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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pets on South Georgia stamps

South Georgia has issued a set of postage stamps featuring pets.

During the operation of whaling stations between 1904 and 1965, a variety of animals were brought to South Georgia. Most were brought to the island to provide fresh food. As well as these useful animals, others were kept as pets purely for entertainment and company. Pets have ranged from cats and dogs to parrots and canaries.

45p - This vervet monkey from Africa may have been bought to South Georgia on a ship coming from Cape Town. It was a pet of the doctor at the Husvik whaling station in 1914. It wore a harness and was taken for walks on a lead.

60p - Anne-Marie Sorlle, daughter of the manager of the Stromness whaling station, with a litter of puppies. She was allowed to keep one as a pet because there were no other children on South Georgia for her to play with.

70p - Two whalers show off their pets in their room at Grytviken around 1925. The man on the right has a fox which is being restrained by a collar and chain. This is a unique record of a fox being kept as a pet on the island. It is probably a grey fox or grey zorro, which could have been acquired in a South American port.

95p - Nan Brown ran a 'penguin rehabilitation centre' at King Edward Point to rescue birds fouled with heavy fuel oil. After cleaning they were kept in a pen to recover. One of the gentoo penguins became a pet when it refused to leave after being released. Stugie (an anagram of Gutsie) had a damaged wing and could not fend for itself. It accompanied Nan around the settlement and visited the house daily but, not being house-trained, it was not allowed to stay inside for long. It would follow her to the jetty where she caught fish to feed its prodigious appetite.

£1.15 - The inappropriately named Mrs Chippy is the most famous of Antarctic cats. He was the pet of 'Chippy' McNish, the carpenter on Shackleton's Endurance expedition, and perished on the ice after the ship had been crushed.

Semi-wild cats were common at the whaling stations. They were mostly dependent on human habitation, especially in winter, and were useful in helping keep down the rats that infested the buildings. Cats died out at the whaling stations soon after they were abandoned in the 1960s but some survived at the King Edward Point settlement until 1980.

£1.20 - Sir Ernest Shackleton baths Query aboard Quest on the way to South Georgia in 1922. The German shepherd pup had been presented to him as a mascot when the ship visited Plymouth. Query was lost overboard during the expedition.

Dogs, including sledge dogs left by passing expeditions, were a common sight around the whaling stations. Most were under the control of their owners but a few lived and bred wild. The last dog on South Georgia died in 1974.

The First Day Cover shows Doris Scott with baby Ann in the pram, accompanied by Ring the collie. Ring lived at the administrative settlement on King Edward Point. He belonged to no one but there was always someone who would become a 'foster owner' and look after him. Another dog, Pluto, would visit Ring from Grytviken whaling station (seen in the background).