Landscapes and wildlife of Traversay Islands


04 March 2024
On 10 February, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands released the last issue in a series dedicated to the South Sandwich Islands with a four-stamp set illustrating the Traversay Islands.

Located 500km south-east of South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands are a string of 11 volcanic islands stretching for over 400km. They were first discovered by Captain James Cook in 1775, when, through thick fog and snowstorms, he noted eight rocky masses, but due to the weather conditions, he did not explore them in detail.

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The region was next visited in 1819 by the Russian expedition led by Fabian von Bellingshausen, who was able to explore more thoroughly and confirm that there were actually 11 islands.

The four island groups have been celebrated in this series of stamps, with each island represented by pairs of stamps; one featuring an example of the wildlife that occurs there and the other a striking landscape feature. This fourth and final set in the series features the islands of Zavodovski and Visokoi, which along with Leskov, make up the Traversay Islands.

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The two £1.25 stamps feature images from Zavodovski Island. Discovered by Bellinghausen in December 1819, it was named for the second in command of the expedition’s ship, the Vostok. At 550m above sea level, Mount Curry, which emits plumes of toxic gas, is the island’s highest point.

The second Zavodovski Island stamp features chinstrap penguins. It is thought up to one million breed on Zavodovski, making it one of the largest bird colonies on earth. Due to their abundant global population, they are classed by the IUCN as a species of least concern.

Visokoi Island features on the two £1.40 stamps. It was first named Ostrov Torsona after Lieutenant Torson of Bellingshausen’s expedition. However, following Torson’s implication in the Russian officers’ revolt of December 1825, it was renamed Ostrov Vysokiy, meaning high island. The island consists of one major volcano, Mount Hodson, 1,005m above sea level and heavily glaciated.

Macaroni penguins are found throughout the South Sandwich Islands and often live with chinstrap penguins. The species is classed by the IUCN as threatened but, like all penguins of the South Sandwich Islands, their breeding sites are protected, and they benefit from a 50km no-take zone around the islands.