Sunday 26 January 2014


New Zealand celebrated its scientists conducting Antarctic Research in 1984 with a set of 4 stamps of which I have these two. I imagine the 14 million square kilometres of ice and snow provide a lot of research opportunities. New Zealand set up their first base in Antarctica (Scott Base) in 1957 on the southernmost tip of Ross Island on the Ross Ice Shelf, which continues to be occupied with other bases later established elsewhere.   The Geology Research stamp stamp shows Shapeless Mountain which portrays the  "study programmes of the Beacon supergroup rock formation of Shapeless Mountain and Mount Fleming at the head of the Wright Valley,- in the Dry Valley's region of Antarctica".  The other stamp shows the studies on Ross Island of the Seal Colonies.  That seal has probably gone to sleep under the hood.

The set was designed by the artist RM (Robert Maurice) Conly (1920-1995) who designed many stamps and coins for New Zealand.  Perhaps I should call him Wing Commander Conly for he was also the official artist for the Royal New Zealand Air Force.  He must have been the 'go to' person for this set for he had spent time in the Antarctic and returned there n 1974 as part 'Artists in Antarctica' scheme.
Travelling to the other end of the globe and the Faroe Islands these stamps show the effects of continental drift/plate tectonics. On the left, 60 million years ago and on the right, 15 million years ago. Before the stamps travelled in the post from the Faroes to England they were part of a miniature sheet issued in 2009 called "The Origin of the Faroes"  The islands have been described as "giant slices of tiered basalt".  Here are the cliffs  rising from the sea:
 The tectonics slowly moved the Faroes away from the active volcanic regions and lava flow where Iceland still lives
The islands are considered an unspoilt environment perfect for active holidays of hikes and trips.  The stamp shows Trøllanes, the northernmost point of the Island of Kalsoy and an important bird area.  The village of the same name consists of 23 people. The name Trøllanes means "Forland of Trolls" and one of the legends say that the trolls visit it on 12th night (6 January) every year.  The stamps, as can be seen, were issued as the Faroes contribution to the Europa 2012 tourist theme "Visit".


Saturday 25 January 2014

Mountain View

Ascent of Mont Blanc

We had a brief flurry of snow this week so it looks as though the weather is also joining in the Sepia Saturday theme.  The postcard however shows snow that means business as our brave band climb Mont Blanc, complete with ladder to bridge the crevasse. The mountain was first climbed in 1786 with a party which included the mountain guide Jacques Balmat, who was also the guide to the first woman to make the ascent in 1808, a local maidservant called Marie Paradis.  She made her fortune from the event and was dubbed Maria de Mont Blanc.  By the time this postcard was sent in 1911 the so called golden and silver ages of pure Alpine Climbing were over but the lure of Mont Blanc was not and it still remains a popular climbing destination.
The postcard was sent to Jeanne from Gabrielle who says "Hello from Chamonix".  I wonder if she walked and climbed in the mountains?  When Balmat made his first ascent of Mont Blanc his companion was the local doctor, Michel-Gabriel Paccard.  The ascent was followed by telescope from Chamonix at the bottom.  That would have been my preferred option too.  Perhaps Jeanne took a trip to the first tourist attraction of the area
 that of the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice).  This lies on the northern slope of the Mont Blanc massive and is the largest glacier in France being 7K long (4.3 miles) and 200 metres (660 ft) deep).  It is in continual, but imperceptible, motion.  In recent times has shrunk in size but its extent was greatest in the 19th century when I would guess this photo was taken.  No details are given in the book it is from ('The Victorian Mountaineers' by Ronald Clark),  I can only shudder at the thought of walking in those dresses as the damp slowly seeps up from the bottom and getting heavier.  Go girls.  Still it does look a cracking day out although I suspect on a cold day I would be in Chamonix perhaps partaking of coffee and cake.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics nearly upon us these photographs from Chamonix chime with the event as it was the venue of the very first Winter Olympics in 1924
The 11 year old Norwegian figure skating champion Sonja Henie came last in her event at these Olympics.  She would take gold in the next three Winter Olympics, become the highest paid movie actress in Hollywood and make a fortune with her touring ice show.

An entry to Sepia Saturday Number 212, where I anticipate more snowy pictures

Sunday 19 January 2014

Dogs and A Cat

I was finding pets a bit thin on the ground for this week's Sunday Stamps theme and then a envelope plopped through my letterbox with three lovely stamps, one of which was this, issued for the Europa theme of Children's Books in 2010.  It shows the wired haired fox terrier Dášeňka from Karel Čapek's story of the adventures of a puppy as it grows called, well yes,  "The Life of a Puppy".  That made me think of other children's stories and it brought to my mind last year's Alderney issue commemorating the Life of Beatrix Potter,
and sure enough two of the six stamp set show Beatrix sitting by a Lakeland river thinking of stories to tell while her dog retrieves sticks.  It looks like a spaniel so it will no doubt be bounding into the water at some stage.  As the sun sets she settles down to draw her story characters while the cat snoozes in the basket.  I suspect her day was busier than portrayed because at this time she was running a working farm in the Lake District.   A neighboring Channel Island featured dogs on stamps last year but in this case it was a whole set
commemorating the Kennel Club of Jersey dogs.  This one portrayed has the usual type of extravagant name of show dogs,  'Jsy CH Tiroen Taylormade'.  As can be seen this particular stamp was the entry to the SEPAC (Small European Postal Administration Cooperation) 2013 theme of fauna which produced diverse interpretations from tigers to seagulls.
Lastly one of my favourite dogs, a Labrador Retriever.  For the Lunar New Year of the Dog in 2006 New Zealand post issued six dog breeds. The Labrador was portrayed as a Guide Dog and this stamp value was also in Braille.  There are two versions, a gummed one  and the one shown here which originated from a self adhesive stamp booklet (the booklet issue has no top white edge).

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - Pets

Friday 17 January 2014

Night Light

Two great towers beam into the night like sentinels over the River Neva.  This sturdy structure is the Peter the Great Bridge in St Petersburg which was officially opened in April 1909 and has three spans, the central one of which opens. The towers contain the machinery that raises the bridge.

Sunday 12 January 2014


The centenary of Estonian film art was celebrated in 2012 and a stamp issued showing Johannes Pääsuke who was its first film maker. The film was called "Utochkin's Flight in Tartu", a recording of an acrobatic flight by the Russian test pilot Sergei Utochkin above Tartu.  The FDC shows a still but unfortunately the film itself has not survived.  The footage was shot over two days, 14th and 15th April 1912 and it quickly had its first screening on April 17th at the wonderfully named movie theatre, Illusion.  The date of 30th April on the film strip cancel is because Estonia at the time was on the Julian calendar, the difference with today's Gregorian being 13 days.

Johannes Puääsuke went on to produce other documentaries such as the 'City of Tartu and its Vicinity' (1912) and 'Trip through Seto Country' (1913) plus the first Estonian feature film, a 14 minute political satire called 'Bear Hunt in Pärno County' (1914) about the posturing of German and Estonian politicians.

Pääsuke's other occupation was as a collector of antiquities for the Estonian National Museum and in 1913 began a project for them documenting Estonia's land, trades and architecture through photography and artefacts. 1,300 of these photographs and his films are now in the Estonian National Archive.
Sorting Seed Potatoes in Tartu County
Pääsuke was mobilised into the Russian armed forces in World War 1 where he continued to film and take photographs. Sadly in 1918 he was killed in a train accident in Belarus aged just 26.


Wednesday 8 January 2014

Taiwan Travel

A passenger train crosses a valley somewhere in Taiwan.  It could be the South-Link Line across the southern tip which is one of Taiwan's scenic route connecting the eastern and western coasts but as my sender, Pao Hsiu, lives in Chiayi County which is boarded on one side by mountains and the other by the sea perhaps is somewhere on the west coast.  Wherever it is it looks a beautiful rail journey. I discovered that you can buy a "round the island" pass which lasts for 15 days and consists of 7 separate tickets breaking your journey at different stations along the routes.  It sounds like the rail lovers perfect holiday.

Looking at the lush forest covering the mountains I imagine that it is also a perfect place to find fungi.
The card came with one of the 2013 "Wild Mushrooms of Taiwan (Series III)" stamp showing the Woolly Chanterelle (Gomphus floccosus) which appears in coniferous woodlands in late summer and early autumn. The stamps are sold in individual sheets or as a rather wonderful miniature sheet which shows mushrooms growing on the autumn woodland floor beautifully.  The designer is Chi-jen Lai.

Sunday 5 January 2014

The White Stuff

I don't have any stamps for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics so I looked at what I might have for countries surrounding the Black Sea and found these Bulgarian ones issued for the 1964 games in Innsbruck, Austria. Bulgaria only sent a small team but the largest group of this was those participating in the
cross country skiing. The Innsbruck games are memorable in Britain for a rare medal at the Winter Olympics, and not only that, it was gold.  It was one of the great upsets in Olympic Bobsleigh history when a country that did not even have a bobsleigh track won the two man bob with Tony Nash and Robin Dixon. Nash was a director of an engineering firm and one of the key figures for technical development of bobsleighs in the 1960s, Dixon was the brake-man.
Not surprisingly for a country in the tropical zone Cambodia (Kampuchea at the time of the issue of these stamps in 1987)  has never participated in the Winter Olympics so they chose the Swiss 2 man bob team for one of their stamps. They got the right sport for a Swiss medal but in actuality at the 1988 Calgary games it was the Swiss 4 man bob that won gold. 
The Winter Games returned to Canada in 2010 and the slopes of the Blackcomb Mountains saw one of the fastest bobsleigh courses in the history of the games at the Whistler Sliding Centre and this stamp captures the speed.  Now the Brits at home became experts in the skeleton as they followed Amy Williams winning gold, sliding at Whistler on what is often described as a tea tray at 145 mph. Canada's Jon Montgomery won the Men's event. 
and both Canadian ice hockey teams won gold.  Despite the small size of this stamp the post has managed to frank nearly all of it, so honestly there is a ice hockey player under there somewhere.

Not to disappoint here is a more easily seen hockey player on an Albanian stamp.  I'm not sure what country it represents as they did not make their Winter Olympic début until 2006
but produced over the years attractive stamps for the event, such as these for the Games at Grenoble in 1968