversations. The most recent mail in 2005 was from a scientific research group who sold covers to help raise funds.

South Pacific Airmails formed the second half of the evening. This was based around the development of the air routes in the 1930’s, and British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines (BCPA) which started flights in 1946. Laurence showed a number of first flight covers and commercial mail based on the New Zealand/Australia route across the Pacific Islands and into the United States and Canada. He explained some of the complexities of postal treaties related to this route. For example, mail from Australia and New Zealand back to the UK was not allowed on this route but had to use the western route via India and the Middle East. This was despite the fact that by the 1950’s, the principal passenger route was west across the Atlantic, Americas and Pacific. Mail was allowed on the BCPA flights, but only for Canada, USA and South America – one of the interesting covers was from New Zealand to Chile via this route. BCPA closed in 1953, partly because lack of significant mail revenues, but also because of the financial complications caused by the Comet – BCPA had planned to purchase this aircraft but the early crashes and the subsequent delay prevented this from happening.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday November 21st at 7:30pm at Hanwell Fields Community Centre when the presentation will be ‘GB Surface Printed’ by Bob Galland. The Banbury Stamp Society is on-line at ‘www.banburystampsociety.co.uk’, or contact John Davies on 01295 255831.