Mon­u­ment to hon­our ex­plorer

Irish Examiner - County - - Front Page - Sean O’Rior­dan www.re­mem­beringed­ward­brans­field.ie

A Cork man cred­ited with be­ing the first ex­plorer to set eyes on Antarc­tica will be hon­oured with a me­mo­rial paid for by fans who set up a spe­cial fundrais­ing com­mit­tee.

The com­mit­tee has signed a con­tract for the de­sign and de­liv­ery of a mon­u­ment in recog­ni­tion of Ed­ward Brans­field, the nav­i­ga­tor and ex­plorer from Bal­li­nacurra, near Mi­dle­ton.

A me­mo­rial stone, which was very kindly do­nated by Road­stone from their quarry in Bal­li­nacurra, will be un­veiled in Bal­li­nacurra in Jan­uary 2020 to com­mem­o­rate the 200th an­niver­sary of Brans­field’s pi­o­neer­ing ex­pe­di­tion which made the first sight­ing and maps of the Antarc­tic main­land.

The me­mo­rial will be the first any­where in the world to com­mem­o­rate his his­toric feat.

Brans­field, who was born in Bal­li­nacurra around 1785, was press-ganged into the Bri­tish navy at the age of 18 and sur­vived the bru­tal Napoleonic Wars.

In 1819 he was given com­mand of the small brig, Wil­liams, and ven­tured into un­known waters be­low the tip of South Amer­ica to in­ves­ti­gate re­ports of is­lands not marked on any charts.

Brans­field pushed south and on Jan­uary 30, 1820, made the first con­firmed sight­ing of the Antarc­tic con­ti­nent.

The ter­ri­tory, which he named Trin­ity Land, to­day forms part of the Antarc­tic Penin­sula.

Lux­ury cruise ships car­ry­ing thou­sands of tourists to the Antarc­tic wilder­ness to­day cross the ‘Brans­field Strait’ to reach the con­ti­nent.

His claim of be­ing first to see Antarc­tica has long been chal­lenged by Rus­sia which be­lieves that their naval cap­tain, Thad­deus von Belling- shausen, saw land three days be­fore.

How­ever, Belling­shausen was un­sure and never claimed to be first, while more re­cent re­search has strength­ened Brans­field’s claim to be the first man to set eyes on the Antarc­tic main­land.

Brans­field later drifted into ob­scu­rity and died in Brighton, Eng­land in Oc­to­ber 1852, aged 67. He was quickly for­got­ten un­til a group of en­thu­si­asts in East Cork launched the cam­paign to com­mem­o­rate Brans­field’s feat by plac­ing a mon­u­ment to the ex­plorer on the 200th an­niver­sary of his his­toric voy­age.

The Re­mem­ber­ing Ed­ward Brans­field com­mit­tee at­tracted fi­nan­cial sup­port from Cork City Coun­cil, the Bri­tish Antarc­tic Her­itage Trust, in­ter­na­tional tour com­pa­nies spe­cial­is­ing in Antarc­tic travel and pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als from the East Cork area.

Ir­ish Dis­tillers Pernod Ri­card, own­ers of Mi­dle­ton Dis­tillery, also pro­vided sig­nif­i­cant help through the com­pany’s com­mu­nity sup­port pro­gramme. Jim Wil­son, chair­man of the Re­mem­ber­ing Ed­ward Brans­field com­mit­tee, said: “We are ab­so­lutely de­lighted to re­ceive such gen­er­ous sup­port from a wide va­ri­ety of or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als who recog­nise the vi­tal im­por­tance of Brans­field to both Ir­ish his­tory and the his­tory of Antarc­tica. Their sup­port is very much ap­pre­ci­ated. Brans­field was a bril­liant nav­i­ga­tor and his ex­pe­di­tion in 1820 paved the way many years later for the more cel­e­brated Ir­ish ex­plor­ers such as Fran­cis Crozier, Tom Crean and Ernest Shack­le­ton.”

Mr Wil­son con­firmed that the group is now in the po­si­tion to cease fund-rais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, apart from a few on­go­ing planned events.

It has also been de­cided that any sur­plus funds at the end of the project will be do­nated to the Royal Na­tional Lifeboat In­sti­tu­tion (RNLI). The sculpture will be cre­ated by Matt Thomp­son.

An artist’s im­pres­sion of what the mon­u­ment hon­our­ing Ed­ward Brans­field will look like.

Pic­ture: Becky Grice

From left, Liam O’Rior­dan, sec­re­tary of the com­mit­tee, sculp­tor Matt Thomp­son and Eu­gene Fur­long, com­mit­tee mem­ber.

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