The extraordinary voyages of 16th century seafarers transformed history as newly-developed deep-water sailing ships, equipped with the mariner’s compass, enabled Europeans to venture beyond the horizon and scour the oceans for new land, dreams and gold. During one such voyage in 1592, to the Magellan Straits, the little recognized but most accomplished navigator, John Davis, in his ship, Desire, was storm-blown under bare poles amongst these apparently unknown and unpeopled islands. But it is likely that the archipelago had been quietly known about for years by the major sea powers, as an ill-defined cluster of blobs appear, vaguely positioned near the eastern end of the Magellan Strait, on maps from 1507 onwards. Amerigo Vespucci may well have seen them from the deck of a Portuguese ship as early as 1502.
The 700 islands, islets, rocks and reefs which comprise the Falklands are situated some 315 nautical miles down-wind and down-stream from Cape Horn. Battered by frequent gales and surrounded by strong currents, the Islands have always provided both peril and sanctuary for the seafarer. Over 180 ships are known to have met their end in the wild seas which surround the Falklands. Without doubt there will have been others which sank without trace.
During the 1850’s there was a sudden upsurge in sea-borne traffic around Cape Horn. Vessels trading in Californian and Australian gold, Chilean copper and Peruvian guano began calling into Stanley for repair and provisions. The nearest alternative port was Montevideo a thousand miles to the north. Some ships attempting to round the Horn were overloaded, some unseaworthy, and others simply unlucky. Many suffered severe battering and, riding the prevailing westerlies, limped back into harbour to lick their wounds. A few lame ducks never recovered. Others were deliberately wrecked and their cargoes sold by unscrupulous dealers. The growing port gained a notorious reputation and a flock of worn-out windjammers. Several are still stuck in the Stanley harbour mud. But time and tide and two pernicious sea worms, the teredo and the gribble, have hastened their demise and in many cases their crumbling woodwork has all but disappeared.
This issue, the second in the Shipwrecks series, depicts some of those vessels which finished their days beached along the Falklands’ shorelines. They remain an integral part of the Islands’ history and a reminder of the salty men who sailed in them.
Glengowan was built of steel in Glasgow in 1895. Two months out on a maiden voyage from Swansea to San Francisco via Cape Horn, her cargo of coal became dangerously overheated and she made for Port Stanley. She caught fire in Port William, was scuttled, and remained as a burned-out hulk in Whalebone Cove for a decade. In 1910 she was purchased by the New Whaling Company and towed to New Island to be used as storage. She later broke her moorings in a gale and now rests on a rocky shoreline close to the present-day settlement.
The 428-ton, three-masted barque, Jhelum, was launched on 24th May 1849. During her working life she completed 18 voyages, mainly between Europe and South America. Under the command of Captain James Beaglehole, she departed Callao on the return leg of her final voyage on 12th July 1870, bound for Dunkirk with a cargo of Peruvian guano from the Guanape Islands. Thirty-eight days out, and following a rough passage, she put into Stanley “leaky with jettison”. Her crew refused to continue and, following a survey, Jhelum was condemned and never sailed again. In recent years her remains were the most intact among the remarkable but fast decaying collection of 19th century wooden sailing ships which once decorated the fringes of Stanley Harbour. During a winter storm in October 2008 the bow finally collapsed. The stern followed suit in August 2013. All that remains today is part of the vessel’s midsection.
Golden Chance was a 90 ton Lowestoft steam drifter. She was launched in 1914. During the 2nd World War she worked as a barrage balloon boat. After failing the Board of Trade standards she was purchased by the Colonial Development Corporation and set off for the Falklands in August 1949. She eventually made it down but only after steel reinforcing in Montevideo prevented her from possibly breaking up on the high seas. For much of the voyage she was towed by the Protector 3, which now lies on the beach at New Island. Golden Chance worked as a sealer for three years at Albemarle in West Falkland but was eventually pensioned off and now lies beached at the Canache at the east end of Stanley Harbour.
The “Lady Liz”, as she is affectionately known, sits cradled in sand at Whalebone Cove. Amongst Stanley’s assortment of dead sailing ships, she alone retains her masts and her grandeur. A 223ft iron barque, built in Sunderland in 1879, she made several visits to the Falklands during the course of her working life. On one voyage, in 1899, she brought bricks and cement for the new Cathedral and wood for the rival Tabernacle. In December 1912, under Captain Petersen, Lady Elizabeth departed Vancouver with a cargo of Oregon pine, bound for Delagoa Bay in Mozambique by way of Cape Horn. It was to be her final voyage. Severely battered by gales some 300 miles to the west of the Cape, and with her deck cargo and four men washed overboard, she put into Berkeley Sound on 12th March 1913. At the northern entrance she struck the Uranie Rock, was holed, and lost a section of keel. Three days later she was towed into Stanley by the tug, Samson, for repairs. But Lady Elizabeth was never to sail again. Instead, she was condemned and, together with her valuable cargo, sold to the Falkland Islands Company for just £3350. Stripped to bare essentials, she became a floating warehouse for the following two decades. During a gale, on 17th February 1936, the old lady broke free of her moorings and drifted to her present position close to Stanley Airport.
Text by Tony Chater.
Photography Tony Chater
Printer Cartor Security Printing
Perforation 13 x 13 ¼ per 2 cms
Stamp size 30.6 x 38mm
Sheet layout 10
Release date 2 March, 2018
Production Co-ordination Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd