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MELBOURNE-LA SERENA via MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY & VALPARAISO, CHILE

The routing of this Victorian postcard has long given me concerns, and I still am not sure why it went via Uruguay to La Serena, Chile. The postcard is unique, for Victoria was the only Colony to accord postal commemoration of the new Commonwealth when a series of postcards was issued on the ‘eve’ of Federation. The design of the series featured a heading with the letters “AC” (Australian Commonwealth) above the coat of arms. The series comprised five postcards, each in a different colour, blue-green, grey-green, blue, lilac-brown and orange, and was issued between 20 and 22 December 1900 [Australian Federation was 1 January 1901]. It is believed that about 250,000 post cards were issued (Geoff Kellow 1990). On 9 February1904, an additional ½d had to be added for destinations outside Australia.

This 1d orange postcard is the Federation card for the “A” is clearly seen to the left of the coat of arms, whereas the “C” is obscured by the ‘M’ of the Montevideo postmark. A bantam blue-green ½d stamp of Victoria has been added and both stamps have been postmarked with the double circle MELBOURNE/ AM/ 4 50/ 6. 3. 05/ 14. In dated order the card went to MONTEVIDEO/ 9 A.M/ 4 ABR/ 1905/ A. (4 April, 1905), then to VALPARAISO/ 9-MA?-905/ 9 A.M./ CHILE and thence to an indistinct arrival at LA SERENA/ 11/ ( ) -905/ 7P.M/ CHILE.
The card is addressed to Sr. M. Merry Esqr., Casilla 365, La Serena, Chile, South America (Figures 1, 1A-C).

 
 

The vendor incorrectly dated the Melbourne postmark as ‘3 Aug’ and made no attempt to date or route the passage of this postcard, other than the names of the postmarked cities. The reverse was not shown, but I have substituted a mint copy of the identical card. The card is inscribed COMMONWEALTH/ ONE PEOPLE/ ONE EMPIRE/ ONE DESTINY and Queen Victoria is shown at the top, the Duke of Cornwall and York at the left (the future KGV who visited Australia in connections with the Federation celebrations), and at the right the Earl of Hopetoun, Australia’s first Governor-General (Figure 2).

Whereas the shortest shipping route was from Melbourne to Sydney across the Pacific to San Francisco, or less frequently to other Pacific ports of Mexico or a South American port including Chile, such as Valparaiso, the port for the inland capital of Chile, Santiago. Instead the postcard was first postmarked Valparaiso in April 1905, situated on the Atlantic coast. There were several potential routes to Valparaiso, including via the United Kingdom, with a trans-Atlantic crossing and then via the Panama Isthmus by road or train, and then by ship to Valparaiso.

I have researched how the postcard proceeded from Montevideo, Uruguay (latitude 34 54 35S), to La Serena, Chile (latitude 33 2 52S), a distance of 1436 kilometers (892 miles) almost directly west “as the crow flies”. The shortest route would have been to be placed on a ship from Montevideo to cross the Rio del Plata over to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then westward to Chile. As a longer all-road alternative, it might have taken a north-west road route from Montevideo to Santa Fe, and then a westward course to Chile. Portions of these 2 routings are shown in Figures 3 & 4.

 
 

The MapQuest website shows a sequence of circuitous connecting roads across Argentina to Mendoza, proceeding across the border to the port city of Valparaiso, Chile. There is no comparable information as to the quicker alternative by railroad. The distance of Valparaiso to La Serena is 351 kilometers (218 miles) (Figure 5 & 6).

 
 

Valparaiso is one of the main seaports of Chile at the Pacific Ocean, and it serves as the port for the inland capital of Santiago. In the second half of the 19th century, Valparaiso served as a major stopover for ships travelling the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Strait of Magellan, before the Panama Canal was completed in 1914. Thus a feasible alternative to the overland route from Montevideo to Valparaiso was this sea route.

La Serena is Chile’s second oldest city in Chile, being founded in 1543 as the sea link between Lima Peru and Santiago, two years after Santiago was founded. This postcard has great postmark interest but, the actual routing of Melbourne, Victoria to La Serena, Chile will probably never be known.

 
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