A series of three stamp issues celebrating three ‘Heroes of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition’ was released on November 5th to mark the centenary of the arrival of the expedition at Grytviken whaling station.
The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (Weddell Sea party 1914–16) is considered by some to be the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. By 1914 both poles had been reached, so Shackleton set his sights on being the first to traverse Antarctica. Although the expedition failed to accomplish this objective, it became recognised instead as an epic feat of endurance.
The expedition’s ship Endurance left Britain on August 8th 1914, arriving at South Georgia on November 5th. After a month-long halt at Grytviken, Endurance sailed into the Weddell Sea where the ship was beset in pack ice and later sunk. The men then camped on the ice and made it to Elephant Island. While 22 men stayed behind Shackleton and five others sailed in a little boat, the James Caird, to South Georgia. They then had to cross the unknown interior of South Georgia to find help at Stromness whaling station. Three of the principal ‘heroes’ of the expedition are celebrated in the new stamp issues.
Frank Hurley was an Australian photographer and adventurer who participated in a number of expeditions to Antarctica. When Endurance sank, and the party could only carried limited stores, he only kept 120 of his photographic glass plates and some film. He dived inside the part submerged hull of the ship to save some of these. His stunning images of the expedition, including cine film of Endurance’s masts almost collapsing on him and the rescue from Elephant Island, are his best known work and have greatly contributed to the Endurance legend. The Hurley images used on the stamps focus on the more intimate photos he took. The first Day Cover features a self-portrait of the photographer.
Frank Worsley was a New Zealand sailor and explorer and was the Captain of Endurance. He was renowned for his navigational ability. Shackleton chose Worsley and four others to accompany him to sail to South Georgia aboard the 6.7-metre lifeboat James Caird. Worsley’s navigation skills were crucial to the safe arrival of the James Caird at South Georgia. Worsley accompanied Shackleton and Crean on the subsequent march across the island. Later he joined Shackleton to sail to South Georgia again when as Captain on Shackleton’s final expedition on Quest. The first day cover for this issue features Frank Worsley directing the helmsmen through the ice of the Weddell Sea.
Tom Crean left school aged 10 and at 15 ran away to enlist in the Royal Navy. He was a member of Scott’s Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions and was held in high regard by Scott with whom he had marched to within 150 miles of the South Pole. Shackleton appointed Crean Second Officer on Endurance with a range of duties. After Endurance was abandoned Crean guided the smallest of the lifeboats, the Stancomb Wills, on the 5-day voyage to Elephant Island. After arriving in South Georgia he went on to accompany Shackleton on the 36-hour march across the island to Stromness. The First Day Cover with this issue features Tom Crean, cropped from a photograph taken with Alfred Cheetham.
Source: South Georgia News letter