'Don't Destroy this Envelope'

One of my favourite Polar covers is from my Discovery collection.

At first it looks like a messy envelope but it tells an interesting story and is one of the most important items of Australian Polar Philately.

It is an official 'Discovery Antarctic Expedition 1901' envelope (penguin logo on the flap) and has been addressed by Louis Bernacchi, the Australian physicist who earlier was on the Borchgrevink Southern Cross expedition and became the first Australian to set foot on the Antarctic Continent. He later joined Scott's Discovery expedition and while on his way to the Antarctic, he wrote a letter to his girlfriend in London. The letter and envelope were posted at Lyttelton on the 30th November 1901, the day Discovery reached the port, using a id New Zealand 'Universal' stamp which covered the postage to Commonwealth countries. Unfortunately, by the time the letter reached London on the 14th January, 1902 (receiving postmark on front) she had shifted to the United States.

The envelope was readdressed to New York (at top left of envelope) and received there on the 24th January where it had a penalty payment of 3 cents additional postage imposed for the redirection to a non-Commonwealth country. A U.S.A. 3 cent Postage Due stamp was attached to the back of the envelope and cancelled January 25. By this time she had shifted once again and the letter was redirected to Ohio were it was received in Youngstown on the 28th January.

As the letter was not forwarded on any further it is assumed that it had finally reached the addressee.

It is interesting to note the message written on the back "don't destroy this envelope". Did he realise that in years to come it would be valuable? It is a pity the enclosed letter was not kept too as it could have told of life on board Discovery.

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