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Lost at Sea


Is the collection of stamps with the theme ‘Shipwrecks’ popular? There have been many issues worldwide on the subject over the years and this article features a small selection that may encourage interest for the collector looking for a new topic.

Here we have stamps from the Soviet Union (1984) depicting the Soviet Arctic Expedition ship Tchelyuskin, its abandonment after it was crushed by ice and the rescue of the ship’s complement. The stamps commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1934 event. This was the first time in history wireless communication and aviation were responsible for the rescue of an Arctic expedition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Chelyuskin

Malta 1899

The stamp on the right, issued by Malta in 1899 is possibly the first stamp to depict a shipwreck. It shows Paul, one of Jesus’s disciples, viewing the shipwreck of the boat on which he was being transported in 60 A.D. to Rome to be tried at the Imperial Court. The area is known today as St. Paul’s Bay.

Malta 1919

The Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck in Valletta, built in the 1570s, is one of the island’s most beautiful buildings. Its wooden statue of the saint is paraded through the town each year on a public holiday known as the Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck. The church has many paintings telling the story of St Paul’s life. The painting produced by Attilio Palombi, was chosen for the design of the 10-shilling value in Malta’s first pictorial set, issued in 1899. The frame of the stamp had the words ‘Malta’ and ‘Postage’ at the top, the value at the bottom, and an ornamental scroll design on each side. It was printed by De La Rue in blue-black ink.

Twenty years later, in 1919, a redesigned version of the 10-shilling stamp was produced with the top banner showing only ‘Malta’, the left border now read ‘Postage’ and the right border ‘Revenue’. The new stamp was printed in black by De La Rue. It had been intended that the release of the new 10s should be delayed until supplies of the existing one were exhausted. However, an oversight in the Valletta post office resulted in it being put on public sale immediately. In addition to this mistake, it was discovered that only 1,530 of the new design had been printed. They were sold out within a few days! Although the postmaster confirmed that the stamps had been issued prematurely, no proper explanation was ever given as to why the quantity printed was so limited.

The South West Africa stamps above show four ships wrecked in its coastal waters. Top left is ‘Hope’, an American whaler that ran aground in a storm south of Walvis Bay in 1804. SV TILLY (top right) was owned by the founder of the German colonies of Namibia, South West Africa, Adolf Luderitz. He lost his ship SV TILLY on February 1st 1895, near Angra Pequena (later named Lüderitz after this famous pioneer). She was carrying a valuable cargo of trading goods, postal items and other articles, destined for missionary stations in the Great Namaqualand. The Eduard Bohlen (bottom left) was a ship wrecked on the Skeleton Coast of South West Africa (now Namibia) in 1909 in thick fog. The wreck currently lies in sand 400 metres from the shoreline.

MV Dunedin Star (bottom right) was a British refrigerated cargo liner. It was built by Cammell Laird in 1935–36, designed to ship frozen meat from Australia and New Zealand to the United Kingdom. It served in Work War II and is distinguished for its role in Operation Halberd to relieve the siege of Malta 1941. The ship also ran aground off the Skeleton Coast. A complex sea, air, and land rescue operation overcame many setbacks to save all of its passengers, crew and gunners. Unfortunately an aircraft, a tugboat and two of the tug’s crew were lost in rescue attempts.

In 2014, Parks Canada and its partners located the remains of HMS Erebus, one of two ships from Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1840s journey in search of the Northwest Passage. Franklin’s voyage ended in tragedy when his ships became permanently trapped in ice. The surviving sailors eventually died in a desperate southbound march.

Canada 2015

These se-tenant stamps honour the Franklin Expedition.


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