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Nimrod Set in Proof
By Kerry Rodgers

Australia has now marked the International Polar Year with issue of four silver proof $5s. The spectacular fourth and final issue appeared in early March to coincide with conclusion of the IPY.

Australia lays claim to a bigger slice of the Antarctic pie than most countries, and the nation has had a long and historic connection with the icy continent. To mark these links, the Royal Australian Mint has celebrated the closing of the IPY with a superb holographic issue that incorporates design elements from the three earlier coins, all the work of Mint Designer Wojciech Pietranik.

Australia's connection with the ice kicked off when a number of its scientists accompanied some of the early 19th and 20th century British voyages during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Notable was that of Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton. On his 1907-1909 expedition, he was accompanied by Professor T. W. Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson and Scotsman Dr. Alistair McKay. They were the first three people to reach the South Magnetic Pole in a dramatic trip across the ice in 1909, as well as making the first ascent of Mt. Erebus.

All three figured on the third coin of the polar series that appeared in November last year, while Mawson, complete in hand-knitted balaclava, fronted on Australia's first $100 bill, P#48, from 1984 to 1992.

Shackelton's ship for this voyage was the Nimrod, and the new coin shows it in the center of the reverse holographic design. Alongside on the ice penguins cluster, while distant figures by the ship's stern include members of the Magnetic Pole expedition. All are surrounded by that heavenly spectacle of the Aurora Australis brilliantly depicted by changing angles of the hologram.

Below are shown the logo of the IPY and a projection of the Antarctic continent, with Australia leaving no doubts as to the extent of its territorial claims. Clearly shown are the location of three current Australian research stations: Mawson, Davis and Casey.

Readers who collect Antarctic memorabilia may wish to note that on Saturday, Jan. 17, the Royal Australian Mint took 500 of its third polar coins on a trip to the ice. These are the $5 silver proofs released in November that show Mawson, David and McKay at the South Magnetic Pole.

The coins were taken for their outing by RAM's Acting-CEO Graham Smith who reflected that, "This is a very significant anniversary for the nation. It was the beginning of Australia's exploration and involvement with Antarctica."

An additional escort for the coins on the flight was provided by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The mint will make the fly-away coins available for public purchase later this year. They will be presented in a special, yet-to-be-revealed montage, i.e. coin plus something extra.

Interested collectors will need to keep their eyes peeled at the RAM's official Web site: www.ramint.gov.au.


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