This letter was sent in March 1951 from Auburn N.S.W. to Dr. Rolando Guidotti, Sidi Mesri Experimental Farm, Tripoli L’Africa, Lybia, North Africa by Air Mail. It was franked with 3 stamps, the small 6d Kookaburra, the 9d platypus and the 3d KGVI head stamp, a total of 1 shilling 6 pence. There is a reception postmark in arabic on the front (Figure 1).
The reverse shows that it was sent by K. Napier, 55 Monitor Rd., Merrylands, Sydney and there are 3 distinctly different reception postmarks, one (on left) shown as AEROPORT FAROUK/ 13.3.51, another (central) as TRIPOLI/ CORPS E PACCHI (B), and the third as TRIPOLI/ 15.3.51 (Figure 2).
There is an irregular plateau at an elevation of 300 to 600 m, rising in some places to a maximum of 800 m, which overlaps a large coastal plain. This is undoubtedly enough of a barrier to allow Tripoli and the coastal sector to enjoy a comparatively favorable climate, but as an obstacle it is neither high enough nor sufficiently continuous to prevent the Ghibli (a hot, dry, dust-laden southern wind lasting 1 to 4 days in spring and fall) from blowing over the plain, occasionally with incredible violence, picking up, transporting, and depositing thousands of tons of sand. The climate favors wind erosion. Aridity causes the vegetation to remain stunted, providing inadequate soil cover. Rainfall is low, always less than 400 mm per year. Mean maximum precipitation figures collected at the Agricultural Experiment Station at Sidi Mesri, 5 km from Tripoli where the dunes begin, average only 379 mm. Throughout all the coastal area, rainfall varies from 100 to 350 mm. It occurs irregularly, and is badly distributed. It only rains in the autumn and the winter, the three summer months being entirely dry (Figure 3).
Summer temperatures are sometimes very high, a maximum of 58°C. (136.4°F.) has been recorded at El Azizia. On the coastal plain, at Misda for instance, the heat may become as intense as in the desert. Despite the mild winter temperatures, the extreme summer heat is responsible for a great range of temperature between the seasons. The weather station at Sidi Mesri is at about 32.86°N 13.22°E and its height about 25m / 82 feet above sea level. The area on which Sidi Mesri Experimental Centre was established in 1940 is shown in the top half of the figure and by 1946 the same area after afforestation is shown in the bottom half. The experimental centre was set up by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and several sections of the FAO are still centred there and in Tripoli (Figure 4).
Only brief information has been found about Doctor Rolando Guidotti who was head of the Official Colonial Agricultural Department of Italian Somalia in Rome in 1929 and held a similar position in Eritrea in 1936 and is last documented on the internet in 1942. However it is obvious that he was located at the Experimental Centre in Sidi Mesri at the time of the letter in 1951. To date no information has been found about the sender of this letter, K. Napier, Merrylands, Sydney.