The government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands have launched new commemorative 50-pence coins marking the 140th anniversary of the first steam-powered vessel to visit the territory. Moltke is an important part of the heritage of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands and represents a key moment in the islands' history.
The coin features the steam-powered ship Moltke launched in 1877 and built for the German Imperial Navy. She was of the Bismarck class and was originally designed to serve as a fleet scout and to go on extended tours of Germany's colonial empire.
But, it wasn’t until 1882, that it was deployed to carry the first German Expedition for the International Polar Year to South Georgia.
This expedition, led by Karl Schrader, aimed to spend a year on South Georgia Island making scientific observations on a range of phenomena including geology, zoology and disturbances in the geomagnetic field. On August 21, after navigating heavy seas and icebergs, they found a suitable landing site at what is now known as Moltke Harobr, near Royal Bay.
German scientists spent 13 months in South Georgia as part of the International Polar Year between 1882-1883 where they set up the island’s first scientific research station. The expedition was supplied with special equipment to enable the crew to obverse the transit of Venus that occurred on December 6, 1882. This enabled the distance between the Earth and the Sun to be measured while Venus passed between them.
They were also responsible for setting up the first telegraph system and for taking the first photographs of the island. The foundations of their eight buildings can still be discerned at Koppen Point.
The three-mast steam corvette Moltke returned to Germany in 1885 where she became a training ship for naval cadets and later apprentice seamen. The ship served in this capacity from 1885 to 1908, during which time her activity consisted primarily of fleet training exercises and overseas training cruises. She was stricken from the naval register in October 1910 and sold for scraps in July 1920.
The seven-sided coins, produced on behalf of the treasury of the South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands, on its reverse side depicts the Moltke based on a vintage drawing featuring the vessel with her sails unfurled. The denomination 50 is placed to the left side of the primary design with the text MOLTKE seen below. The obverse of the coin features an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. The issuing authority South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands is placed around the Queen’s likeness.
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