Stamp set to commemorate Shackleton’s 100th anniversary | Polarjournal
The Falkland Islands stamp set depicts Shackleton from youth to his death in Grytviken. (Image: British Pobjoy Mint)

The British Antarctic Territory, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands have joined together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of the great polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922). Each of the territories has issued four stamps reflecting different moments in the explorer’s eventful life, including the Nimrod expedition and the Shackleton-Rowett expedition.

Shackleton became famous in 1915 when his ship, the “Endurance”, became trapped in pack ice and sank. Against all odds, Shackleton managed to bring all his men back to safety, a story of determination and selfless leadership that is celebrated as one of the greatest stories of human endeavor.

Shackleton undertook three major expeditions. His first Antarctic experience was as third officer on the “Discovery” expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott (1901-1904), from which he was sent home by the expedition leader in 1903 because he disputed his unfitness for duty.

South Georgia stamps depict the wrecked “Endurance” and the gravesite of Sir Ernest Shackleton. (Image: British Pobjoy Mint)

In 1908, Shackleton returned to Antarctica as leader of his own expedition on the ship “Nimrod”. Among many important scientific and geographical discoveries, Shackleton and three companions set a new record in January 1909 for the closest approach to the South Pole before having to turn back just 180 km from it. On his return to Britain, he was knighted by King Edward VII. 

The race for the South Pole ended in 1911 with Amundsen’s conquest. In 1914, Shackleton undertook his third, now best-known expedition with the ship “Endurance”.

In 1921, Shackleton returned to the sub-Antarctic with the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition. Better known as the “Quest” expedition, it was to be Shackleton’s fourth and final expedition. Large crowds gathered as the ship “Quest” left St. Katherine Docks in London on September 17, 1921, with a crew consisting of eight shipmates from the famous “Endurance” expedition eager to return to southern waters.

After arriving in the calm waters of King Edward Cove in South Georgia, Shackleton died unexpectedly in the early morning hours of January 5, 1922.

His last diary entry reads:

“A wonderful evening. In the darkening twilight I saw a lone star hover gem like over the bay.”

British Antarctic Territory stamps recount various stages of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s life. (Image: British Pobjoy Mint)

The return of the “Quest” was followed by a hiatus, with no significant expeditions to Antarctica for another seven years. The Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition will be remembered for the early death of its leader, but also for the end of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

Stamps can bought here (retail and individuals)

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