Week 37/2023: Airmail

The first airmail service from Tasmania

Week of 11 September 2023

The things you find in piles of old papers

Looking through some of my mother’s papers on the weekend, I discovered a letter written to my grandmother, who was living in Melbourne, from her brother, my great uncle, in Penguin, Tasmania. He wrote it because he thought it wold be a novelty to send her a letter on the first airmail service from Tasmania to Victoria on 1 May 1931. (Their father was the Postmaster at Penguin at the time.)

(What was most interesting about this letter, apart from the commemorative postmark on the envelope, was that the letter says, “I will write again very soon to tell you the news (scandal)”. What scandal?! I need to know more but there’s no more correspondence. Was it a scandal that rocked Penguin? The entire north west coast? All of Tasmania? Or simply a family secret revealed? I expect I’ll never know!)

Scandals aside, I had to find out more about the airmail service, so I went looking for more information.

I learned the service was operated by Charles Kingsford Smith’s Australian National Airways (ANA), which had started operating a passenger service between Melbourne and Launceston in January 1931, building on their existing network between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. This was extended to Hobart shortly afterwards.

A magazine advertisement for flights between Tasmania and Melbourne in 1931 clamining "to Melbourne in 3 hours!" with images of old planes
Advertisement for Tasmania to Melbourne flights from The Weekly Courier 4 March 1931 (from https://bassstraitflight.au/start/)

The Tasmanian Aviation Historical Society tells us that one of ANA’s planes was lost on a flight between Sydney and Melbourne in March 1931, which dented public confidence in flying, resulting in ANA closing down in June 1931.

But in this very small window before it ceased operating, ANA was given the contract to carry official airmail from Hobart to Melbourne, beginning on 1 May 1931.

The Brisbane Courier reported on 25 April 1931, that the service would run thrice weekly in both directions, leaving Hobart (with a stopover in Launceston) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and leaving Melbourne on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The Postal Department designed a special cachet on all postal articles sent on the first flights from and to Tasmania.

The back of an envelope with a postmark from Melbourne and a circular stamp commemorating the first airmail flight between Tasmania and Victoria with an image of Tasmania in the centre
The back of the envelope of the letter to my grandmother with the cachet commemorating the first airmail service between Tasmania and Victoria

According to New Zealand Stamp Images, what actually happened was that Imperial Airways flew its first experimental airmail flight from London to Melbourne on 29 April 1931. The plane, Southern Star, was then supposed to fly on to Hobart in time for the first airmail service from Tasmania to Melbourne on 1 May.

But! There was bad weather. (In Tasmania. Who’d have thought.) This means the Southern Star didn’t get any further than Launceston, so the 1 May mail, with its special cachet, was driven to Launceston, put on the plane and flown to Melbourne.

And, technically, because the mail for Tasmania from the UK flight was still on the plane that went to Launceston on 30 April, this mail was actually the first official airmail to Tasmania rather than the mail that was on the return flight from Melbourne on 2 May.

But it didn’t get the cachet.

Week 37 summary

Training update

This is week three of my Point to Pinnacle training, as I attempt to get back on track recovering from my back injury. It’s been going well through I’ve noticed a kind of numbness in my big toe that feels a little odd. I suspect it’s developed from me not walking properly when I’ve been trying to avoid putting excessive strain on everything else on the side of me that’s sore and it will resolve itself.

It doesn’t hurt so it’s not preventing me from walking and I completed this week’s training plan mostly as I wanted to.

I realised that planning a longer walk on Friday isn’t a good idea because I have my early morning Pilates class and I go to the office so I don’t have as much time to walk as I do on other days. I’m going to change that up for next week.

A beach scene with rocks in the foreground and a wave splashing over some of the rocks on the right-hand side of the scene. The sky is overcast. There are cliffs in the background.
Tuesday afternoon walk

Here’s how it all went.

  • Monday (3 km): 3.18 km
  • Tuesday (2 km): 2.32 km
  • Wednesday (3 km): 2.9 km (times 2)
  • Thursday (2 km): 2.0 km
  • Friday (3 km): 1.24 km plus a lot of running around
  • Saturday (2 km): 2.37 km
  • Sunday (5.5 km): 6.03 km

What was the best thing about this week?

I went to the Performing Arts Showcase evening at Kramstable’s school on Tuesday. This had performances from across the Performing Arts department including music, drama, dance and media. Kramstable’s vocal ensemble performed a couple of numbers at the end of the evening and it was cool to see him sing.

Also, it was his birthday this week, so we went out for an excellent dinner with family. For entree, I ordered a soup of tremella and lotus seed. I had to google tremella and found it’s a jelly fungus (tremella fuciformis), often used in skincare products. And also soup, apparently.

The waiter asked if I wanted it warm or cold and I asked what they suggested. They said cold, so that’s what I ordered.

A white ceramic bowl containint orange liquid and a white ceramic soup spoon sits atop a holder for a tealight candle
Tremella & lotus seed soup

It was interesting and I’m glad I tried something I’d never had before but I’m not sure I liked it enough to order it again. “Jelly fungus” is definitely a good description for the tremella.

What did I notice this week?

A lot of plovers on the soccer ground, and wrens flying at my windows.

What did I learn this week?

Apart from finding out about the air mail service, I learned it’s a good idea to take earplugs if I’m going to be somewhere near heavy traffic for any length of time. I have hyperacusis (aka low noise tolerance) and it affects me differently every day. On the day in question, it made me very anxious and distressed, and you’d think by now I’d know I need to carry some kind of hearing protection with me all the time.

I got some earplugs that will take the edge of the worst of it, as my audiologist recommended not completely blocking all sounds (it’s complicated) and their carry case clips onto my keyring so now I can have them with me all the time.


I also learned that female wrens have orange beaks and orange surrounding their eyes, and that this little visitor that spends a lot of time flitting about my windows, is a girl, not a boy as I’d thought.

A small brown bird with an orange beak on a small tree branch
A girl wren

What I’m reading this week

The Use of the Self by FM Alexander
Fine on Acting: A Vision of the Craft by Howard Fine
She Was Made for Me by Jen Morris

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