The French Southern and Antarctic Territory (TAAF)

The “Terres Australes et Antarctiques Français” (TAAF), have been an overseas French dependency since 1955.

Made up of five separate groups of islands situated in a largely inaccessible and remote part of the Southern Hemisphere near to Antarctica the territory extends to approximately 3000 sq miles and was originally administered from the French Colony of Madagascar. Since 2004 these administrative powers have been delegated to the French Overseas Department based at Saint-Pierre on Réunion Island which itself is nearly 5800 miles from Paris.

TAAF has five districts, identified as Archipel Crozet, Saint Paul/Île Amsterdam, Archipel des Keguelen (where the Capital of the Region Port-aux-Français is located), Terre Adélie and Îles Éparses. To emphasise the distances and remoteness it is helpful to recognise that Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, is approximately 2000 miles from Terre Adélie. Perth in Western Australia is some 3700 nautical miles away and Antananarivo is approximately 1000 miles from Maputo in Mozambique in West Africa!

There are no airports and only a few airstrips. TAAF’s economy is dependent on the sea. The oceanographic vessel, the R/V “Marion Dufresne”, based at Réunion and the icebreaker M/V “L’ Astrolabe”, based in Tasmania call four times a year to deliver and collect supplies and mail.

TAAF has no permanent residents. It is an environment where the annual aggregate seasonal population varies between only 140 and 300 people. This is made up mainly of geophysicists and meteorological research scientists, military personnel, support staff, civil servants and those involved in the primary economic activity, fishing and maintaining fishing fleets. The high volumes of fish, specifically the Patagonian tooth fish and crustaceans are exported to France. The territory generates over Є16million in revenue annually. Additionally, there is a significant merchant marine fleet that permits French owned vessels to register and take advantage of less stringent taxation and manning regulations that may apply elsewhere and which provides another source of local revenue.

TAAF issued her first stamp In late October 1955, a red overprint on the 15 Francs Madagascar Long Tailed Ground Roller ‘Uratelormis’ bird stamp. In April 1956 TAFF began to issue its own designs. The first were a set of six with values from 15 Centimes to 15 Francs. They showed images of the dramatic indigenous scenery and examples of wild life that live within the territory that includes partially extinct volcanic islands. Two air mail stamps were also issued with values of 50 and 100 Francs that depict Emperor Penguins. Later examples of these earlier TAAF issues include a 50 Centimes stamp showing two beautifully drawn and coloured Rock Hopper Penguins standing in their natural habit. At the base are the capital initials RF (République Française) and the words ‘ARCHIPEL des CROZET’. In 1959 the iconic Wandering Albatross 200 Francs stamp was issued.

In this sale there is a wonderful opportunity to access and explore a diverse and representative selection of the many definitive and commemorative stamps that include beautifully produced images of local scenery, flora, fauna, wildlife, elephant seals and sea birds together with illustrations of famous French explorers and scientists. Additionally, there are examples of the sought- after 1957 Geophysical set and 1963 Sun Air issues. Also there are se-tenant strips, a 1968 Rocket triptych and an accumulation of covers and other related philatelic material.

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