The government and treasury of the British Antarctic Territory has issued (12th August) their first-ever bi-metallic coins, which are in recognition of the bicentenary anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica. It is staggering to think the vast, icy Antarctic continent was only discovered by explorers two centuries ago. For many more centuries, this part of the world was left unseen, and it was in 1820 that it was discovered by Edward Bransfield (1785-1852), an English naval officer who was believed to have been the first to sight the Antarctic mainland and to chart a portion of it.
It was Captain William Henry Shirreff (1785–1847) of the Royal Navy who chartered the English merchant ship, The Williams, and appointed Edward Bransfield to survey newly discovered islands which came to be known as the South Shetland Islands and had been sighted by Captain William Smith (1790–1847) in 1819. Officer Bransfield landed on King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, and took formal possession on behalf of King George III — who died the previous day. He then proceeded in a south-westerly direction before turning south and crossing what is now known as the Bransfield Strait. On the 30th January 1820, he sighted Trinity Peninsula, the northernmost point of the Antarctic mainland.
Bransfield then followed the edge of the ice sheet and discovered various other points on Elephant Island and Clarence Island. The hostile environment meant that this wonderful continent had been untouched for so long, even with the technology and sophistication we have now, exploration is still very difficult, which makes this part of the world even more special.
The coins are produced by the Pobjoy Mint at their facilities in Surrey, England, on behalf of the treasury of the British Antarctic Territory. The reverse side features an image of the tall ship The Williams which Edward Bransfield was on board for his voyage to survey this newly sighted land of ice. A map of Antarctica is shown behind the ship. Text around and above the primary image reads 200 YEARS DISCOVERY OF ANTARCTICA, and the denomination of TWO POUNDS is placed below the design.