The secret revealed

3 08 2008

I asked “What do these stamps have in common?”

The answer is: each one of them lacks the conventional orientation of North at the top, South at the bottom, like over 90% of all map stamps. The first two have a tilted compass rose, the last two have the lines of latitude and longitude showing the orientation, and for the one in the middle, you either need to look at a map on your own or you have to be familiar with Bavaria.

Perhaps I was being a bit too devious. What do you think?



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.

The route to Africa

20 07 2008

Liberia, Scott C43, 1942, 39mm x 24mm

Once again we have a stamp issue commemorating the air supply route from North America via South America to western Africa in the middle of World War II. Only three countries are depicted (the United States, Brazil, and the issuing country of Liberia). An outsized 4-engine transport plane (possibly a C-108 Flying Fortress) is shown alongside the coast-hugging path southward.

I am not sure that the business of transport is considered to have enough charisma to show up much on stamps nowadays, relatives to the most popular topicals.


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.

Time for a puzzle

9 07 2008

Yesterday I received my copies of the last two editions of the journal of the Cartophilatelic Society and was very happy to see the article I had written up. (It seems that my electronic address had gone astray somewhere along the way, so I had not been able to receive word the publication prior to this.) Here I present pictures of the five stamps which I used the illustrate the point of my piece. Incidentally, I notice that one of these stamps was also mentioned in a recent Marginalia column at the website.

Rather than just giving away the subject here, I thought I would try something different and set this up as a challenge for my readers. Can you see what the common theme is for all five of the issues depicted, which sets them apart from over 90% of all map stamps issued? It is something quite specific which any observant reader (or one who happens to have the April 2008 issue of the journal) would be able to state in very few words. When you have come up with the answer, put it into the comments on this post, and the first one with the correct interpretation will receive from me three map stamps from my accumulation.

Good luck!

West Germany, Scott 1009

Argentina, Scott 287

Australia, Scott 276

Jersey, Scott 183

Soviet Union, Scott 3180

The answer has been revealed

June 25, 1975

1 07 2008

Mozambique independence issue.

Mozambique, Scott 516, 1975, Litho, 22mm x 31mm

One with a red overprint, one without. This issue in an attractive combination of Gray, Light Blue, Blue, Carmine, and Black shows the southeastern African nation of Mozambique, former colony of Portugal. The map shows it all: political boundaries, cities and towns, waterways, neighboring countries, and roadways. These are somewhat obliterated by the overprint proclaming the date of independence and a nicely ornamental flourish.

Independence came in the middle of an extended period of political strife. Even after political reforms came, the country has had trouble developing economically. Some hope, however, to bring the beauty of the long Indian Ocean coastline and the attractions of the country’s wildlife reserves to higher prominence among the international tourist trade.

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.