Land ahoy! Historic maritime voyages sail onto new stamps

Australia Post will set sail with the release of a new stamp issue depicting two significant 17th-century voyages by Captain William Mynors and explorer and navigator William Dampier off the coast of what is now Christmas Island.

Australia Post Philatelic Manager, Michael Zsolt said both stamp collectors and maritime enthusiasts alike have a fascination with this exciting period of history.

"This stamp issue highlights two significant voyages made during a time where maritime exploration was often marked by difficult conditions and navigational limitations," he said.

The first stamp depicts the journey of Captain William Mynors as he sailed past the island in 1643 aboard the East India ship Mary (also known as Royal Mary). The log recorded the sighting at 3am on 25 December "… because it was Christmas Day we called it by the name of Christmas Iland [sic]".

While the first map of the island was published in 1671 and featured the name "Christmas I", it was not until after the mid-19th century that "Christmas Island" became the established name. Prior to this, various names were used and more than one island was often depicted.

The second stamp focuses on the journey by William Dampier on the Cygnet, which saw the first recorded visit ashore Christmas Island in 1688.

Dampier recorded his impressions in his famous work, A New Voyage Round the World (1697), describing Christmas Island as "small" and "woody" and "… of a good height, with steep cliffs … and a sandy bay … but very deep water steep to the shore". Dampier also noted the size of the crabs brought back by the crew, describing them as "…a sort of land animal somewhat resembling a large crawfish without its great claws".

The domestic base-rate ($1) and large letter rate ($2) stamps were designed by Sonia Young of the Australia Post Design Studio. The stamp design combines a historical map with illustration and typography. The sketch used on the minisheet was created by Daniel Beeckman, after he sailed past the island in 1714.

The products associated with this stamp issue are a minisheet, first day cover with gummed stamps and a first day cover with minisheet.

The Christmas Island: Early Voyages stamp issue is available from participating Post Offices, via mail order on 1800 331 794 and online at auspost.com.au/stamps from 15 August 2017 while stocks last. The Christmas Island: Early Voyages stamps are valid for postage in Australia.

Visit the Australia Post Collectables website auspostcollectables.com.au to learn more about the various names given to Christmas Island.

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