Heroes of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

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Heroes of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

Heroes Part 1- Hurley Set: Part No: ST011481
Heroes Part 2- Worsley Set: Part No: ST011482
Heroes Part 3- Crean Set: Part No: ST011483

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (Weddell Sea party 1914-16) is considered by some the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. By 1914 both Poles had been reached so Shackleton set his sights on being the first to traverse Antarctica.

The plan was for the Ross Sea party, who travelled aboard the Aurora to a base at Cape Evans (Scott’s HQ during the Terra Nova Expedition), to lay a series of supply depots to the base of the Beardmore Glacier and then return to the base. Meanwhile Shackleton would take Endurance into the Weddell Sea, make his way to the South Pole and then to the Ross Sea via the Beardmore Glacier (to pick up the supplies). Although the expedition failed to accomplish its objective it became recognised instead as an epic feat of endurance.

Endurance left Britain on 8 August 1914 heading first for Buenos Aires. Here Shackleton, who had travelled on a faster ship, re-joined the expedition. Hurley also came on board, and William Bakewell and stowaway Perce Blackborow were added to the crew. On 26 October the ship sailed for the South Atlantic, arriving at South Georgia on 5 November. After a month-long halt in the Grytviken whaling station, Endurance sailed into the Weddell Sea. They steamed along the coast for a few days making slow progress until 19 January 1915 when Endurance was beset in consolidated pack ice which had closed in around the ship.

Whilst stuck in the ice the men lived comfortably but the ice was slowly crushing Endurance. After it sank, its 28-man complement was stranded on the ice. After months spent in makeshift camps as the ice continued its northwards drift, the party took to the lifeboats to reach the inhospitable, uninhabited Elephant Island. Shackleton, Frank Worsley, Henry McNish, John Vincent, Tom Crean and Tim McCarthy then made an 800-mile open-boat journey, which they were fortunate to survive, in the James Caird to reach King Haakon Bay, South Georgia. After a period of recuperation Shackleton, Crean and Worsley set out on the now legendary crossing of South Georgia to Stromness and safety. From there Worsley was able to pick up McNish, Vincent and McCarthy on a whaler.  After four attempts in different vessels, Shackleton was able to rescue the men waiting on Elephant Island who were brought home aboard the Chilean steamer Yelcho without loss of life.

On the other side of the continent, the Ross Sea party overcame great hardships to fulfil its mission. The Aurora had broken away from its moorings and had eventually reached New Zealand; the fate of the shore party was unknown. After the Elephant Island party had been rescued, Shackleton joined the Aurora as it left New Zealand to rescue the men, reaching McMurdo Sound on 10 January 1917. Of the ten members who had been stranded, three had died, including the leader Aeneas Mackintosh. The ship returned to New Zealand on 9 February 1917, bringing all the remaining members of the expedition to safety. Upon their return many would serve in the First World War.

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands have chosen to mark the centenary of the arrival of the Expedition at Grytviken Whaling Station with the release of 3 issues focusing on three of the heroes of the expedition.

Frank Hurley (15 October 1885 – 16 January 1962) was an Australian photographer and adventurer who participated in a number of expeditions to. At the age of 17 he bought a camera and became a partner in a postcard business. In 1908, he persuaded the Australian explorer Douglas Mawson to take him on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. The expedition departed aboard Aurora in 1911 and returned in 1914. On his return, Hurley compiled a documentary film Home of the Blizzard. Almost immediately afterwards, he joined Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.  He was a member of the Weddell Sea Party aboard Endurance. When the ship was about to sink, he rescued his glass plates and film. As weight was crucial, only the 120 best were preserved. His stunning images of the expedition, including cine film of Endurance’s masts almost collapsing on him and the rescue from Elephant Island, are his best known work and have greatly contributed to the Endurance legend.

Hurley also produced many pioneering colour images of the Expedition. The history, achievements and chronology of the expedition are well recorded. On these stamps we have chosen to focus on the more intimate photos that Hurley took and which bring to life the lifestyle of those aboard Endurance.

Hurley served as an official photographer with Australian forces during both World Wars.  Between the wars, he served with Mawson again on the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Expedition (BANZARE) 1929-31. Two more documentaries were made: Southward Ho with Mawson and Siege of the South.

65p Frank Hurley and Alexander Macklin “at home” on the Endurance.
75p 'The Nightwatchman's Story' in the wardroom (or Ritz) of the Endurance
£1    Midwinter dinner aboard the Endurance, 22 June 1915.
£1.20 Dr Leonard Hussey and Frank Hurley playing chess on board the Endurance.
FDC   Self-portrait, Frank Hurley, expedition photographer.

Frank Worsley (22 February 1872 – 1 February 1943) was a New Zealand sailor and explorer who served on Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition Weddell Sea party of 1914–1916, as captain of the Endurance. He also served in the Royal Navy Reserve during the First World War.

He was an experienced sailor renowned for his ability to navigate to tiny remote islands. After the Endurance became trapped in the ice and wrecked Worsley and the other expedition members floated north on the pack ice and then sailed 3 lifeboats to Elephant Island. With many of the men too ill to continue Shackleton chose Worsley and 4 others to sail to South Georgia, some 800 miles across the stormy Southern Ocean, aboard the 22 foot James Caird. The men suffered terribly and were wet through for the entire journey. On the rare occasions they saw the sun Worsley had to be held steady by two men so he could read the sextant to position them. At one point the boat was almost overwhelmed by a huge wave and all hands had to set to baling water. For a while they did not know if it would be possible to save the vessel. Worsley’s navigation skills were crucial to the safe arrival of the James Caird at South Georgia.

Worsley and Tom Crean then accompanied Shackleton on their march across the island, their safe arrival of course resulting in the rescue of all of the remaining members of the expedition.

Upon his return Worsley captained the Q-ship PC.61 (heavily armed merchant ships with concealed weaponry, designed to lure submarines into making surface attacks) and was responsible for the sinking of a submarine by carrying out a skilful ramming manoeuvre. For this he received a DSO and for later achievements he added a bar to this and then received an OBE. Later he served on Shackleton’s final expedition as captain of the Quest and published two books about his experiences. In the Second World War he initially served with the International Red Cross before falsifying his age and joining the Merchant Navy. Sadly he died of Lung Cancer in 1943.

65p Portrait of Captain Frank Worsley.
75p Frank Worsley and Reginald James observing stars during winter below the stern of the ice trapped Endurance.
£1    This photograph shows Frank Worsley and Lionel Greenstreet looking across King Edward Cove with the Endurance below. It forms one half of a panoramic photograph.
£1.20 Shackleton instructs Worsley to abandon the Endurance with the 3 lifeboats, dogs, sledges and a month’s supply of food
FDC   Frank Worsley photographed as he directs helmsmen through the ice.

Tom Crean, (20 July 1877 - 27 July 1938). One of ten children Crean left school at 10 to help on the family farm in County Kerry, Ireland. At 15 he ran away from poverty and enlisted in the Royal Navy. By 1901 he was aboard HMS Ringarooma, part of the Royal Navy’s New Zealand Squadron, when it was ordered to assist Scott’s Discovery as it embarked on the British National Antarctic Expedition. Shortly before departure one of Scott's sailors attacked a Petty Officer and jumped ship, leaving the expedition a man short. Crean volunteered and upon the expedition’s return he was promoted on Scott’s recommendation. Scott held Crean in high regard so he was an early recruit for his Terra Nova Expedition 1910-13. He marched to within 150 miles of the South Pole and was among the last men to see Scott's doomed party alive. Crean, William Lashly and Edgar “Teddy” Evans faced a 700 mile journey back to Hut Point. Crean’s bravery and endurance at the end of this journey ultimately saved the life of his companions and earned him the Albert Medal.

It is easy to see why Shackleton wanted Crean to accompany him in 1914. He was appointed Second Officer on Endurance with a range of duties. His reliability, formidable resolve and great mental strength were vital to Shackleton and, in the expedition's darkest moments, he and Frank Wild were invaluable.

After Endurance was abandoned Crean guided the smallest of the lifeboats, the Stancomb Wills, on the 5 day voyage to Elephant Island as the navigating officer appeared to have suffered a breakdown. Upon arrival he was one of the "four fittest men" detailed by Shackleton to find a safe camping-ground. Frank Wild, who was to be in command of those remaining on the island, had asked that Crean remain but Shackleton changed his mind when Crean begged to sail on the James Caird.

It was a truly terrifying and heroic journey to South Georgia, after which Worsley and Crean went on to accompany Shackleton on the 36 hour march across the mountains and glaciers of South Georgia to Stromness. Duncan Carse later wrote "I do not know how they did it, except they had to ...". Crean then joined Shackleton in the rescue of the 22 men left on Elephant Island.

After the war Crean returned to his home village of Anascaulin where, through marriage, he owned a pub aptly re-named the South Pole Inn. He sadly died in 1938 of peritonitis and was buried alongside the river that flows past his inn.

65p Portrait of Tom Crean by Frank Hurley.
75p Crean had a varied range of duties which included taking charge of one of the dog teams. He was later involved in the care and nurture of the pups born to one of his dogs, Sally, early in the expedition.
£1 The James Caird is launched from Elephant Island watched by Frank Hurley and 21 other expedition members hoping for eventual rescue.
£1.20  The crew of the Endurance taken on the bow of the ship. Tom Crean is 2nd from the left in the first standing row.
FDC   Tom Crean (cropped) from a photograph taken with Alfred Cheetham.

Technical details:
Layout                                 Bee Design
Photography                       Frank Hurley, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).
Printer                                 BDT International
Process                               Lithography
Perforation                          14 per 2cms
Stamp size                          28.45 x 42.58mm
Sheet Layout                      10
Release date                       5th November, 2014
Production Co-ordination    Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd