6th November 2018 To the Ends of the Earth – Polar Exploration – Alan Godfrey

On Tuesday 6th November Alan Godfrey displayed his material on the topic ‘To the Ends of the Earth – Polar Exploration’.  Alan reminded us of some of the more familiar names in Polar Exploration – Scott, Amundsen, Peary and Shackleton – and introduced us to a number of other equally intrepid explorers.


Once North America had been discovered, a route around the north of Canada was hoped for.  Explorers such Frobisher, Davis and Hudson all gave their names to bays and straits in the Canadian Arctic; Cook mapped the Bering Straits between the Pacific and Arctic oceans and among his crew was a certain Mr. Bligh.  Russia too was interested in the North-East passage as a direct sea route to its territory in Alaska. 


After the Napoleonic war, Britain made a concerted effort to explore the arctic. One of these was the Franklin expedition in the Erebus and the Terror, both of which sank after becoming trapped in the ice and the crew subsequently perished.  A number of rescue expeditions were made with further loss of life, and the two shipwrecks were not discovered until recently.  Alan had Canadian stamps and covers relating to this.  In 1903 Amundsen took 3 years to successfully travel the North West passage from east to west.


Alan then moved on to the race to become the first to the North Pole.  In 1893 Nansen used the polar drift to carry his vessel north and then set off on foot, reaching a latitude of 86°.  Peary claimed to have reached the pole in 1909 but his claim is in doubt.  There were early attempts to fly to the pole in balloons, airships and planes and in 1926 a Norwegian-Italian crew flew from Spitzbergen to Alaska over the North Pole.


The second half looked at Antarctica.  In 1773 Cook went as far south as latitude 71 degrees, but the race to the South Pole and scientific exploration of the continent started in the C20th. In 1901 Scott made his first expedition, with Shackleton among the crew.  In 1911 Amundsen reached the South Pole followed shortly after by Scott; Shackleton made other visits to the Antarctic including the 1914 Endurance expedition made famous by the epic journey to safety after the ship sank.  Belgium was among a number of countries who sent scientific teams and set up bases.  The American Byrd made numerous visits to the region including the first flight to the South Pole in 1929.


Alan illustrated his talk with commemorative stamps, covers and letter as well as contemporary maps and pictures.


The next meeting will be on Tuesday 20th November at 7:30pm at Hanwell Fields Community Centre when Mike Fulford will talk about ‘Foreign Post Offices in Smyrna – A port in the Ottoman Empire’. The Banbury Stamp Society is on-line at ‘www.banburystampsociety.co.uk’, or contact John Davies on 01295 255831.