Aurora Australis

30 01 2008

Antarctic exploration ship Fuji and the map of the continent

Japan, Scott 857, 1965, 33mm x 28mm

This understated item depicts an map of the continent of Antarctica, the observation ship “Fuji”, and the ghostly Aurora Australis sketched in above it. The blue background represents both the Southern Ocean surrounding the landmass and the extreme southern night sky where the sun does not come up for days or weeks in winter. The map itself is simply an outline of Antarctica, only one coastal base indicated by a dark dot on the Indian Ocean side. On it, superimposed in the same yellow as the aurora, are circles of latitude and lines of longitude, including the dashed Antarctic Circle at 66˚ 33′ 38″ S latitude.

Among continents, Antarctica is larger than either Australia either Europe, with only a tiny fraction ice-free. There is no permanent human population, only a constantly changing crew of researchers and support personnel from many countries.

Unlike some of the other designs we have seen here, there is a balance between the two large elements horizontally, as well as a vertical balance between the ship in its dark silhouette and the light colors above it. The contrast between the feathery edges of the aurora and the sharp edges of the rest of the design is one that takes advantage of color lithography – it would be quite impossible to suggest this in gravure.

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