Again and again, the phrase “Do you want to see my stamp collection?” is considered a cheap pick-up line and collecting stamps old-fashioned and boring. But in fact, the small square pieces of paer enjoy great popularity, not only for sending letters and parcels. That is why even today special people, events and places are honored with their own series and special prints. A very special place in the vastness of the Southern Ocean has recently become part of it.
The South Sandwich Islands, part of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands SGSSI, have been immortalized by the British company Pobjoy Mint with an official stamp series. Last week, the second part of the series was officially launched and is now available from the company or from the official post office in the Falkland Islands. The values of the stamp are 70 or 80 British pence and 1.25 pounds.
Each stamp set in the series consists of a total of six stamps, each depicting an island and an associated animal. At the launch of the first part in 2021, which at that time was still approved by Queen Elizabeth II, the minting company Pobjoy Mint depicted the three islands of Thule, Cook and Bellinghausen and in addition to each a special Antarctic bird. The three islands form a small archipelago of their own within the chain and lie at its southern end. The templates for the images on the stamps came, among others, from Professor Tom Hart and Dr. Gemma Clucas, who have visited the islands several times with their monitoring project “Penguin Watch”.
The stamp set, released last week and also still approved by Queen Elizabeth II, features the central islands of Bristol, Montagu and Saunders Island and images of a South Sandwich cormorant, an Antarctic fulmar and an Adélie penguin. The animals each reside on the corresponding island, and are meant to represent the connection to the island chain as well as to Antarctica. Montagu is the largest island in the archipelago and also has the highest point, Mount Belinda at 1,370 meters above sea level, while Saunders is one of the most volcanically active islands. Bristol, on the other hand, is the only solid land on the entire 59th parallel south and is dominated by Mount Sourabaya. Volcanic eruptions on the islands are only partially recorded and then only by satellite imagery and rarely by active observation.
The South Sandwich Islands are administered from South Georgia and were declared a Special Protection Area by the administration this year. This is because the waters around the islands are rich in nutrients, which means high productivity and therefore many animals that also live on land. Thus, activities are now restricted not only around but also on all eleven islands accordingly and visits are possible only with a permit from the administration on South Georgia and in compliance with strict rules. However, the remoteness of the chain and the often poor weather conditions, coupled with only a few possible landing sites, make the islands unattractive to tourists and visits rarely take place. After the discovery of the archipelago in 1775 by Captain James Cook, however, the islands were not declared British until 1908 and have now been an administrative unit with British Overseas Territory status together with South Georgia since 1985. Argentina, however, has been demanding the return of the chain, along with South Georgia, since 1938 in the course of the Falklands debate. In 1976, the country had even briefly established a base on Thule, but it was abandoned with the defeat in the war in 1982. Today, only automatic weather stations are installed on the islands of Thule and Zavodovski.
This means that although you won’t find a post office there. But thanks to Pobjoy Mint, collectors can still add this special place to their albums and enjoy showing it to interested parties as well.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
Link to order the stamps (online via Falklands Stamps)
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