The South Australian postcard had a purple ‘ONE PENNY’ stamp postmarked by SHIP MAIL ROOM/ S2/ AU 2/ 88/S. A and it was addressed to Hugo Zöller Esq, Poste Restante, Melbourne. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).
Hugo Zöller was born on 12 January 1852 near Schleiden to a Rhenish family in Germany of foundry owners and died in 1933 in München, and he became an explorer and journalist. He attended law studies in Berlin but I did not find that he had a legal practice. In the years 1872 and 1874 he traveled to Mediterranen Sea countries, and in 1874 he became a journalist for Kölnische Zeitung, a paper with a national distribution, good contacts to the German Government, which often was used for the propagation of semi-official Government views. It was as a journalist for this Cologne paper that he twice visited Australia. Irmgard Veit-Braise wrote that “Zöller represents a new type of traveller to Australia, different from the migrant, the adventurer, or the scientist, for Hugo was an explorer of the social world of this transplant of European, or, more precisely, English civilisation at the ever-expanding periphery of the European-dominated world.”
Hugo’s first visit to Australia was part of a round-the-world trip, and it coincided with the International Exhibition in Sydney (1879) and Melbourne (1880). His second visit, 9 years later, when he was en route to New Guinea, coincided with the Centennial International Exhibition in Melbourne (1888).
In 1879 Zöller started his travels around the world which resulted in a 2 volume book ‘Rund um die Erde (Köln 1881)’. In 1881 and 1882 Zöller traveled across South America and then published ‘Die Deutschen im brasilianischen Urwald (Stuttgart 1883)’, and ‘Pampas und Anden (Stuttgart 1884)’.
By the end of 1884 he worked as a war correspondent in Egypt during the British campaign there. In 1883 he was ordered to explore territories in Western Africa explored previously by Gustav Nachtigal. Firstly he traveled across Togoland, then he went to Cameroon when he went together with Ragozinsky making a successful ascent of Mount Cameroon. During his stay in Cameroon he discovered the Batanga River but soon after this he fell ill and returned to Germany. In 1888 he travelled to German New Guinea and became the first European to penetrate into inner New Guinea and to climb the peaks of the Finisterre Range and during this time he discovered Mount Wilhelm in the Bismarck Range. As a result of his travels in New Guinea he published Deutsch-Neuguinea und meine Ersteigung des Sinisterre-Gebirges (Stuttgart, Berlin, Leipzig 1861), the front page of which is seen in Figure 2.
It was Zoller’s second visit to Australia in 1888 (the timing of the above post card) that was well publicized in the Australian press, with the greatest coverage in the Brisbane Courier, 6 September 1888 on page 3, headlined as A NEW GUINEA EXPLORER, as follows: “Hearing that Herr Hugo Zoller, of the Cologne Gazeteer, who is on his way to German New Guinea, was in Brisbane, a representative of this journal called on him…znd gleaned this information – Herr Zoller, who is 36 years of age, ws born in Schleiden (Germany), near the Belgian frontier. After his preliminary education… he studied law at the Universities of Berlin and Bonn, but owing to an hereditary pulmonary complaint he was compelled to relinquish his studies and seek rest and change in the sunnier climes of Spain, Morocco and Algeria. During his absence from home he wrote a number of descriptive letters to his father, who had them published in the Cologne Gazette, and on his return to Germany in 1874 he obtained an appointment on the literary staff of that journal, and distinguished himself by his articles on the Paris Exhibition of 1878 and the Berlin Congress. He has spent the greater part of his time since then in traveling in different parts of the world, and contributing descriptive articles to the same journal. In 1879-80 he made a voyage around the world, during which he visited all the Australian Colonies. In 1881-2 he made a tour through South America, and crossed that continent on horseback from Buenos Ayres to Valparaiso. In 1883 he was in the Egyptian War, and was present at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. After that he accompanied the late Emperor (then Crown Prince) of Germany for Spain and Rome. In 1884 and the beginning of 1885 he went to the West Coast of Africa with the late Dr. Nachtigal, and concluded a Treaty of Peace with the Chiefs of the Southern part of the Cameroon Mountains. He went alone to Togoland on the Slave Coast. During his travels in Africa he explored about 340 miles of country where no white man was known to have been before. His articles on the West Coast of Africa have been reprinted in 4 volumes, and were dedicated to the Crown Prince of Germany. On his return to Europe he spent about two and a half years, 1885-7, in Rome, after which he returned to Germany. He then undertook to visit the Melbourne Exhibition, and proceeded thence to German New Guinea for the purpose of exploring that part of the island. His expenses are being paid by the proprietors of the Cologne Gazette but the German Foreign Office are doing all they can do for him so far as letters of recommendation are concerned. Herr Zoller has also the privilege of traveling by the German man-of-war he may happen to fall in with. He left Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon in the steamer Victoria for Cooktown from which port he will proceed on the twelfth instant in the German New Guinea Company’s steamer Isabel under the command of Captain Dallmann, and will probably reach New Guinea on the 25th instant.
On arriving at Finchhaven he will engage a number of Kanakas from the Solomon Islands and New Britain, and proceed at once to Constantinhaven from which place he will try to get without delay into the mountain region avoiding as much as possible the inhabited portions. To do this he proposes to establish a depot, about 20 miles inland, at the last village of the coast tribes. He will then send a German and some of the Kanakas back to bring up a store of food. Leaving this in charge of a German and Kanakas he will strike further inland, and if possible establish a second depot. His reason for keeping clear of the inhabited part of the country is that, according to his experience in Africa, there is less difficulty in having food brought in from the coast in uninhabited country than by negotiating with natives who are not altogether friendly. Herr Zoller admitted frankly that he has had no experience in New Guinea, and what knowledge he possesses of the island has been gained from recent visitors and from books. His modus operandi is simply based on his experience gained while traveling in Africa. The principal object of his expedition is to make geographical surveys, and at present he has no intention of collecting specimens of any kind, although Baron Von Mueller, of Melbourne, pressed him very much to do so. He reckons that if he does not reach the mountains in 3 months it will be next to impossible to do so at present, and he will give up the attempt. If successful he will remain longer than the 3 months, and will probably form fresh plans. On the on the other hand, if he fails he will visit New Britain and the return to Europe.
The following paragraph was seen in several colonial newspapers, including the Queenslander (Brisbane) on 11 August 1888, headed SOUTH AUSTRALIA, Adelaide August 3, 1888: During the last few days Herr Hugo Zoller, special correspondent of the Cologne Gazette, has been in Adelaide with a view to ascertaining the condition and number of the Germans in the colony. Herr Zoller has travelled nearly all over the world, and has assisted in the exploration of the German colonies on the coast of Africa. He left for the Melbourne Exhibition by the afternoon’s express train, and after writing a series of articles on the Exhibition and the state of the colony will go to Kaiser Wilhelm’s land, New Guinea, the paper which he represents having deputed him to explore the interior of the country and ascertain the position of the affairs in the German colonies.
In closing I append a signed copy of a photo of the suave Hugo Zöller found at the University of Cambridge website in the book (Figure 2) of German New Guinea (Figure 3).