Click To Go Back To The Main Stamps Homepage

 Welcome! You are visitor  free counter to


Glen Stephens
Monthly "Stamp News" Market Tipster Column

January 2010




A stamp adventure in Antarctica!


Well the first decade of this Millennium is drawing to a close as you read this, and I'll be seeing in the new decade on a hotel balcony, smack in the centre of Bourbon Street New Orleans, overlooking a sea of 300,000 drunken revellers below!

As many know, I travel a huge amount each year, and in 2009 will have flown about 300,000 miles or near 500,000 Kms.

Most readers will not fly anywhere near that much in their lifetime, but getting out and seeing the world has always been my main passion, other than stamps.

At last count I’d been lucky to have visited about 120 different countries, and many of them several times.

I always get a huge adrenaline buzz from visiting interesting places, and seeing new faces and lands. One thing I've done for about 25 years is to spend Christmas Day and New Year's Eve somewhere especially unusual each year.


A decade passes quickly

For this month’s column I thought I’d share an stamp related adventure with readers, that occurred when we rolled over to this Millennium, exactly 10 years back.

I prepared 100 rather historic covers on this trip of a lifetime, and have never before written about them in a magazine, as I never had time.  I still have a few left in a box.




For the end of the 20th Century I really wanted to organise something quite different, and go to somewhere never previously travelled, which after a while is much harder than it sounds.

I decided upon a Russian ice-breaker deep into the waters of Antarctica. That is absolutely as far away from “civilisation” as you can get! 

First up a stop in San Francisco.  Was met at airport in SFO by Mark Dianda, the very busy and (then) efficient official agent for North Korean stamps in the Americas.  We met via an Internet stamp chat group!  

Mark recently signed up to, so the contact lives on.

He kindly drove me to a Post Office which is open 7 days a week near the airport, so I could post to USA based clients, a number of massive cartons I’d checked in at no cost onto the plane from Sydney. 

Whilst chatting to Mark we set the groundwork for my column at the time about him getting monstered by U.S. Government for selling his North Korea stamps.  “Trading With The Enemy Act” etc.

Next stop was Calgary Canada, and was met at airport there by Peter and Mandy Smith.  Pete was then the police reporter for the “Calgary Sun,” and wrote a great weekly stamp column there.


World’s largest Vanuatu collection.


Peter had the world's largest VANUATU stamp collection - I saw it on my previous visit there - amazing!  Mandy runs a thematic stamp business.

Off by van with them for a stay at Chateau Lake Louise for a few nights - one of the most beautifully sited hotels in the world. In summer when I last saw it, lake was a stunning milky moraine blue-green.

This time was frozen right over - even went on a horse drawn sleigh ride over the top of it!  This is a popular Ski area, and interestingly was a LOT colder than any day in Antarctica actually.  Not what you'd think in advance!

Back to the USA to Chicago, then a stamp deal in Washington DC, and then the long 10 hour flight down to Buenos Aires.

There are TWO downtown stamp arcades largely full of stamp dealers - a unique situation I imagine.  I was there a few months back, and they are still mostly in business.  Sydney now has just ONE such CBD dealer as outlined in my last column.

Spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the quite perfectly sited Hotel Das Cataratas, right on the Brazilian edge of these massive Iguassu Falls.  I’ve spent Christmas Day there 3 times as it happens.

A wonderful location.  Just an elegant old Hotel, facing a green national park with animals, and the fine elevated walkways over the falls.


“City At The End Of the Earth”


From Buenos Aires the 5 hour flight to Ushuaia on the very tip of Argentina.  Known locally as the "City At The End Of The Earth".

It is in fact the most southern city on earth - being located further south than South Georgia, or even Australian sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.



Argentina’s most useless postal worker.



Visited the busy P.O. in Ushuaia and spent hours cancelling parts of my special Antarctic “Millennium” covers - more on THOSE later! 

The staff were luckily REAL busy Dec 28th with the post Christmas local crowds. When they saw how much I had to do, they simply gave me the two different Ushuaia cancellers, and 2 ink pads, and invited me to cancel them all myself.

This was a lucky break, as it allowed me to (irregularly) cancel in Tierra Del Fuego, the AUSTRALIAN Antarctic wildlife stamps I'd bought along.

Also the 100 x OLD Argentina 1000 Peso high face value stamps I'd brought along, which shows on them their claim to Antarctica -  and the Falklands!

Most importantly this lucky break ALSO allowed me to cancel the valuable 1890 10¢ Tierra Del Fuego "Popper" stamps with the official TDF PO cancel in violet, which reads translated - "Ushuaia - The Last City On Earth".

I kept the MUH imprint pair for stock and still have it – the printer lettering on margin says – “Kidd y Cta Lima”


 A “Complete Country” – SG 1


All 100 covers I created thus have stamps from FIVE countries on them.  I have listed the few left, for sale on my website - 

We then boarded the Quark Expeditions Russian ice breaker, the very catchily named “R.V. Akademik Sergei Vavilov”. This was Finnish, built in 1988, just before Russian "research" funds (read spying I suspect!) dried up, so was quite nicely appointed.

Today passenger ships, even cruise liners, to the upper Antarctic region are pretty common, but a decade back there were virtually none.

The "Vavilov" then set to sea for 2 weeks with about 60 paying passengers.  And BOY did we pay - they thought of a price and trebled it for this unique Millennium expedition.

There was just one suite on this boat and I booked it ... we only get to experience one Millennium in most lifetimes!

And these ice-breakers are super BASIC working boats, so the regular cabins were VERY grim.



No radio, no TV, no internet.


I had a radio, video, TV and CD player in my suite, but NO TV or radio (or internet) was accessible whilst at sea.  I also had a huge fridge loaded with booze at Ushuaia, so the time passed smoothly enough!

Imagine 2 weeks where not ONE news report from "civilisation" reached you!  No inkling of NYE events worldwide, hostage dramas or cricket scores. Eerie stuff for a "news junkie" like me!

Several people later advised they tried to phone on NYE, but the on-board satellite phone simply did not respond.

Dealer colleague Michael Eastick did manage to get a fax through to the ship on December 31st saying: "What is big and white and goes - Glug, Glug, Glug"?  Answer: “Your ice-breaker, when the Y2K bug hits!”

The non-Ozzies on board did not understand the Eastick sense of humour when I showed it around.  I swear the surname of our Russian Captain was KALASHNIKOV, so I did chuckle at that.

Firstly, 2 days or so at sea across the infamous Drake Passage, where turbulent Atlantic meets Pacific Oceans, and we passed right by the treacherous Cape Horn.  Bolt down ALL loose items in the cabin here folks.  MANY green faces at meal times!


Antarctica is sighted


Then our first sight of land and ice, to much excitement.  We had reached the Antarctic peninsula's outer islands, and the adventure of a lifetime REALLY had now begun.

The amount of wildlife you see and visit as you go further South is quite astounding. Not only sea birds like the various Albatross and Petrels, but Cormorants and many Skuas (hiss, boo), and a few Penguins. Make that about 100,000 Penguins!

We visited Adelie, Gentoo, Macaroni and (my favourite) the Chinstrap varieties, often in huge colonies, each and every day (up to 3 times a day) in different locations and Zodiac landings.


"Macaroni" with chick, and "Chinstraps."


To me, the Penguins just "made" Antarctica.  Not just due to their massive numbers, but their total disregard and lack of fear for man is wonderful.  They walk by you, and at you.  Some even follow you, like wobbly upright puppy dogs.

You walk among their nesting rookeries and they are not bothered. Many of their rookeries were on heavily snowed over positions, and often way up hill sides/rockfaces. 

They hop rocks, and obstacles - like snoozing Elephant seals!  They climb up hills. Their comic tuxedo clad ungainly waddling & tobogganing has you laughing day after day. Nature is amazing.


Penguin Pantomime


Sitting a metre or two from a penguin colony quietly observing for 30 minutes is fascinating.

Coming, going, angrily baying, pecking, courting, coupling, and always stealing nest rocks from each other. Or spraying the neighbours (and often tourists!) with voluminous lethal "jet blasts" of liquid pink krill excrement is a memory I'll never forget.

Chicks were hatching, feeding, and squawking everywhere. The tiny new ones, and the older ones the size of their parents, who comically try and sit on them still.

Many had one squirming huge chick to "sit" on, as well as a fertile egg to hatch as well. All this on a "nest" of frozen small rocks.

The nasty big brown Skua birds are constantly stealing eggs and chicks from the fringes. Life goes on as it has for eternity here. Classic "survival of the fittest" stuff.


Royal Penguins


I loved them so much, the next year I flew to the Falkland Islands from the tip of Chile for Christmas, to see the colourful Royal Penguins up close.

Lots of seals also seen - Weddells, Leopards, crab eaters, fur seal and huge Elephant seals. Also not bothered by man, and calmly wallow and belch on beaches or ice floes, and barely even open an eye at you even when metres away.

Dolphins of course, and whales too - Minkes, one type I forget the name of, and Humpbacks but usually only fleeting encounters.

Except one.  Picture this scenario - it is 100% true.  New Year's Eve, about 8pm. Bright sunlight.  Passengers all into, or getting into, Millennium NYE party gear.


“Whales Ahoy!”


The P.A. system from the bridge excitedly announces two humpback whales are sighted 300 metres away at 11 o'clock.

Zodiac boats are launched. Tiaras and Tuxedoes hurriedly exchanged for life-vests and Parkas, and off we skimmed.

The very evening of NYE.  What a way to see off the last Century!



New Year’s Eve on the Millennium.


Humpback whales usually disappear from close human encounters. Not these two!

They literally played for an hour with the six Zodiacs. Constantly deep diving and re-appearing only metres from the tiny boats, "blowing" huge spouts in the process.

Then diving in unison with those massive tail flukes gracefully gliding under the surface - sheer magic. Time and time again.  An end-of-century Ballet none of us on that vessel will EVER forget.

A few 1,000 rolls of Kodak later we re-boarded, like 60 excited, chattering school kids. Still was bright sunlight.

At the Antarctic circle, sunset was officially 1.25 am and sunrise 1.45 am.  And twilight in between.  Nearly 100% daylight when that far south.

And what a NYE party it was after that. Superb dinner prepared by the Austrian/German chefs.

Special German champagne with 100s actual 24 carat gold flakes in each bottle. Chilled by bluish chunks of 10,000 year old glacial ice.

The boat broke out bottles of Möet for us at midnight.  After dinner, out on the rear deck for an all night disco etc.  At midnight of course, it was almost full light.  Bizarre. 


Penguin populated BAT Post Office!


And superb weather for the whole trip. Often chilly, but generally not terribly cold - shirt sleeves often on the decks. New Year's Day held a further surprise for me.


British Antarctic Territory PO


A totally unscheduled visit to Port Lockroy, a genuine working base of the British Antarctic Territory. They have a quaint historic wooden building with a dog sled tethered outside. Snow everywhere.

Union Jack fluttering, and 100's of Gentoo Penguins nesting right up to all four walls.  And a big shiny "Royal Mail" sign.  The place was just like a film set for a Shackleton or Amundsen movie!

There is a tiny room in the Port Lockroy hut which is designated as an official British Antarctic Territory Post Office.  Rod Downie was dressed in full kilt, sporran, and black frock coat - a trifle overdressed perhaps? 

He and David Burket manned the snow bound P.O. and both study Penguins in the weeks between tourist ice-breakers arriving.

Not to be outdone, I had on my life-preserver from the Zodiac rubber boat.  I could not believe my luck.  New Year's Day, in Antarctica, and here was a Post Office open - a British Antarctic Territory (B.A.T.) one at that!   Not on the schedule in any way.

The FIRST covers of the 21st century were created, when literally few other P.O.'s anywhere in the WORLD were open on a public holiday and a Saturday. 


Tierra Del Fuego “local” stamp used on cover!


I franked all my 100 special ice breaker covers with B.A.T. stamps, and with special permission, cancelled them all "1 JAN 00 -Port Lockroy - BAT" with the tiny head, wooden handled steel CDS, that looked like it was 50 to 100 years old. 

Our ship arrived at the PO mid evening 1/1/00, (despite the full sunshine) just as these guys were closing down to go and sleep.


No other mail cancelled Jan 1.



All the tourist mail lodged by our passengers they planned to process the NEXT day, with "Jan 2 - 00".  They told me my 100 covers were the ONLY mail items cancelled on that day, with that day's postmark - hence their huge philatelic desirability.  

A magic day.  I presented a signed cover to each staffer, who in turn posed for photos in their tiny P.O. – see pic nearby.


The first covers cancelled this Century.


The basic envelope used was an official Australia Post "Planet Ocean" un-serviced cover, that a colleague ran through his laser printer with the front side multi-colour cachet of the ice-vessel I was travelling on. 

The amount of preparatory work behind getting these covers created was immense.  I needed to have all the red and green rubber stamps made BEFORE I left Australia, and take colour inkpads.

I needed to buy the new just-issued Australian hologram stamps, source the old 1983 AAT wildlife stamps and take them all with me, and then source the decades old Argentina Antarctic 1000 peso map stamps, which was not easy for 100 mint copies, and cost me $$’s each. 

Finding 100 mint copies of the Tierra Del Fuego "Popper" stamps from 1890 was a near impossibility, and took me 2 months.

These cost me $A50 each on average and a ton of time, so at $A100 a cover, when you look at it, they are not expensive.  Not when the airline and cruise tickets ran to near $20,000 a person for this NYE cruise.



 Front and back photos of the special cover - Stamps from FIVE entities on each cover.

The stamps and cancels you see on the front of this cover were done ON the ice-breaker, in Tierra Del Fuego, and at the BAT P.O. in Port Lockroy on January 1st. They were NOT done in Australia. 

First landfall this Century!


I was the first tourist in Zodiac #1 to land, and that then is my tiny piece of an Antarctic “First”.  Hardly Sir Ernest Shackleton stuff, but hey it IS something!

Yes, my head was VERY bleary but well worth the 7am rise. The 100 special covers were with me, and had fancy colour cancels applied at "11.59 pm - 31/12/99" and "00.01 am - 01/01/00" the night before. 

A further excitement was to come, also affecting these much cancelled covers. These ice-breakers almost NEVER cross the Antarctic circle, as summer pack ice still extends from around Adelaide Island to the Pole.

Only one of our entire crew or passengers had even crossed the Circle.  The experienced Captain never had.


Race to The Antarctic Circle


THIS voyage was different.  The Vavilov's sister ship, the “R.V. Professor Multanovskiy” was determined to take her passengers over the Circle first time this century.  "The Race Was On" with the two macho Russian crews competing.

A few measly miles to go and we hit REAL heavy ice.  Not just the usual large floes of ice, and mini bergs, but the channel was blocked SOLID with it.


She became totally “stuck” in ice.


The thick steel ice strengthened bow just inched through it - our speed a fraction of a knot.  An exciting experience to be on the bow watching us smash through that pack ice.  Man against nature.

We could see the “Professor Multanovskiy” 500 metres away – see photo nearby – and that was 15 miles from the Circle – the ice got near solid as we got closer.

She then took a “faster” heading, but got stuck tight in the ice and could not move.  Stuck tight also, we later learned, was the British Navy re-supply vessel, the ice breaker “HMS Endeavour”, somewhere behind us.

We literally inched forward. The on-board Global Positioning System (GPS) crept closer and closer to the magic 66º.33’S - 67º29’W and a huge roar went up at 11.43am from passengers and crew - most of whom had also never crossed the ‘Circle’!


The Foghorn Symphony


Free booze broken out on deck.  Our foghorn symphony scaring the heck out of every penguin and elephant seal for 20 miles. 

I was right on the point of the bow at 66º.33’ holding a fellow traveller’s portable GPS, so was technically the very first person to cross the Antarctic Circle this century by boat, on January 3.


First to cross the Circle this Century!


Very exciting stuff.  All in bright sunshine.  Many passengers were out in shorts and bare chested - incredible weather.  I’ve been far colder in Sydney, than many of those days in Antarctica.

We then needed to go back and free the stricken “Professor Multanovskiy”. 

Captain put our engines on full power - we chewed up more fuel that hour than the other 14 days combined, and bore down on the frozen vessel through the pack ice, and via brute force broke an ice lead she could enter and follow.



Idiot stamp dealer swimming in Antarctica


Another exciting experience was SWIMMING in the waters of Whaler's Bay on Deception Island.  You normally die in two minutes in these waters.  Luckily, here some warm springs trickle into the shoreline sand.  Still BLOODY freezing.  

About half the passengers - this idiot included, braved the elements, tanked up with rum – see the photo nearby! 

Speaking of photos, I developed 50 rolls = 1800.  Seemed a lot until I was told of the passenger who took 600 rolls on one trip!  

People get addicted to these icy adventures.  One woman on this boat had completed TEN such Quark expeditions - 5 Arctic, and 5 Antarctic.  (Her cost - price of a lovely house in most big cities) This was also her first "Circle" crossing. 

She was 82, and had just been trekking in Nepal, and was usually the last to leave the bar at night.  Another (Ozzie) lady was 79 and just as keen.  May God give us ALL that energy in our 80s!

Back home via New York, and then Boise Idaho, of all places.  Why?  As I’d never been there is why!

Far more photos and details on this unique adventure may be found here –

Seasons Greeting to all readers – wherever you are in the world. 








Get my regular market update emails FREE.   Stamp gossip, price trends, record sale prices, and many one-time stamp specials, wholesale bargains,  and exciting offers and breaking philatelic news.  A mini stamp magazine in every email!   "KNOWLEDGE IS POWER".  The ONE stamp list you MUST be on,  to keep in touch with the rapidly changing world market.  One client made $65,000 profit in a few months after following my specific advice.  Sign up securely and quickly by clicking HERE  to access my automated data base.  And wiser still ADD your home AND work email, if I only have one right now.   Add a stamp friend's email address if you wish.  One short click and you are subscribed to probably the most read email list in the stamp world! 


Instant Currency Conversion
Universal Currency Converter
FREE! Just click here...


If you would like to be notified of updates to this website, Click HERE. If have any questions,
or comments regarding my site, please email me at


Search this site

Search all my 300+ web pages! Simply type in what you are looking for. "Penny Black", "Latvia", "Imprints", "Morocco", "Fungi" "Year Books", etc! Using quotes ( " ) is more accurf used with no quotes. Search is NOT case sensitive. Tip - keep the search word singular - "Machin" yields  far more matches than "Machins" etc.



I am a Dealer Member in Good Standing Of:

Full Time Stamp Dealer in Australia for over 25 years.

Life Member - American Stamp Dealers' Association.  (New York) 
Also Member of:  Philatelic Traders' Society.  (London)     ANDA. (Melbourne)    American Philatelic Society, etc



Time and Temp in Sunny Sydney!



Full Time Stamp Dealer in Australia for over 25 years.

Life Member - American Stamp Dealers' Association.  (New York) 
Also Member - Philatelic Traders' Society.  (London)  ANDA. (Melbourne)  American Philatelic Society, etc

 ALL Postage + Insurance is extra. Visa/BankCard/MasterCard/Diners/Amex all OK, even for "Lay-Bys"! All lots offered are subject to my usual Conditions of Sale, copy upon request BIGGEST STAMP BUYER: Post me ANYTHING via Registered Mail for my same-day cheque. Avoid the  GENERALLY 40%  Auction " Commissions" (15% + 17½ + GST, etc.) AND their five-month delays! Read this for details.

"Lothlórien4 The Tor Walk, CASTLECRAG (Sydney), N.S.W. 2068
Phone: (02) 9958-1333  Fax: (02) 9958-1444 (Both 25 Hours, 7 Days!)
Web Sites:  or

Sign up AUTOMATICALLY to my world renowned bi-weekly stamp gossip mailing list!

Click here to see MANY 1000s of stamp lots for sale at low $A Nett prices

Click here for all you need to know re SELLING your stamps for SPOT CASH

Click here for the current Monthly "Internet Only" special offers - CHEAP!

Click HERE to read all my recent International stamp magazine articles.

Click here to get back to the main Homepage

Click here to ORDER on-line ANY items from ANY of my dozens of lists

Click for all info on Conditions Of Sale, Payments, Shipping, Returns &c 

Click here for the complete library of my very unusual world travels!

How to PAY me.  I accept EVERYTHING - even blankets and axes and beads!

Australia Post Annual YEAR BOOKS - massive stock - '27% off' discount offer today!

Visit my new page on RARITIES - Roos & other expensive photo items.

Stampboards where Philatelists Meet..


Instant Currency Conversion
Universal Currency Converter
FREE! Just click here...

E-mail me at -

Every credit card shown is accepted WITHOUT fee.
Earn Frequent Flier points while buying at bargain prices!
ALL prices are in weak Ozzie Dollars. I charge NO nasty, nasty
"Buyer's Commission" on stamps like nearly every "Auction" does.

All content on every page of this site is International Copyright © 1995 - 2009 Glen Stephens. All rights Reserved.