Sea Echoes: Time to commemorate the Cork man who discovered Antarctica

Sea Echoes: Time to commemorate the Cork man who discovered Antarctica
A rough design of how the monument to Edward Bransfield will look.

I’m delighted to hear that discussions have been taking place between the group which wants to honour the memory of Edward Bransfield, the Corkman who discovered the Antarctic and Cork County Council. 

There is a supportive attitude from the local authority towards the proposal to commemorate the Ballinacurra man with a memorial. No decision on the design has yet been taken. The fact that no photograph or portrait of Bransfield exists is a difficulty.

In the year 2000, the British Royal Mail issued a commemorative postage stamp in Bransfield's honour. As no likeness of him could be found, the stamp depicted instead the RRS Bransfield, an Antarctic surveying vessel named after him.

Bransfield Island, Bransfield Strait, Bransfield Trough, Bransfield Rocks and Mount Bransfield in the Antarctic are also named in his honour. The experienced Antarctic tour guide, Jim Wilson, has described the Bransfield Strait as a major transit point for cruise ships.

I first raised the name of Edward Bransfield in this column several months ago. Most Cork people were unaware of his achievements. 

Born in Ballinacurra in1785 he was “impressed” – a polite term for forcefully recruited - into the British Navy from the deck of his father’s fishing boat during the Nepoleonic Wars in 1803. He rose through the ranks and, when that conflict ended in 1815, while most ordinary sailors who had been “impressed” were just as quickly got rid of, he was an officer and was assigned to the Royal Navy’s new Pacific Squadron in Valparaiso, Chile. From that position, as Ship’s Master, he made his discovery of Antarctica.

However, having sent his charts and journals back to British Admiralty Headquarters in London, they turned down future exploration and he left the Royal Navy and spent the rest of his maritime career working on merchant vessels. He did in England in 1852.

That positive efforts to honour him are now being made is good to hear. I am told that local East Cork Minister of State, David Stanton, has indicated his support and that, following a meeting between the Bransfield commemorative group, a representative of the Minister and Council officials, a memorial design, costs involved and planning permission for a site location were decided upon as the next steps.

It takes determined voluntary effort to achieve many things in life these days and so it is with the commemoration of Edward Bransfield, a maritime and exploration figure of major historical importance, an Irishman and a Corkman. 

Eugene Furlong, one of the memorial committee emailed to me the photograph of what he says is “only a rough draft and may not necessarily reflect the finished design.” He tells me that the group now also have a QR barcode available telling Bransfield’s story which can be scanned on mobile phones. under the title ‘Edward Bransfield Antarctic Story.’ “Our intention is to ensure Edward Bransfield is honoured to mark the Bicentennial of his Antarctic discovery voyage in 2020,” the commemorative committee says.


Tom Crean is being remembered in the skies. The renowned explorer from Annascaul in Kerry will feature on the tailfin of Norwegian Air International planes flying the Atlantic from Cork, Dublin, Shannon and Belfast this year. 

Tom Crean will appear on the tail fin of the Norwegian planes operating the transatlantic route from Cork.
Tom Crean will appear on the tail fin of the Norwegian planes operating the transatlantic route from Cork.

He is the first non-Norwegian to be used as one of the airline’s “tailfin heroes”. Up to now the airline has used images of well-known Scandinavian people.



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