Cocos (Keeling) Islands
75th Anniversary of Barrel Mail on Cocos (Keeling) Islands
In 1984 the Cocos Islands commemorated the 75th Anniversary of Cocos
(Keeling) Islands Barrel Mail with three stamps and a souvenir sheet.
Discovered by Captain William Keeling in 1609, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are two coral atolls consisting of twenty-seven islands, two of which are inhabited. This six square mile Australian territory is located 1330 miles northwest of Australia and 580 miles southwest of Java. In 1994 the islands had a population of 670. Most of the population was descended from Malays brought to Home Island by English adventurers starting with Alexander Hare in 1826. He was followed by others such as John Clunies-Ross who received a 999 year lease on the islands from Queen Victoria. Coconut plantations provided the economic foundation for the previously uninhabited islands.
In 1901 Cable and Wireless established a station on Direction Island which received mail three times a year with the visits of the Islander from Christmas Island. Captain Brown of the P&O ship S.S. Morea decided to mitigate the isolation of the post by dropping a barrel marked with a flag containing fresh meat and vegatables and mail from his vessel as he passed so it could be picked up by a boat from the island. By 1909 this became a common practice on P&O vessels passing by the islands and the "barrel mail" whose 75th anniversary was commemorated on the 1984 stamp issue was established. Ships would drop the barrel with a cable attached and a boat from the island would retrieve the barrel and attach their own barrel with out-going mail to the cable which would then be reeled back onto the ship. Mail from the barrels would placed in the regular mail at a port such as Perth. The service continued as late as 1955.
On April 20, 1984 the Cocos Islands commemorated the 75th Anniversary of Cocos Islands Barrel Mail with three stamps and a souvenir sheet. Their designs depicted mail distribution on Direction Island, jukongs retrieving barrels from an ocean liner, the S.S. Morea retrieving outgoing mail and barrel mail recovery. Jukongs are dugout canoes made by the Malay settlers from local ironwood trees.
The one dollar high value souvenir sheet depicts the recovery of barrel mail.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands are two coral atolls located 1330 miles northwest of Australia and 580 miles southwest of Java.
"Cocos (Keeling) Islands." Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.2015.
Johnson, Irving and Electa. "Yankee Roams the Orient." The National Geographic Magazine.
Mar. 1951: 327-370.
Last, Barbara. "Beyond the Catalogue--Tin Can Mail." Gibbons Stamp Monthly.
Oct. 1990: 102-103.
Lewis, Brenda Ralph. "Sailing to Celebrate in the Cocos Islands." Gibbons Stamp Monthly.
Jul. 1999: 92.
Straut, Edith Bauer. "At Home on the Oceans." The National Geographic Magazine.
Jul. 1939: 33-86.
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