Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration 2022 £2 Coin Series Summary

In March 2022, we launched the first coin in a brand new £2 bimetal coin series celebrating 100 years since the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. We had the aim of completing this series with a total of 6 coins, however, this collection was unfortunately cut short due to the sad passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This meant the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration series now only consist of four coins rather than the original six. 

The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration was an era in the exploration of the continent which began at the end of the 19th century and ended after the First World War. During this Heroic Age, Antarctica was the focus of international efforts that resulted in intensive scientific and geographic exploration by many expeditions launched from several countries.  The common factor in these expeditions was the limited nature of the resources available to them before advances in transport and communication technologies revolutionised exploration.  Each expedition was therefore a feat of endurance that tested, and sometimes exceeded, the physical and mental limits of its personnel.  The “heroic” label, recognises the adversities that were overcome by these pioneers.

Southern Cross/Quest 

The first coin in the series, released on behalf of the British Antarctic Territory, features the Southern Cross and Quest ships.

The Southern Cross Expedition from 1898-1900, otherwise known as the British Antarctic Expedition, was the first British Antarctic venture of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. This expedition, led by Anglo-Norwegian explorer Carsten Borchgrevnik, was the forerunner of the more celebrated journeys of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration is thought to have begun with Borchgrevnik’s expedition on Southern Cross and ended with Shackleton’s expedition on Quest.


The second coin in this series, released on behalf of the British Antarctic Territory, features the Scotia ship.

Between the years of 1902-1904 the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (SNAE) was led by William Speirs Bruce, a natural scientist and former medical student of whom was aboard the Scotia. The expedition completed a full programme of exploration and scientific studies and its achievements included the establishment of a manned meteorological station of which was the first of its kind to be built on Antarctic territory.

When the Scotia reached its most southerly point on 9th March 1904, the ship was held fast in pack ice for four days and it was during this period of activity that bagpiper Gilbert Kerr was photographed serenading a penguin.

James Caird 

The third coin in the series, released on behalf of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, features the James Caird lifeboat.

The James Caird was one of the three lifeboats chosen by Sir Ernest Shackleton as the most likely to survive the 800 miles journey from Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands to South Georgia after being stranded aboard the Endurance. Shackleton had named it after Sir James Key Caird, a Dundee philanthropist whose sponsorship had helped finance the expedition.

After the expedition had ended in 1919 the James Caird was brought back from the Antarctic to England aboard the whaler Woodville, and was originally displayed in the gardens of the Middlesex. In 1922 she was presented to Dulwich College by John Quiller Rowett, a school friend of Shackleton and sponsor of his last expedition aboard the Quest. The James Caird is now on display in the Laboratory at Dulwich College in London.


The fourth coin in the series, released on behalf of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, features the ship the Antarctic.

The Antarctic was a Swedish Steamship built in Drammen, Norway in 1871. The ship was originally built and used for activities such as seal hunting across areas such as Greenland. However, in 1900 Otto Nordenskjold purchased the Antarctic for use in his exploration of the Antarctic Peninsular region.  

The Antarctic sustained substantial damage during this voyage when pressure of the surrounding ice became too much for her, slowly crushing the ships planks and holding the ship captive for days, eventually leading to her sinking on February the 12th, 1903. 


Make sure to keep an eye out on our page and not miss any of the upcoming releases!