Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I look forward to ogling the latest auction catalogue from Vance Auctions.  Their Aug 23, 2017 offering is now online and hosts the usual excellent offerings. Some items are beyond my reach, but in previous auctions, I’ve managed to snag a few bargains that scratched specific itches, so  I enjoy paging through their catalogue.  

Something a bit different caught my eye this time. If you are a salvaged mail collector, they have a gem – stampless, but a gem nonetheless. Check out item #4446 - “Salved from the sea” RMS Nascopie. The stamp floated off into the ocean somewhere but doesn’t detract from this cover:

Scan of RMS Nascopie salvaged mail cover

R.M.S. Nascopie WRECK cover with 2 Eastern Arctic Patrol / R.M.S. / Canada 1 Aug 1947 violet oval cancel to Richmond Hill, Ont. Has s/l "SALVED FROM THE SEA" violet h/s. Has lovely multi-colour World Map design. Salvaged from the wreck of the R.M.S. "Nascopie" lost at Cape Dorset, July 1947. F-VF, stamp floated off ....Est 500.00+ (from Vance Auction catalogue)

This is a must see for anyone interested in Canadian and maritime history, Hudson’s Bay Company, maritime mail and salvaged/wreck mail. The RMS Nascopie went down near Baffin Island, in the Canadian arctic while on a regular run. This is the Nascopie, somewhere in the Canadian north: Photo of the RMS Nascopie in the Canadian arctic

And docked in Montreal a few years before it sank:

RMS Nascopie docked in MontrealThe ship had an fascinating life starting in 1911.  The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC)1 sailed the ship, plying a trade route along the Hudson Straight, stopping at HBC outposts along the way. That’s that the bit between Nunavut and Baffin Island way north in Canada in case you’re curious:

Map indicating Hudson Strait Nunavut Canada

During WW1, the ship was leased to the French government who ran wheat to Murmansk, Russia and supplies back to France. It was a dangerous run, which saw the Nascopie exchanging fire with a German sub during one of the trips.    

After the war, it returned to the Hudson’s Bay Company control and returned to the familiar waters of  the Canadian arctic. It pushed deep into the north waters dropping off scientists and surveyors, rescued passengers from sinking ships, moved supplies to and from HBC posts, transported reindeer from Norway to the Canadian arctic (an odd story in itself2) and carried tourists to the north. One of the most well known tourist was Fredrick Varley of the Group of Seven3. Check out the link below for the Torontoists' fabulous write up of the trip he took.  In 1935, it received the designation RMS – Royal Mail Steamer and was designated to carry mail to and from HBC outposts. You can find covers with the RMS Nascopie cancel at auctions occasionally. Check out Postal History Corner’s page on the Nascopie (link below) for more images of Nascopie cancels4.

When WW2 broke out, the Nascopie returned to war duties, fitted with both anti-aircraft and naval guns, running raw materials from Greenland and Canada. It survived it’s second tour of duty, only to hit an uncharted reef off Cape Dorset, on the southern tip of Baffin Island five years later.   

Part of its last mail cargo was salvaged. The cover above was one such item. The original Eastern Arctic Patrol hand cancels applied after the ship sank are still crisp and clear, as is the “salved from the sea” mark. It’s worth a look. Estimated to go for about $500, but who knows. Auctions are quirky beasts. Have to keep an eye on it. 

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Readmore:

1 The Hudson's Bay Company webpage on the Nascopie http://www.hbcheritage.ca/things/technology/rms-nascopie  

2 CBC article on the HBC's attempt to import reindeer to the Canadian north http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/norwegian-researches-baffin-island-reindeer-experiment-1.718885 

3 The Torontoist rarely lets me down when it comes to stories about Canadian history. Check out their tale of Varley aboard the Nascopie - http://torontoist.com/2013/02/historicist-north-aboard-the-nascopie/ 

4 Postal History Corner is one of my favourite sites when it comes to stamps. They have a good page showing various cancels from the Nascopie.   http://postalhistorycorner.blogspot.ca/search?q=nascopie

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And here I sit with my stamps in a complete muddle, and nobody has bothered to tell me what it's all about."
"Listen now, Hemul," said Snufkin slowly and clearly. "It's about a comet that is going to collide with the earth tomorrow."
"Collide?" said the Hemulen. "Has that anything to do with stamp-collecting?”

- Tove Jansson, Comet in Moominland   

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