The government and treasury of the South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands issued on 26 February new crown coins that commemorate the birth of the famous explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Born on 15th February 1874, Sir Ernest wanted to be an explorer from a very early age, inspired by faraway places that he read about as a boy. At the age of 16, bored by his school’s curriculum, he went to work in the Merchant Navy. His big break came when he was 27-years-old and he was selected to join Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition. Departing England on the 31st July 1901, it was the first major British exploration of the Antarctic for 60 years.
This expedition ended prematurely for Shackleton, as he was sent home early on account of ill health, but he did receive acknowledgement for his efforts by being awarded the Royal Geographical Society silver medal for his involvement.
In 1914, Shackleton embarked upon his third trip to the Antarctic aboard the ship Endurance, planning to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. Early in 1915, the Endurance became trapped in the ice, and 10 months later sank. Shackleton’s crew had already abandoned the ship to live on the floating ice. Shackleton gained greater notoriety for the heroic rescue of his stranded crew after the sinking of Endurance.
This act of bravery and fortitude involved an open boat journey across the Southern Ocean and treacherous overland crossing of South Georgia. In April 1916, they set off in three small boats, eventually reaching
Elephant Island. Taking five fellow crew members, Shackleton went to find help in a small boat where the six men spent 16 days crossing 1,300 kilometers of ocean to reach South Georgia and then trekked across the island to a whaling station. The remaining men from the Endurance were rescued in August 1916 with every single member of the expedition being rescued. Shackleton published his account of the adventure and subsequent details of the heroic rescue in 1919.
Shackleton’s fourth expedition aimed to circumnavigate the Antarctic continent, but on the 5th January 1922, the expedition was ended when Shackleton died of a heart attack off South Georgia. He was buried on the island. He is remembered as one of the principal figures of the period, now known as the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.”
The new crown coins are produced by the Pobjoy Mint at their facilities in Surrey, England, on behalf of the treasury of the South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands. The reverse design is based on the Royal
Geographical Society silver medal awarded to Shackleton in 1904, which shows an Antarctic scene with members of the sledding party, the ship, and a sled. Penguins and seals can be seen in the plinth below. The text 1874 SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON 2019 is seen above the design while the denomination of the coins, TWO POUNDS, is shown below.
The obverse features an effigy of HM Queen Elizabeth II, which is an exclusive design of the Pobjoy Mint. The issuing authority of the SOUTH GEORGIA & SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS is included in the legend around the Queen’s portrait along with the year of issue, 2019.
This year is the 115th anniversary of the Royal Geographic Society medal having been bestowed on Sir Ernest Shackleton for his efforts to accompany Robert Falcon Scott on his famed Antarctic expedition.