Go to the main index H R H The Duke Of Endinburgh "Birds From Britannia"

Ebay 2008/01/18 4.95GBP, 2008/01/19 2.99GBP
Birds from Britannia published in 1962  by Longmans in Great Britain, and simultaneously published  in USA by Harper & Row as Seabirds in Southern Waters is well known to bird watchers and nature lovers around the world.

Prince Philip's book is an account for two off duty photographic expeditions on the Royal Yacht H.M.Y  Britannia, hence the English title "BIRDS FROM BRITANNIA".

Expedition 1 began from Kenya to the island paradise Seychelles in Indian Ocean , to Ceylon, Malaya (now Malaysia), Papua New Guinea, Darwin, Alice Spring, to Melbourne, where the photographer Prince joined the 1956 Olympic Games. The expedition continued after the game, from New Zealand to Chatham Island passing date line to Graham Land Peninsular in the Antarctica, onward to Falkland, and a number of isolated islands in the South Atlantic: South Georgia, Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha and ended at St. Helena.  The second expedition began from Singapore, through the Strait of Malaca to Couching, Sandakan, Hong Kong, Malaita Island, Ocean Island Vaitupur, Christmas Island through Panama Canal and ended at Bermuda.

Prince Philip's book is full of vivid description of the ocean, the sea birds,  penguins, seals and wild life, reminiscent of Charles Darwin's Voyage on the Beagle.

 "The colour of the sea can vary enormously, the North Sea, for instance, has a peculiar greyish-green colour even in fine weather. The sea off the west of Scotland has a special black look about it.. The wine-dark seas of Homer's Mediterranean are again different from the inky black of Antarctic and to the much greener blue of the
Indian Ocean....."

The book is contain two parts, text and photographs. The text part consists of  four sections

The Tropical Seas

  • Ascension Island in the South Atlantic
    •     Sooty Tern, Booby, Frigate Bird, Man/o'/war
  • Christmas Island in South Pacific
    • Blue grey Petrel, Whet Tern, Crested Tern, land crab
  • Gilbert Islanders and their canoes
  • Ellis Islands
  • Battle of Tarawa
  • Solomon Island

The Southern Oceans

  • St. Helena
    • Jamestown
    • Longwood and Napoleon
    • Wandering Albatross
  • Tristan da Cunha
    •   Fur seal, sea elephant, penguin
    •   Volcano
  • Gough Island
    •  Penguin
    •  Seabirds: Sooty Shearwater, Great Skuas and other two dozen bird species.
    • Fur Seal, Right Whale
  • Falkland Island
    • Magellan Penguins, Steamer duck, dolphins
    • Black browed Albatross, Mollymawks
    • Shearwaters, Giant Petrel, Cape Pigeon, Cape Dove
    • Whale-birds

Sub Antarctic and Antarctic

  • Sperm Whale, Baleen Whale, Blue Whale
  • South  Georgia
    • Pintado Petrel, Sooty Albatross
    • Hard to photograph  prions or whale birds
    • Ian Rankin's book Atlantic Island
    • King Penguin, Adelie Penguin, Chinstriap Penguin and Gentoo Penguin
    • Elephant Seal
  • South Shetland Island
  • Admiral Bay
    • Enormous Gentoo Penguin rookery
  • Deception Island
    • Sheathbill
  • Graham Land Peninsula
    • John Bisco ship, tennis games
    • Adelie Penguin rookery
    • A ride on dog sledge
    • Attacked by skuus

In closing, Prince Philip wrote :

"Although we spent only a few days in the area I can quite understand the fascination which the Antarctic has for many people. It may be bleak and stark, but it has a kind of lonely, empty beauty which exercises a very strong attraction. Graham Land, in particular, with its steep mountains, icefalls and the ever-changing colour of the snow, must have some of the most glorious scenery anywhere in the world. Given half a chance, I would go back, if only to see the penguins and the seabirds again."

About the Birds

             Extensive text  accompanying  the photographs.

 Prince Philip's Photo Equipment's

Prince Philip's camera  equipment  consisted of  a Hasselblad with  250mm/f4.0 lens  a Minox, a 35mm camera and cine camera.

A picture in the books shows the casually attired  photography Prince wearing a pair of
eyeglasses  looking down closely at the focusing screen of a Hasselblad
resting on the rail of Britannia yacht, and on his neck was another camera
probably a 35 mm camera and most probably a Minox in  pocket.

Based on the  date of the the expedition in 1956-7 and 1959,  the Minox camera was probably a Minox  IIIs (made  between  1954- 1958)

All the Minox pictures  taken by Prince Philip were in  B&W,  the films used were probably   ADOX 17,  ADOX21, the B&W film available at that period.

Prince Philip's  Bird  Photography

 This book is abundantly illustrated with  photographs taken with Hasselblad and Minox  A.
 The  bird  and  penguin photographs are  magnificent, to mention a few:  plates like

  • Blue-grey Noddies
  • The Wandering  Albatross
  • The Adult Wanderer
  • The female Frigate-birds
  • King Penguins
  • etc

 are all excellent  nature photography taken in natural surroundings.

The  flying birds pictures were captured with  Hasselblad with a long lens, clearly  demonstrated  the great  photographic skill, sharp eyes and  quick reflex of the photographer Prince.

Prince Philip's  Nature Photography with Minox

    Hubert Heckmann in the book MINOX Variations in 8x11

mentioned Prince Philip used his Minox camera to document for the book Sea Birds in Southern Waters. In 1965, H.R.H. The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh accompanied H.M. Queen Elizabeth II on a state visit to Germany. The Prime Minister of Hesse (where Minox GmbH Wetzlar belongs), Georg August Zinn presented a  Leicaflex to H.M Queen and a Gold Minox B with engraving of a Royal Crown and the initials P.P to H.R.H. Prince Philip

Indeed ,   Prince Philip wrote in the Introduction :

" numbers 51,52,53,54,56,58,59,60,61,62,63, and 66, which I took
with a Minox miniature camera."

Prince Philip's  Photographs taken with  a  MINOX  8x11 camera
  • Plate 51,52 : "This little party of Sheathbill paid a call on the Yacht at Deception Island 
  • Plate 53 : "Elephant Seals are ungainly creatures on land but they can still manage a good scratch"
  • Plate 54:  "This very young Elephant Seal was a little embarrassed at being found asleep in such a remarkable bed"
  • Plate 56: "An Indignant young Elephant Seal and friend"
  • Plate 58 : " The John Bisco of the Falkland Island Dependency Surveys in the ice of the Antarctic"
  • Plate 59:  "Southern Harvester"
  • Plate 60:  "Preparing to transfer by basket from the Yacht to whale-catcher"
  • Plate 61: A Sperm whale
  • Plate 62: Arriving on board the whale catcher
  • Plate 63:  Antarctic near the Grahamland peninsula.
  • Plate 66:  Gentoo families

Differences Between the  Longmans edition  and  Harper Row edition

The Longmans edition and the  Harper Row edition were probably printed by the same printer. The bulk of the text and photographs are the same.  The only difference  is in the  dust jacket. The Longmans edition has a  picture of a bird perching on the flag mast of  Yacht Britannia, the  Harper edition has  picture of three sea birds soaring in the sky. Both pictures were not in side the books.  So if  you collect both editions you get a complete portfolio.

Both edition were beautifully  printed.

Martin Tai Dec 1999

Go to the main index Last updated 21st January 2008