French Southern and Antarctic Territories 2001

For the 1874 transit of Venus, the French Academy of Sciences sent out six expeditions to various sites around the world. One of them, headed by the astronomer and naval officer Amédée Mouchez (1821-1892), spent three months on the otherwise uninhabited island of St Paul in the southern Indian Ocean at 38° 41’ south. St Paul is an extinct volcano with a caldera that has collapsed to produce a large bay. On the shores of the bay they set up their observatory, which included telescopes to photograph the event for the first time. However, the accuracy of the photographic results was little better than the visual ones at earlier transits.

The island of St Paul is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Territories, which issued the stamp shown above depicting Mouchez’s observatory and associated buildings on the bay. At top centre is an inset with the commemorative plaque left by the expedition on the side of a stone cairn topped with a flagpole, visible at right on the stamp.

SG number
Face value
brown and black