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FAL160 Wrecks Part 3 Set: Set mint

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Shipwrecks (Part III)

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 downwind and downstream 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, the third in the Shipwrecks series, 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.

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