SGSSI: 140 years since Moltke's visit to South Georgia 50 pence 2022

Started by eurocoin, January 23, 2022, 05:38:32 PM

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To commemorate the 140 years since the arrival of the ship Moltke in South Georgia, the Pobjoy Mint will issue a commemorative 50p coin on behalf of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.


Moltke was the first steam-powered vessel to reach South Georgia. The coin is part of the Tall Ship 50p series. It is now available for pre-order in base-metal and silver versions here.


At Moltke harbour in Royal Bay, German scientists participating in the International Polar Year of 1882–83 spent more than a year studying local geology, magnetism, zoology and the transit of Venus. Their expedition ship SMS Moltke was the first powered vessel to reach South Georgia. (SMS - Seiner Majestät Schiff - is German for 'His Majesty's Ship'.)

SMS Moltke was a Bismarck-class corvette built for the German Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) in the late 1870s. The ship was named after the Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder. She was the fourth member of the class, which included five other vessels. The Bismarck-class corvettes were ordered as part of a major naval construction program in the early 1870s, and she was designed to serve as a fleet scout and on extended tours in Germany's colonial empire. Moltke was laid down in July 1875, launched in October 1877, and was commissioned into the fleet in April 1878. She was armed with a battery of ten 15 cm (5.9 in) guns and had a full ship rig to supplement her steam engine on long cruises abroad.

Moltke went on one major overseas deployment in the 1880s to South America. There, she visited ports in several South American countries in the aftermath of the War of the Pacific and carried the German expedition for the International Polar Year to South Georgia Island. After returning to Germany in 1885, she became a training ship for naval cadets and later apprentice seamen. The ship served in this capacity from 1885 to 1908, during which time her activity consisted primarily of fleet training exercises and overseas training cruises. She was stricken from the naval register in October 1910, converted into a barracks ship, and assigned to the U-boat school in Kiel. In October 1911, Moltke was renamed Acheron and she served in this capacity until 1920, when she was sold to ship breakers in July and subsequently dismantled for scrap.


Interesting ship, that! She was born at the wrong time. Wooden sailing ships with smooth-barrelled canons were becoming utterly useless very fast. I can see Moltke had a steel hull, but she was still a hybrid with a ridiculous steam engine the powers that be didn't trust.

What makes her (class) special is the main armament. I think ten 15 cm guns probably means she carried rifled guns (otherwise their power would have been expressed in pounds.) For comparison, a light cruiser in the second world war would have a main armament of six to eight 15 cm/6 inch guns. Examples are HMS Ajax and Achilles, both armed with 8 such guns. Probably apart from speed of loading, Moltke had similar firepower 60 years before and with a favourable wind she'd be faster too. Amazing.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.