Tuesday, July 29, 2008

UFO on stamps

As I’m a regular reader of sci-fi books, I have decided, quite some times ago, to start a collection of stamps about science-fiction. I quickly realized that this is a very narrow topic, and I must admit that my collection is not growing so fast. One of the sub-topic is UFO (or “flying saucer”) pictured on stamps. During the weekend, while trying to sort out the mess at home, I found back a set of stamps from Grenada that falls into this topic. And, as you will see, by a pure coincidence it also fits to my collection of “famous people named Eric pictured on stamps” !
The set was issued on the 17th of August 1978. It contains three stamps and one souvenir sheet. Let’s have a look to the stamps first. Each stamp is divided in two parts : one on the left and one on the right.

The first stamp pictures, on the right, a flying saucer as it appeared in a testimony in 1952. On the left side, the stamp pictures a woodcut dated from 1566 realized by Hans Glaser to picture a mass sighting of flying objects (spheres, discs and cylinders) that is supposed to have taken place in 1561 in Nuremberg !



The second stamp pictures a radar probing the skies, probably looking for evidence of an alien life, and the surface of Mars.



The third stamp pictures a flying saucer and a picture of an Unidentified Flying Object taken is 1965.

Records of disc-shaped objects flying in the sky exist since the Middle Ages, but the first highly documented sighting is the one from Kenneth Arnold on the 24th of June 1947. This is this vision, as reported in the US papers, that launched the term “Flying saucer” which is still widely used. The term UFO was created in 1952, to try to reflect the diversity of shapes of flying objects.
Reality or myth ? Alien ships or secret military planes ? Hoax or truth ? The existence of UFO is widely questioned and is the subject of many sci-fi books and movies.

Now let’s have a look to the souvenir sheet of the set.




It pictures a portrait of Eric Gairy and the UN assembly building. A date is printed on the margin of the sheet : 7th of October 1977. What is it about ?
Eric Gairy (1920-1997) was a Grenadian politician who led Grenada as Premier or as Prime minister between 1967 and 1979. After being dismissed in 1979, he lived in exile in the United States. He attempted a come back in 1984 but failed to be elected at the head of the country.
In 1977, Eric Gairy succeeded in getting UFO on the agenda of the UN General Assembly : his objective was to get from the UN the creation of an agency to “collate, coordinate and corroborate information” on UFO. He only obtained an agreement that any country with information or ideas on the subject should report to the UN secretary-general Kurt Waldheim. He tried again in 1978, but still without much success in motivating the UN assembly.
Eric Gairy has reported that he has himself seen several UFO in Grenada !

This set of three stamps and the souvenir sheet was issued to commemorate this proposal made by the Prime Minister of Grenada to the UN assembly.

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