Sunday 25 August 2013

Big Cats and Small

The centenary of Kálmán Kittenberger's birth in 1881 was commemorated by a set of Hungarian stamps for airmail. Kittenberger was a traveller, natural historian and biologist who over his lifetime spent about 16 years in Africa for varying amounts of time. He discovered 300 animal species unknown to science, 40 of which were named after him including a spider.
He had no financial support but loved to hunt and earned money by selling skins and trophies.  It is a strange thing to be a natural historian and yet want to kill the things but a not an unusual story of the time. He donated 60,000 collected species to the Hungarian National History Museum.  Unfortunately during the Hungarian Uprising in 1956 artillery shots hit the museum and the resulting fire destroyed the thousands of items in the  African collection as well as 100,000 books.  The alcohol preserving some of the specimens adding to the conflagration. Kittenberger's time hunting was not without incident as he was mauled by a lion
c1963: Postage Due Stamp. "Panther attacking African"
but lived to write about it in one of his books.  This Dahomey stamp encourages paying the correct postage, or else. For less fearsome creatures, well at least to humans, here are some portrayed on Hungarian stamps
1986: Protected Animals
such as the reclusive wildcat, the most endangered carnivore species in Europe.
   An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme - wild animals

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Gulf of Finland

Summer in the Gulf of Finland looks perfect for paddling a canoe around these islands. The calm seas and fluffy clouds look idyllic.

Finland is sometimes called the "land of a thousand lakes" but it also has 80,000 islands of infinite variety along its coastline which stretches from the eastern Gulf of Finland to the western edge of the Åland Islands and then north to the Gulf of Botnia.

Sunday 18 August 2013

The Polar Year

The middle of summer seems a perfect time to show the largest icecap in Europe, the Vatnajökull glacier.  The miniature sheet shows a volcanic eruption and thanks to Iomoon's volcanoes on stamps website I can perhaps identify it as Grimsvotn in south east Iceland.  Lying beneath the ice the eruptions lead to melting of the ice and the formation of Jokulhlaups (an Icelandic word that has entered the English language meaning a glacial outburst flood).  There are several volcanoes under the Vatnajökull icecap of which Grimsvotn is the most active but not the largest and it is also home to Iceland's highest peak which has appeared on Iceland's stamps through many eras.  

The other stamp of the miniature sheet shows radio-echo sounding equipment being used to map the landscape beneath the ice cap.  Nowhere in Iceland does more precipitation fall (usually as snow), or more water drain to the sea than the south side of Vatnajköull   The miniature sheet was issued in 2007 as part of the International Polar Year and was designed by Hlynur Ólafsson who has designed several of Iceland's stamps.
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - miniature sheets

Sunday 11 August 2013


2003: Australian Paintings

This Maximum Card certainly fits the description of this week's Sunday Stamps theme of colourful. The postcard shows a house in the Melbourne suburbs and the stamp painting is by the artist who spent his career being fascinated by the suburbs, painting houses and domestic interiors, Howard Arkley (1951-1999).  People rarely appear and there is sometimes both beauty and menace in their portrayal. The painting shown is "Family Home: Suburban Exterior" of 1993 painted in an acrylic flat pattern. Arkley himself grew up in the Surrey Hills suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, and famously was taken to the National Gallery in 1967 where he was blown away by the paintings of the Australian bush by Sidney Noland. On returning home he copied the works from the catalogue using his father's household paints and the rest as they say is history.
1999: The Millennium Series. The Artist's Tale

Another artist who loves colour is Howard Hodgkin (b1932) painter and printmaker.  He paints very slowly and can take up to four years on a work the original imagery obscured, the spectator has to solve the riddle. This painting is called "New Worlds" it epitomises his abstract work showing new ways to see the natural world.
1978: Salyut 6 Space Station
Which was also one of the aims of the Salyut 6 which had infra-red, ultraviolet and sub-millimetre spectra capabilities. Launched in 1977 and operated until 1982 during its time in orbit it was visited by 5 long term and 11 short duration crews from various nations. It studied astronomy, earth resources observations and the effects of space flight on the human body.  The 20 portholes were for observation and specific crops were planted at test sites on earth to test the cameras. The second of the se-tenant stamps shows the first crew of Romanenko and Grechko who spent 96 days on board but not without incident because they had to do a space walk to inspect damage at the station which was precluding Suyuz 25 from docking.  Romanenko forgot to attach his safety cord and when he pushed off from the side Grechko had to grab hold of it as he floated away.   In his cosmonaut career Romanenko has spent an amazing total of nearly 431 days in space.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of Colourful stamps

Sunday 4 August 2013

On the Wing

1988: Hong Kong Birds

Hong Kong has an amazing number of birds for a place that one always associates with high rise buildings.  A total of 460 species, a third of the number found in China as a whole. The four stamps show some wonderful wings and the cover pairs the stunning kingfishers together. Going L to R we have

  • 50¢ White-breasted Kingfisher, a resident of Hong Kong which also breeds there.
  • $5 Pied Kingfisher, a lover of fish ponds. Although once widespread it is now virtually confined to the Deep Bay area and Starling Inlet. Occasionally it is seen elsewhere around the coast during migration.  The one shown with its double band on the chest identifies it as a male.
There are three groups of Kingfisher in the world and Hong Kong has them all.  The Pied Kingfisher belongs to the family of water kingfishers Cerylidae. The White-breasted kingfisher is in the group of tree or wood kingfishers, Halycyonidae.The third species is of course the river kingfisher, Alcedinidae.
  • $1.30 Fujian or Fukien Niltava, a winter visitor where it is mostly found in the Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve
  • $1.70 Black Kite. Hong Kong's commonest bird of prey. It is present throughout the year but migrants swell the number in autumn and winter when several hundred can often be seen circling overhead at dusk.
The attractive cover and stamps were designed by Karen Phillips who has been the illustrator of numerous bird guides of the far east and also randomly a book on 'Popular Chinese Vegetables'. Born in Sandakan, the largest city in Sabah, East Malaysia she was educated at Bedales School Hampshire and studied graphic design in London.  I believe she now lives in that other great birding area of the Algarve, Portugal.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps