In conjunction with the Department of Finance, the Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland issued special collector coins to celebrate the International Polar Year. Appropriately the coins feature the Irish-born Antarctic explorers Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean. The International Polar Year (IPY) is a large interdisciplinary scientific research programme focused on the polar regions of the Arctic and the Antarctic. IPY will involve over 200 projects, with thousands of scientists from over 63 nations examining a wide range of physical, biological and social research topics. They will explore the icy frontiers, undergo extreme conditions, learn about the earth system and monitor how the poles are changing. IPY offers an unprecedented opportunity to raise public awareness of the Polar Regions and develop a better understanding of global climate change and its potential impacts on the planet. The Antarctic Explorers Proof coins evoke the spirit of adventure and determination shown by these dedicated explorers. The raised elements of the design have been accentuated by the delicate frosting that contrasts beautifully with the mirror-like background. The same proof finish has been applied to the National side of the coin that traditionally depicts the 14 string Irish harp modelled on the ‘Brian Boru’ harp in Trinity College, Dublin. This harp has been used on Irish coins since 1928. The harp is surrounded by a laurel wreath, a traditional symbol of excellence and integrity, and the International Polar Year logo completes the design. Both designs perfectly capture the heroism and bravery of these adventurers and these collector coins will be sought after by numismatists throughout the world. Ernest Henry Shackleton was one of the pioneers of a golden age of polar exploration. In 1901 he was a member of Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic on the Discovery. They trekked closer to the South Pole than any other explorers before illness forced them to turn back. Driven by the constant search for fame, Shackleton returned to the Antarctic as leader of his own expedition on the Nimrod in 1907. He trekked even closer to the Pole and was knighted on his return to Britain. His third trip to Antarctica aboard the ill-fated Endurance was to become one of the greatest survival stories of all time. He returned for the last time in 1922 aboard the Quest but fell ill and died on 5th January. Tom Crean is one of the unsung heroes of Polar explorations. He first visited Antarctica alongside Shackleton as part of Scott’s support team aboard the Discovery and returned on the Terra Nova with Scott in 1910. Crean quickly earned a reputation for his loyalty to duty and his complete dependability. He was a self-confident man who was said to be invaluable in a crisis. In 1914 aboard the Endurance, he was one of only six men selected by Shackleton to accompany him on his planned trek across Antarctica. On returning from the South Pole in 1916, Crean served in the Navy during the First World War. He retired in 1920 and opened a pub in Anascaul, Co. Kerry, which he named The South Pole Inn. He died in 1938 aged 61. Having been beaten to the South Pole by Amundsen and Scott, Shackleton planned an expedition to cross the continent by foot. Accompanied by a crew of 27, he set sail for Antarctica aboard the Endurance. Early in 1915 disaster struck when his ship became trapped in the pack ice. The ship drifted with the ice for 10 months before being crushed under the pressure, leaving the crew stranded. They set up camp on the ice to see out the winter months before escaping in the three small lifeboats to Elephant Island. Far from any shipping routes, Shackleton realised that they had little hope of being rescued and set off with five crew members to find help in one of the lifeboats. The six men spent 16 days crossing over 800 miles of treacherous ocean to reach South Georgia. Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley then trekked over 40 miles across the mountainous terrain to reach the whaling station at Stromness. The remaining members of the Endurance were eventually rescued safely in August 1916.