1999 Ross Dependency - Night Skies

New Zealand's territory in the Antarctic, the Ross Dependency is justly famous for the diversity of its weather phenomena.

Issue information

Imagine a world where summer means 24 hours of daylight, winter 24 hours of darkness – and between these two remarkable seasons, a feast of sunsets and sunrises the likes of which you will find nowhere else on earth.

After the relenting darkness and intense cold of the Antarctic winter, and two months of winter darkness in June and July, the sun gradually returns to this isolated region from early August onwards. The region then witnesses weather phenomena that are spectacular and dramatic. This is the Ross Dependency – a slice of the Antarctic under the stewardship of New Zealand.

From August to October, those people fortunate enough to be stationed at the Ross Island bases have the opportunity to observe – and photograph – hours of dramatic views as the sun skims along the horizon for hours on end, accentuating this ruggedly beautiful landscape. Breathtaking sunsets take place, punctuated by vicious blizzards that can rage for days at a time. 

Delicate pink alpenglow illuminates the slopes of Mount Erebus, the active volcano that dominates Ross Island. This alpenglow looks warm and inviting but in fact October is the coldest time of year, with evening temperatures plummeting to as low as -40 degrees.  To the south of New Zealand's research facility at Scott Base, the Black and White Islands are silhouetted against a ghostly yellow glow, and rugged ice towers push skyward in the Ross Sea, the pillars of sea ice around Ross Island painted in yellow evening light. Mother of pearl clouds (or nacreous clouds) occasionaly light up the night sky.

By November, the sun no longer sets and there is continual daylight through until February and it's not until autumn that the night skies return. At this time of year sea smoke forms over the waters of McMurdo Sound and the Ross Sea, reflecting the extreme temperature differences between the water (-1.9°C) and the air (-20°C). 

Few people have the chance to witness these magical events. Though this issue you had the opportunity to see them for yourself.

Ross Dependency Postage in New Zealand

Ross Dependency stamps are not valid for postage in New Zealand. Click here to find out more.

Product Listing for 1999 Ross Dependency - Night Skies

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp Single 40c 'Sea Smoke, McMurdo Sound'  gummed stamp. $0.40
Single Stamp Single 80c 'Alpenglow, Mount Erebus, Ross Island' gummed stamp. $0.80
Single Stamp Single $1.10 'Sunset, Black Island, Ross Ice Shelf' gummed stamp. $1.10
Single Stamp Single $1.20 'Pressure Ridges, Ross Sea' gummed stamp. $1.20
Single Stamp Single $1.50 'Evening Light, Ross Island' gummed stamp. $1.50
Single Stamp Single $1.80 'Mother of Pearl Clouds, Ross Island' gummed stamp. $1.80
First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $7.30
Presentation Pack Presentation pack containing a selection of stamp products from the issue and further information on the theme of the stamps. $8.50

Technical information

Date of issue: 17 November 1999
Number of stamps: Six
Denominations: 40c Sea Smoke, McMurdo Sound; 80c Alpenglow, Mount Erubus, Ross Island; $1.10 Sunset, Black Island, Ross Ice Shelf; $1.20 Pressure ridges, Ross Sea; $1.50 Evening light, Ross Island; $1.80 Mother of pearl clouds, Ross Island
Stamps and first day cover designed by: Gregory Millen, GMADD of Edinburgh, Scotland
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand by lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 30mm x 40mm (horizontal)
Paper type: 103 gsm red phosphor coated
Number of stamps per sheet: 50 
Perforation gauge: 14
Special blocks: Plate/imprint blocks were obtained by purchasing at least two sheet stamps. Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats for sheet stamps.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 16 November 2000.