Press release

Greenlandic special stamp featuring Alfred Wegener

[16. May 2006] 

On May 22, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research will present a special stamp issued by Post Greenland. The special stamp with Alfred Wegener motif commemorates the Greenland expedition of the famous German polar researcher Alfred Wegener.

Post Greenland
The history of Greenland’s postal service has been tightly linked to its former mother country Denmark. Approximately 50 years after European settlement on Greenland, the government-controlled ‘Kongelige Grønlanske Handel’ (KGH) obtained the monopoly for the postal service. However, the first stamps valid across all of Greenland, three parcel postage stamps, were not issued until 1905. The stamps, produced in Denmark, show Greenland’s emblem, a standing polar bear, as the central motif. In 1938, Greenland’s complete postal service was taken over by the Royal Danish Postal Service. The first stamps depicted the Danish King Christian X. instead of using designs suggested by the Greenlanders, i.e. Northern Lights, seal and polar bear motifs. Those were not published until 2001. On average, Post Greenland issues 15 new stamps per year. Over the years, several series on flowers, butterflies, whales, on cultural heritage and on famous expeditions have been produced.

German Greenland expedition Alfred Wegener 1930
On April 1, 1930, the ‘German Greenland Expedition Alfred Wegener’ left from Copenhagen with fourteen participants under Alfred Wegener’s leadership. Three land based stations, intended to serve as locations for geophysical and meteorological measurements, were established along the 72nd parallel under severe time pressure. Especially in the case of the centrally located ‘Station Centre Ice’, construction and supply proved to be difficult as the modern propeller sledges were almost unusable in the existing snow conditions. In a rescue attempt headed by Wegener, equipment and material was transported across 400 kilometres with dog sleds while deep snow and temperatures down to minus 54 degrees Celsius complicated the rescue mission. On their return journey, Alfred Wegener and his Greenlandic companion Rasmus Villumsen died on the ice. Wegener’s brother Kurt completed the expedition which, as one of its major scientific successes, determined the thickness of the 2700 meter Greenland ice shield. Alfred Wegener has gone down in history as of the most significant German polar researchers and geoscientists. His glory is primarily based on the theory of continental drift which he co-founded and publicised.

Wegener’s legacy
Wegener’s scientific heirs continue to pursue his ideas and research interests at the Alfred Wegener Institute. The research ice breaker Polarstern conducts regular physical, chemical, geological and biological measurements in the waters off Greenland. Ice coring takes place in the Arctic and Antarctic, and the retrieved ice cores enable the reconstruction of historic changes in climate. Although technology since Alfred Wegener’s expedition has advanced significantly, extreme environmental conditions continue to provide a challenge to humans and equipment in the quest for exploration of the polar regions.

Presentation at the Alfred Wegener Institute
On May 22, representatives of Post Greenland will present the special stamp Alfred Wegner in the foyer of the institute (am Handelshafen 12). Its historical significance will be illustrated through a talk about Alfred Wegener, given by the director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Prof Jörn Thiede as well as through film clips from Wegener’s 1930 Greenland expedition. Other highlights of the event will include postmarks, envelopes, post sets and special stamp collections, issued by both the German and the Greenlandic postal services, featuring Alfred Wegener’s Greenland expedition. Until 5 pm it will be possible to purchase the special stamp.
Bremerhaven, May 16, 2006

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Das Institut

Das Alfred-Wegener-Institut forscht in den Polarregionen und Ozeanen der mittleren und hohen Breiten. Als eines von 19 Forschungszentren der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft koordiniert es Deutschlands Polarforschung und stellt Schiffe wie den Forschungseisbrecher Polarstern und Stationen für die internationale Wissenschaft zur Verfügung.