The new set of four stamps depicts Arctic and Antarctic Explorers and Personalities who have journeyed in Tristan waters. Each stamp depicts an image of one of these seafarers together with the ship most closely associated with them and Tristan da Cunha.
35p – James Weddell and “Jane”
Born in 1787 and although initially a member of the Royal Navy (1796–1815) where he rose to the rank of Master, he left and became a Merchant Mariner. In 1819 he persuaded the owners of the Brig Jane to entrust him with command of a sealing expedition to the South Shetland Islands and having returned with a full hold, he was able to persuade the owners to let him return on a second mission.
Although this second sealing expedition proved to be unprofitable, in 1822 the Jane departed for Southern Waters again, accompanied by Mathew Brisbane in the “Beaufoy” calling in at Tristan da Cunha. By this time, there were so many sealers in the area that the seals themselves had become scarcer and scarcer. In their poorly built vessels, Weddell and Brisbane elected to travel further South in the hope of finding a new source of hunting and when they finally admitted defeat and turned back with relatively empty holds, it transpired that they were at the southernmost position any ship had ever reached up to that time.
Having navigated a relatively calm area of Ocean into this southernmost point, Weddell named it the George IV Sea and this name remained until 1900 when it was renamed the Weddell Sea.
This was to be his last journey to the far South and Weddell had a fairly unremarkable career until his untimely death in 1834 in relative poverty at the age of only forty seven.
45p – George Nares and “HMS Challenger”
Having spent 27 years in the Royal Navy and having reached the rank of Captain, George Nares was given command of the Challenger expedition of 1872–76. This scientific exercise made many discoveries which were to lay the foundation of oceanography.
It was in 1873 that Challenger reached Tristan da Cunha and was provisioned. It then journeyed on to Inaccessible Island, where apart from being attacked by Penguins, the crew discovered two German Brothers, Gustav and Frederick Stoltenhoff who had arrived in 1871 to hunt penguins and seals but had lost their boat. Relations with the inhabitants of Tristan da Cunha had deteriorated and they now begged Captain Nares to take them on to a more hospitable place.
After a brief visit to Nightingale Island, the Challenger sailed to Simonstown at the Cape of Good Hope for refitting and to let the brothers off.
During a voyage that took just over four years and covered nearly 70,000 nautical-miles, circumnavigating the globe, a number of very important discoveries as well as some 4,700 new species of marine life were made.
Due to the ongoing success of this mission, Nares was recalled to Britain in 1875 to take command of the British Arctic Expedition which was tasked with the role of finding the North Pole. Despite some successes, this was not achieved and Nares had to return to the UK early due to the number of men who had suffered from scurvy and the cold due to inadequate clothing.
This was his last great expedition before retiring from the navy in 1886. Despite this, he was twice promoted following his retirement eventually reaching the rank of vice-admiral. Prior to his death in 1915, he became a conservator of the River Mersey and a member of the ship committee for Scott’s Antarctic expedition.
70p – Carsten Borchgrevink and “SS Antarctic”
Carsten Borchgrevink was an Anglo-Norwegian born in Norway in 1864.
At the age of 24 he migrated to Australia and in 1893 he signed on to the Norwegian whaling and sealing vessel Antarctic under Leonard Kristensen.
Over the course of two years of travel they visited Tristan da Cunha, and many points further South. Their landing at Cape Adare (originally named by Captain James Ross) was the first confirmed landing on the Antarctic continental mainland and Borchgrevink claimed that he was actually the first human to set foot there, although this was disputed by two others in the company.
At the conclusion of this voyage Borchgrevink left the ship and began a lecture tour in Melbourne and Sydney. He planned an Antarctic expedition of his own and among other things wanted to locate the South Magnetic Pole. After failing to raise the funds in Australia he travelled to England to try to gain interest there but the Royal Geographical Society was already making plans to support its own expedition to the Antarctic.
He did however manage to persuade the wealthy British publisher Sir George Newnes to contribute £40,000 for a private expedition, although Newnes insisted that it should be under the British flag and be named the British Antarctic Expedition.
Borchgrevink purchased the whaling ship “Pollux”, renamed her “Southern Cross”, and had her fitted out for Antarctic service. Southern Cross sailed from London in 1898 and reached Cape Adare on 17 February 1899 and it was here that the expedition set up the first ever shore base on the Antarctic continent. Apparently although quite popular, Borchgrevink was not a good leader and the site he chose was subject to extremely bad weather. Having said this, he introduced dogs into Antarctica as well as the newly invented primus stove, both of which became standard equipment for later expeditions.
The expedition did not penetrate too far overland although it did over winter and eventually in 1900 when the expedition was reunited with the Southern Cross, the ship travelled further south and he set a new Furthest South record when with a colleague and dog sled he travelled 10 miles over the ice.
He returned to England to a very negative response, although he was feted by America, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. His achievements were largely ignored by the British who considered him a foreigner flying a British Flag rather than a home grown hero such as Scott.
He virtually retired soon after this, although he did express deep sorrow at the failure of the Scott Expedition and did publicly state that he intended to return to Antarctica one day but died in 1934 before this could happen.
£1.50p – Dr Alexander Macklin and “Quest”
Alexander Macklin was born in India in 1889, the son of a Doctor and he was of course to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Soon after qualifying he applied to join Shackleton’s Imperial Transantarctic Expedition and was accepted as one of two doctors. As well as his surgeon’s duties he was put in charge of the ship’s dogs and was also assigned a team of sledge dogs to drive.
The skills of the two surgeons were put to the test with a range of ailments including Gangrene, Heart Problems and at least one Nervous Breakdown as well as the more mundane problems that would affect all of those living in difficult circumstances in freezing weather on Elephant Island for so long.
On return to England, Macklin joined the army as an officer in the Medical Corps serving in France and Russia during the First World War. He won the Military Cross (M.C.) for bravery in tending the wounded under fire and later joined Shackleton in Russia in the fight against the Bolsheviks.
Shackleton invited Macklin to join him again for the Quest expedition in 1922 as the ship’s surgeon together with a number of fellow crewmen from the earlier expedition. On Shackleton’s death at South Georgia, it fell to Macklin to prepare the body for transport to South America and then for burial on South Georgia.
Although some members of the crew left the Quest following the death of Shackleton, the bulk of the crew took the vessel back to the UK and on the morning of 19th May 1922, the Quest was spotted off the coast of Tristan da Cunha.
Many of the crew visited Edinburgh of the Seven Seas and Dr Macklin stayed in the cottage of Bob Glass although he was later to record that he had a problem with a “small army of marauders” which kept him awake. Macklin, who was in charge of stores arranged to leave a large amount of stores behind prior to the departure of the Quest six days later.
In 1926 Macklin established a medical practice in Dundee, Scotland where he would work for the next 21 years. During World War II, he served in the Medical Corps in East Africa as a Lieutenant Colonel and died on 21 March 1967.