Sunday, 1 October 2017

Monaco 1978 - 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Jules Verne (Part 5)

"The sea is the vast reservoir of Nature. The globe began with sea, so to speak; and who knows if it will not end with it?" 
 —Jules Verne

A shipwreck. A message in a bottle containing three cryptic clues. An epic search and rescue mission. All of this and more can be found in the pages of Jules Verne's 1867 novel, Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (The Children of Captain Grant).

The mystery begins when Lord and Lady Glenarvan of Scotland stumble across a message in a bottle. The message has been written by one Captain Grant, whose ship Britannia has gone missing, presumably wrecked. He has left behind two children, Mary and Robert. After finding the bottle, the Glenarvans petition to mount a rescue, but the government refuses. So they decide to do it themselves.  The only real clue they have from what remains of the message from the captain is latitude 37 degrees. So the expedition has no choice but to circumnavigate the 37th parallel south. The only other clues they have are a few words in three languages. These words are, of course, re-interpreted several times throughout the novel to make various destinations seem likely.

The expedition, which includes Lord and Lady Glenarvan and Grant's kids, then sets sail for South America in Lord Glenarvan's yacht, Duncan. Along the way they pick up a passenger, French geographer Jacques Paganel, who has apparently missed his steamer to India by accidentally boarding the Duncan. The expedition explores Patagonia, Tristan da Cunha Island, Amsterdam Island, and Australia.

In Australia they get what they presume to be their first solid clue. They happen upon the quarter-master of Grant's ship, Britannia, Ayrton. Then a series of coincidences that only Jules Verne could contrive occur. Firstly, it is discovered that Ayrton was actually a traitor and he'd been abandoned in Australia. As soon as the expedition members hear this, they discover that Ayrton has hijacked their ship. Believing the ship gone, the team decide to cut their losses and head back to Europe. But then the ship they are on gets wrecked off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand!

After escaping a  Māori tribe, they board a ship ... which just so happens to be the Duncan, their original vessel! Turns out the crew managed to overpower Ayrton and sail away. Then Ayrton bargains for his life by exchanging information on Captain Grant for being left on a nearby deserted island. When they get there, they can't believe their luck. Captain Grant just so happens to be living on that exact island! The successful expedition then sails off into the sunset, leaving Ayrton on the island to fend for himself. Incidentally, the rather devious character, Ayrton, reappears in Verne's later novel, L'Île mystérieuse (The Mysterious Island) published in 1874.


This is the fifth part in a blog series focusing on the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Jules Verne stamp set, issued by Monaco on 2 May 1978. To check out the earlier parts, click on the individual parts. Part 1Part 2Part 3 Part 4. This beautiful set of eight stamps was designed and engraved by Pierre Forget. One of the stamps in this set features an artistic interpretation of the novel, Les Enfants du capitaine Grant.

This stunning design features Captain Grant's ship in its death throes amidst a wild storm. Watching over the storm we see two women, who i assume are Lady Glenarvan and Grant's daughter, Mary. The wild blues and melancholy greys make this a rather poignant composition.

Until next time...

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