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A Rare Cancel for Nimbus

By Bert van Eijck

You have no doubt all heard of Nimbus, the series of meteorological satellites which the USA launched between 1964 and 1978/9.

There exist launch covers for each of the seven Nimbus satellites that orbited the Earth. Around ten countries issued stamps for Nimbus, from Dominica through to Zambia.

There are also some postal cancels for Nimbus. One of them is a rare as illustrated. I bought the cover with the cancel some years ago in an auction but I did not know either what Nimbus had to do with a French ship, for the cancel reads “Bureau Naval’ over a French stamp. So I wrote to one of the world’s greatest naval philately experts, Mr Detlev Mehlis of Berlin, Germany, who told me that the ship is the French cruiser Colbert which was in the South Pacific in the summer of 1970 as France was testing atomic bombs on its colonial atolls.

Nimbus 4 was launched in April 1970 and had new equipment for radiation on board. The Colbert has a satellite receiver on board — as seen in the cancel — and probably could get data from Nimbus. The picture of Nimbus is now understood in this ship’s cancel, but what about the picture at the other side of the cancel. Mr Detlev Mehlis had the answer too. It is a “Tiki”, a deity from the Polynesian Islands, carved in wood. And to complete the picture “Bureau Naval 64” is the ship’s identify cancel for the ship Colbert.

Interesting, n’est ce pas? Whoever has this cancel in their collection and would care to tell me how they came to acquire, I would be very pleased to hear from them. (If you would like to get in-touch with Bert, please e-mail ASSS for the address).


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