British navigator and maritime explorer James Cook made three voyages to the Pacific in the latter part of the 18th century. This stamp issue concerns his second voyage (1772–75) to the Pacific, during which he circumnavigated the uncharted Antarctic continent.
The second scientific voyage was made with the vessels HMS RESOLUTION and HMS Adventure, the latter captained by Tobias Furneaux. The primary objective of the expedition was to investigate the proposed existence of a great southern land. Through two sweeps of the South Pacific and circumnavigation of Antarctica during this second voyage, Cook would dispel the long-held idea that terra Australis incognita, an unknown southern land, lay in the temperate waters of the globe’s south – a great land mass that would balance the globe’s north.
On setting sail from Plymouth, England, on 13 July 1772, the expedition first saw floating ice on 10 December 1772, and within days encountered a vast sheet of ice that made progress dangerous and slow in the freezing conditions. Warmer days in mid-January allowed the ships to move farther south and, on 17 January 1773, Cook recorded the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle.
Soon after, the ships sailed north-east towards New Zealand, where they set anchor and reprovisioned, spending the winter months exploring the South Pacific before returning to New Zealand.
In mid-December 1773, alone the RESOLUTION headed again into Antarctic waters encountering the same inhospitable, freezing conditions and threatening icebergs. The ship crossed the circle for the second time, on 21 December 1773, and again on 26 January 1774. Four days later, on 30 January, they reached as far south as they could. As historical records go, it was as far south as anyone had sailed at the time. The record held for nearly five decades, with Thaddaeus Bellingsha expedition recognised as the first to see mainland Antarctica, in 1820.
Stamps in this issue
$1.20 First Crossing of the Antarctic Circle
During Cook’s second voyage to Antarctica, he crossed the Antarctic Circle a total of three times. The first of these was on 17 January 1773, making his expedition the first known to have crossed the circle. The stamp design shows the latitude (66°, 36’, 30” S) and longitude (39°, 35’ E) of this crossing.
His second crossing occurred on 21 December 1773, and his third and final crossing occurred a month later, on 26 January 1774.
$2.40 K1 chronometer
Cook took the K1 chronometer on his second and third voyages. The timekeeper was commissioned by the Board of Longitude and made by watchmaker Larcum Kendall and John Arnold, after John Harrison’s H4 model. The scientific instrument was designed to keep accurate time at sea, making it possible to calculate longitude more easily than the previous method of using lunar distances. The Board of Longitude appointed astronomers William Wales and William Bayly to look after the K1.
Photo: © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
$2.40 HMS RESOLUTION model
Little is known of this model, held in the collection of the Powerhouse, Sydney, though it is thought to have been made around 1925. The significance of the model lies with the event with which its subject is associated. James Cook captained the HMS RESOLUTION on his second voyage to the Pacific, during which he made his Antarctic circumnavigation. The vessel was originally a Whitby collier named MARQUIS OF GRANBY, but the Admiralty converted it into a three-masted sloop-of-war and renamed it HMS RESOLUTION.
Photo: Powerhouse collection, Belinda Christie
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Australia Antarctic Territory 2023 $1.20 x 2 $2.40 sg?, Scott? And minisheet sg?, Scott?
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