7 09 2008

Japan, 1930, Scott 209, 25mm x 25mm

This stamp is a bit rougher than most of the others I have shown here, but I think still worth a look.

The map area of the stamp depicts the Japanese empire, which included Korea at the time of issue, highlighted in scarlet. Up in the north the portion of Sakhalin island which belonged to Japan also appears highlighted, depicting a state of affairs which also ended at the end of the second World War. On the banner at the top of the stamp is the chrysanthmum seal representing the Emperor, along with an inscription marking the second census taken of the empire’s subjects. More chrysanthemums appear along the left- and right-hand borders, dented at one point where the island of Taiwan puts in an appearance, and it is just barely possible to make out the Ryukyu Islands spread across the broad expanse of the China Sea. If Iwo Jima appears at all on this map, it would be as a small, insignificant red speck to the east.

Two main elements of note here are the use of the color red and the 16-petals of the flower, both of which make up significant parts of the design of the Japanese battle flag during the war.

A quote from the Imperial Rescript on the 1889 Japanese Constitution governing the state at the time:

The Imperial Founder of Our House and Our other Imperial ancestors, by the help and support of the forefathers of Our subjects, laid the foundation of Our Empire upon a basis, which is to last forever. That this brilliant achievement embellishes the annals of Our country, is due to the glorious virtues of Our Sacred Imperial ancestors, and to the loyalty and bravery of Our subjects, their love of their country and their public spirit. Considering that Our subjects are the descendants of the loyal and good subjects of Our Imperial Ancestors, We doubt not but that Our subjects will be guided by Our views, and will sympathize with all Our endeavors, and that, harmoniously cooperating together, they will share with Us Our hope of making manifest the glory of Our country, both at home and abroad, and of securing forever the stability of the work bequeathed to Us by Our Imperial Ancestors.


90 miles

23 08 2008

Cuba, 1971, 40mm x 36mm

The first of these two stamps show how the Atlantic tropical storm tracks seem irresistibly drawn to the island of Cuba, where, fueled by the warm Gulf waters, some of them turn into the “great” hurricanes making landfall. We see the lines of latitude and longitude, along with the neighboring land masses, South Florida, the Yucatán, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and the Bahamas, but no labels on them.

Cuba, 1973, 40mm x 28mm

Here’s an issue from two years later, minus the hurricane paths but plus a few labels and some indications of depth and elevation. The Florida mainland and most of the other islands are cropped away here, and it appears that a few latitude lines chosen are different from the ones from before. The main thoroughfare from Pinar del Rio in the west to Santiago del Cuba in the east is highlighted in red with knots indicating the main population concentrations. Not shown: the Bay of Pigs, Guantánamo.


24 07 2008

Tuvalu independence issue

Tuvalu, Scott 29, 1976, 28mm x 45mm

Here we have a map stamp which depicts almost pure ocean – only 300 square kilometers of the approximately 200000 shown here given over to solid ground, the rest of it being the South Pacific. Or, viewed another way, it depicts an actual map being torn in two, with the background the color of parchment rather than the usual ocean blue. The northern half of the map shows the mainly Micronesian Gilbert Islands, which is now part of Kiribati, the southern half shows the islands making up Tuvalu (formerly the Ellice Islands) with its Polynesian majority.

Why the split? To most people in the rest of the world, both Polynesians and Micronesians (and probably Melanesians too) would be lumped together in the category “people from the remote South Pacific” and that would suffice. Originally, the racial and classification was devised by the French ethnographer Jules-Sebastian-César Dumont d’Urville in the nineteenth century based on his observations. Recently, however, mitochondrial and Y chromosomal DNA analysis has been used to investigate how much of the similarities among these groups can be attributed to common ancestry and how much of the differences to isolation of populations.

At any rate, the process of separation between the two nations seems not to have been extremely acrimonious.

Outermost Europe

13 07 2008

Réunion island stamp

Réunion, Scott 65, 1907, 35mm x 21mm

This small spot of land is Réunion Island, an outermost region of the European Union and an overseas département of France. The map on this century-old issue is somewhat hemmed in by the heavily ornamented frame in a contrasting hue (here carmine red), especially the legend which does little to indicate that the island is a tiny speck in the midst of the Indian Ocean. The nearest landmass to this is the even smaller island of Mauritius (particularly famous in philatelic circles).

Here is a Space Shuttle image of the island which for me gives a good idea of its geographic isolation. These days, however, like most place in the world, it is possible to get onto the Internet from nearly every place on Réunion island for just about free.

Pirate coasts

28 06 2008

Haitian stamp showing Tortuga

Haiti, Scott 475, 1961, 37mm diamond
Without any visual scale indicated, Tortuga island shown here might be a tiny little rock outcropping or a huge landmass. In fact it is maybe twenty miles long and just off the northern coast of Hispaniola. This diamond-format stamp was issued by Haiti as part of its Privateer/Pirate issue playing up the history of the French and English buccaneers of the 17th century. (And long before the Pirates of the Caribbean films brought the name of the island back to prominence.) A pair of compass roses, one just off the lower left edge, further plays up the nautical theme with the idea of navigation by means of taking bearings off of the terrain.

Compared to its actual shape, Tortuga here looks a bit squashed West-to-East. It may be a reproduction of an antique map. Presumably the beaches highlighted here in a contrasting brown shade against the blue represent the coasts where they plied their trade.

The rift

24 06 2008

Ascension stamp, Mid-Atlantic rift

Ascension, Scott 268, 1980, 36mm x 48mm

This stamp features two maps, one focusing on the topography of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the other on the ancient supercontinent known as Pangaea. Alfred Wegener came up with the theory of continental drift in the early part of the 20th century, long before the subsurface mechanism of tectonic plate motion were worked out. On the main map, the small island of Ascension, nearly unpopulated, appears here right in the middle of the action, slightly to the west of the ridge. Other features appear to the north and south: the archipelago of St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks, St. Helena island, and Tristan da Cunha island, amidst zones of sea floor faulting. On the inset map, of course, Ascension would be pretty much in the fault zone between between what became South America and what became Africa.

The occasion of the issue was the 150th anniversary of the Royal Geographical Society of Britain in 1830.

Links under the waves

28 05 2008


Malaysia, Scott 42, 43, 1967, 70mm x 23mm
Back before there was broadband, even before there were satellite links to every part of the world, there were telephone and telegraph cables. This pair of stamps commemorates the completion of undersea links between Hong Kong and Malaysia as part of the the South East Asia Commonwealth network SEACOM. They are diptych designs, showing a detailed view of the route of the cable running from Singapore to eastern Australia, with a world map in projection on the right showing how that segment connects via New Zealand to North America and Europe. The jagged red line tracing the cable network illustrates well the vast distances required to ensure telecommunication around the globe. Only the colors of the inscriptions and of the background of the world map differs between the two. They were issued just a few years after Malaysia was constituted as an independent nation.

This portion of the international submarine cable network also linked Australia, New Guinea, Guam (not a Commonwealth realm), North Borneo, Singapore, and New Zealand. Since that time, of course, Hong Kong has ceased its status as a British Crown colony to become a special administrative region of China.