The extraordinary voyages of 16th century seafarers transformed history as newly-developed deep water sailing ships, equipped with the mariner’s compass, enabled Europeans to venture beyond the horizon and scour the oceans for new land, dreams and gold. During one such voyage in 1592, to the Magellan Straits, the little recognized but most accomplished navigator, John Davis, in his ship, Desire, was storm-blown under bare poles amongst these apparently unknown and unpeopled islands. But it is likely that the archipelago had been quietly known about for years by the major sea powers, as an ill-defined cluster of blobs appear, vaguely positioned near the eastern end of the Magellan Strait, on maps from 1507 onwards. Amerigo Vespucci may well have seen them from the deck of a Portuguese ship as early as 1502.
The 700 islands, islets, rocks and reefs which comprise the Falklands are situated some 315 nautical miles down-wind and down-stream from Cape Horn. Battered by frequent gales and surrounded by strong currents, the Islands have always provided both peril and sanctuary for the seafarer. Over 180 ships are known to have met their end in the wild seas which surround the Falklands. Without doubt there will have been others which sank without trace.
During the 1850’s there was a sudden upsurge in sea-borne traffic around Cape Horn. Vessels trading in Californian and Australian gold, Chilean copper and Peruvian guano began calling into Stanley for repair and provisions. The nearest alternative port was Montevideo a thousand miles to the north. Some ships attempting to round the Horn were overloaded, some unseaworthy, and others simply unlucky. Many suffered severe battering and, riding the prevailing westerlies, limped back into harbour to lick their wounds. A few lame ducks never recovered. Others were deliberately wrecked and their cargoes sold by unscrupulous dealers. The growing port gained a notorious reputation and a flock of worn-out windjammers. Several are still stuck in the Stanley harbour mud. But time and tide and two pernicious sea worms, the teredo and the gribble, have hastened their demise and in many cases their crumbling woodwork has all but disappeared.
This issue depicts some of those vessels which finished their days beached along the Falklands’ shorelines. They remain an integral part of the Islands’ history and a reminder of the salty men who sailed in them.
Built by William Hall of Black Rock, Connecticut and launched on 11th November 1856, the 850 ton fully-rigged ship Charles Cooper was a fine example of American deep-water, wooden, merchant ship-building. She was built as a packet ship – the packets being vessels that ran to a fixed schedule, rather than sailing only when full. She would have been able to carry more than 250 passengers and 3,500 barrels of cargo. During her first voyage from New York – Antwerp – New York her mixed cargo included tobacco, flour, cotton, rice, resin, coffee, lard, codfish, beeswax, mahogany and logwood. On 1st June 1866, the “Cooper” set sail from Philadelphia. Bound for San Francisco with a cargo of coal, she encountered bad weather rounding Cape Horn and limped into Stanley Harbour on 25th September of the same year. Her condition was described in the Colonial Shipping Register as being “leaky and in need of repairs”. She was condemned as unseaworthy and never sailed again. The Charles Cooper was sold for use as a storage hulk and was grounded alongside the Acteon at the now defunct West Jetty where she served as a warehouse until the 1960s. In 1968 the “Cooper” was bought by South Street Seaport Museum of New York who hoped to transport the ship “home”. When it became evident that this would be too expensive, the ship was returned to Falklands ownership and eventually given into the care of the Museum. In 2003 a small local team removed the rotting remains of the hulk of the Charles Cooper from Stanley Harbour as she was deemed a hazard to shipping. At the present time she rests onshore close to the Airport Road to the east of Stanley.
The 561-ton Canadian barque Acteon arrived on 22nd January 1853 under the command of Captain Robertson. 156 days out from Liverpool and bound for San Francisco laden with coal, she put back into Stanley after failing to round Cape Horn and was subsequently scuttled after survey.
The bones of the 390-ton wooden barque Capricorn are still visible close to site of the old Beaver floatplane hangar along Ross Road West in Stanley. She was built in Swansea for the copper ore trade in 1859. In February 1882, outbound from South Wales, her cargo of coal ignited in heavy weather off Cape Horn. She hastened to Staten Island where she was scuttled in shallow water to dowse the blaze. After being pumped out and re-floated she made sail for Stanley whereupon she was condemned as unseaworthy. She gained various employments as a lighter, storage hulk and finally a jetty head for the military garrison during the Second World War. Capricorn was stripped for firewood in 1948. At 157 years of age she continues to earn her keep as a part-time tourist attraction.
The Afterglow was a steam drifter in Lowestoft in 1918. She arrived in the Islands in 1921 as a fur seal rookery protection vessel. From 1927-38 she became the Port Richards and was used as a sealer. She reverted back to her maiden name and became HMS Afterglow when she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy as an armed patrol vessel in 1940. HMS Afterglow sustained damage in the shallow and treacherous Reef Channel at Saunders Island and, as a consequence, was laid up in Stanley Harbour. Finally she dragged ashore in a gale. Her remains can today be seen on the beach close to the Stanley Market Garden.
Text by Tony Chater.
Photography: Tony Chater
Printer: Cartor Security Printing
Perforation: 13 ¼ x 13 per 2 cms
Stamp size: 38 x 30.6mm
Sheet Layout: 10
Release date: 27 March, 2017
Production Co-ordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd