Monday, March 07, 2016

Videos on postal services in the French Southern Islands

As I was looking for documents about the Indian Ocean Philatelic Meetings last Saturday, I came across some documentaries on the French Southern and Antarctic Lands' website (, all available on the Territory's channel on DailyMotion.

The most recent one was first presented during the 6th Indian Ocean Philatelic Meetings organised on October 2014 by the TAAF in la Réunion, where their administrative headquarters are. Documentarists Laure Bourru and Clément Brelet participated to a rotation of the Marion Dufresne to Crozet, Kerguelen and Amsterdam islands in August and September 2013 to discover "The postmen at the edge of the world".

Postiers du bout du monde : les Terres... par TAAF

Four times a year the ship brought new peoples and mail to the French bases in the Southern islands. Like many reports, the film shows the crew, scientists and other passengers during the cruise marking the mail with their own mark and signatures on mail sent or given to the captain.

On each island, you watch the postman, either a professional one with a sense of adventure or a volunteer to the job for a season. They sort the incoming mail and prepare the outgoing mail of the temporary inhabitants... and accept all philatelic demands: posting their envelope from their base or to wait the passing of a specific boat, for example the Australian Antarctic one... even if it takes years.

The minutes I found the most interesting are the one with a scientist receiving a packet with this rotation. He told how important is the small post office (with the rank of gérance postale in the French system) to manage a daily life while being so far away from friends and family: he wrote and post mail on special occasions, even if he knows it won't leave until the next rotation...
One of the stamps picturing the Marion Dufresne by engraver Claude Jumelet, the second of her name. In action since 1995, it was refitted in 2015 and is one of the main charges in the Territories' budget.
Other videos on the postal services to the remote districts of the French Republic are:
- Posted July 2012: philatelic and postal aspects of a Marion Dufresne rotation, video by Jean-Marie Bou de la Meschaussée. Delivering the new stamps issued and the mail by helicopter, marking the mail, posting registered mail between island post offices, sending packets (and why there must be high value stamps in the programme), 
- On TF1 in 2012, a series of report on the Scattered Islands with (around 18'50") national gendarmes managing the Juan de Nova post office.

And on the postage stamps of the TAAF:
- September 2014: artist Claude Perchat presented the 2013 stamp on the Knight of Tromelin (1735-1815), whose name was given to one of the Scattered Islands that France owns around Madagascar and Mauritius, and administered by the TAAF since 2007. She detailed how she created the most truthful portrait while there is none of the man that cruised to Tromelin in 1776 and found the survivors of a slave shipwreck in 1761.
- In 2007 the philatelic service issued a Travel prestige Booklet with stricking pictures of the Southern island districts landscapes taken in November 2016 by Lucia Simion. The video follows the project from the picture selection to the printer Phil@poste Boulazac.
- To promote the 2012 Paris Stamp Show, Marc Boukebza described the TAAF in a La Poste video.

The French Southern and Antarctic Lands, organised in 1955, are divided into five districts: Crozet, Saint Paul and Amsterdam, Kerguelen, the four Scattered Islands and, on Antarctica, Adélie Land with Dumont d'Urville station. Each district's got a postal gérance (or vaguemestre on the Scattered as personel are military) and can manage philatelists' mail as any postmaster would: here are the postal addresses.

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