New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

Ross Dependency - Explorers

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Antarctica's land mass is nearly as great as that of Europe and the United States of America combined. Today several countries have jurisdiction over sections of Antarctica. New Zealand's Ross Dependency is among these, a tract of land stretching from the Ross Sea to the South Pole, which includes the largest ice shelf in the world.

Issue information

History records that early Antarctic explorers had an abundance of faith, conviction and fortitude, enabling them to set out over the boundaries of known horizons in the name of progress. Their brave exploits could be likened to those of modern space pioneers - stepping into the unknown in the belief that the rest of the world would benefit from their findings.

This stamp issue features six great Antarctic explorers. They are each pictured with the ships/aeroplane upon which they relied during their expeditions.

Product listing for Ross Dependency - Explorers

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Cook with his ships Resolution and Adventure (1772 -75)' gummed stamp.

It is now well over two hundred years since the first recorded crossing of the Antarctic Circle. James Cook's ship, Resolution, crossed latitude 66 degrees 33'S on 17 January 1773. A considerable feat for a timber craft of only 260 tons, always in peril of being crushed by the incalculable weight on the Antarctic ice. Two ships formed the expedition, Resolution and Adventure. Adventure was parted from her sister ship in a storm off New Zealand the previous November leaving Resolution alone in the ice-choked seas. She continued on, and her voyage now marks the start of exploration in the Antarctic.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Ross with his ships Erebus and Terror (1839 - 43)' gummed stamp.

Of the 19th century expeditions, that under the command of James Clark Ross was widely regarded as by far the most successful. It revealed dramatically what awaited man in this last great continent. On 28 January 1841 Ross described man's first view of Antarctica's great ice barrier (known today as the Ross Ice Shelf). To this day people are still spellbound by their first sighting of this imposing ice cliff. His ships, Erebus and Terror, were double-decked, double-hulled and strengthened throughout with massive timbers specially for the arduous work they were to encounter. Two mighty volcanic summits in the region now bear the names of the two ships.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'Amundsen with his ship Fram (1910 -12)' gummed stamp.

Roald Amundsen planned his voyage to the Antarctic very thoroughly, arriving from Norway one day earlier than he predicted. His ship Fram reached the Bay of Whales on 14 January 1911. Choosing this area for his base, 'Framheim', was a shrewd and daring decision as the conditions there had frightened off the irrepressible Shackleton four years earlier. Amundsen landed with a party of nine expert skiers and dog handlers and 116 Greenland huskies in readiness for his assault on the South Pole. He proceeded to establish a series of supply depots at each degree of latitude across the ice shelf. After a winter sojourn Amundsen finally set out for the Pole on 19 October 1911.

Single Stamp

Single $1.20 'Scott with his ship Terra Nova (1910 - 12)' gummed stamp.

To plant the British flag at the South Pole was one of the objectives of Robert Falcon Scott's expedition to the Antarctic. The public saw the expedition in much the same brave, pioneering manner as in more recent times when attempting to land on the Moon. Antarctica was the 'Moon' of Scott's day. Scott's ship, Terra Nova, arrived at Cape Evans on Ross Island in McMurdo Sound on 4 January 1911, only days before Amundsen landed at the Bay of Whales some 400 miles to the east. Scott had some 60 miles further than Amundsen to travel from his base to the South Pole. Scott had chosen ponies rather than dogs for motive power and this proved a costly error as they constantly bogged down in the deep snow and proved unable to withstand the extreme cold. It all seemed to add to his terrible difficulties. In the annals of Antarctic exploration, fame is not necessarily measured by continual success and Scott's name, plus those of his party, will always be hailed as among the greatest, even though this journey ended in tragedy.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'Shackleton with his ship Endurance (1914 -16)' gummed stamp.

Ernest Henry Shackleton's last epic journey in the history of Antarctic exploration was entitled 'The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition'. The plan was to traverse Antarctica from west to east from the Weddell Sea coast, crossing the continent and meeting up with a party from the Ross Sea sector. Having raised the funds and found a suitable ship Shackleton set out with 28 men, 69 dogs, equipment and supplies on 3 August 1914. His ship, originally Polaris, was renamed Endurance after his family motto, 'By Endurance we Conquer'. The name did not prove a good omen. On 18 January 1915 Endurance was trapped in ice from which she would never escape. The dogs, crew and supplies were moved onto the ice beside the trapped vessel. Shackleton and five others then undertook an heroic 1,300 kilometre journey in open lifeboats to South Georgia to get help for their stricken companions.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Byrd with his aeroplane Floyd Bennett (1923 - 30)' gummed stamp.

Compared with previous expeditions, Richard Evelyn Byrd mounted one of far greater proportions. It was not just to attempt to fly over the Pole but was also to conduct research projects in the region. His base, 'Little America' at the Bay of Whales consisted of three main structures plus more than a dozen smaller huts and aircraft hangars. The 42 inhabitants were by far the largest party ever to winter in Antarctica. A total of 665 tons of cargo was unloaded from his ships City of New York and Eleanor Bolling. The crates of supplies were arranged so they formed the walls of tunnels between all the principal buildings. Electric lights and even telephones were installed. He had three ski-equipped aircraft, a Ford, a Fokker and a Fairchild. The tri-motored Ford, Floyd Bennett, named after another polar naval aviator, was chosen for the flight over the Pole in November 1929. Byrd carried out further expeditions in 1933-35.


Technical information

Date of issue: 9 November 1995
Stamps and first day cover designed by:  Geoff Fuller, Havelock North, NZ
Number of stamps: Six
Denominations and categories: 40c Cook - Resolution and Adventure; 80c Ross - Erebus and Terror; $1.00 Anumdsen - Fram; $1.20 Scott - Terra Nova; $1.50 Shackleton - Endurance; $1.80 Byrd - Floyd Bennett
Printer and process: The House of Questa, England, by lithography
Stamp size and format:  40.64mm x 31.75mm (vertical)
Number of stamps per sheet:  50 stamps (10 rows of 5)
Perforation gauge:  14 x 14
Paper type: Harrison and Sons, red phosphor coated, unwatermarked
Period of sale:  These stamps remained on sale until 9 November 1996.