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100 lei 1999 Belgica
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37 mm diameter, 27 grams, silver 92.5%, proof quality, flat edge
Obverse: inside a linear central circle denomination value "100 LEI", Romanian coat of arms and year 1999 flanking it; atop an albatross, at left (beholder positioning) two penguins, adown penguin and seal and a compass card at right
Reverse: Belgica ship, frosty mountains, bust of Emil Racoviță, inscription "EXPEDITIA ANTARCTICA BELGICA 1897 - 1899" meaning "BELGICA ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION", word EURO inside a 12 star circle; on the chest of the Romanian scientist inscription EMIL RACOVITA

Issuing date: 25th of August 1999

Maximum mintage: 20.000 coins


The coin was occasioned by the centennial of the antarctic expedition Belgica, participant to which was the famous Romanian scientist Emil Racoviță. In 1998 Belgium introduced the centenary of the Belgica Expedition on the list of UNESCO anniversaries. Scientists from several European countries participated to the expedition, setting an example of international cooperation. Bearing on the reverse the 12-star circle and inscription EURO, this coin was dedicated also to the new currency planned for introduction by the European Community in 1999.

About Emil Racoviță

The Romanian biologist Emil Racoviță (1868 - 1947) participated as naturalist to the Antarctic Belgica Expedition.

Emil Racoviță was between 1900 and 1920 subdirector of the zoological marine station Banyuls-sur-Mer in France. Most important, he is the founder of bio-speleology (science that treats the cave life forms and the underground waters). In 1920 he founded at Cluj (today Cluj-Napoca) the first world speleological institute.

About Belgica Expedition

Between 1897 and 1899 a Belgian research expedition took place in Antarctica. The expedition was organized and led by Adrien de Gerlache, a Belgian lieutenant. Young Emil Racoviță, at that time 28 years old, also embarked on Belgica ship. To the same expedition Roald Amundsen participated also, later to become the conqueror of the South Pole in 1911. The researches into the Antarctic region prooved to be very dangerous: two of the 19 members of the crew died during the expedition.

The ship Belgica was 34 meters long, 270 tons and three masts. The ship had sails, and also a steam engine of 150 horsepower.

Belgica advanced towards south as much it was possible, and spent the winter in the antarctic. Various meteorological observations for a complete year were accomplished. The annual medium temperature in Antarctica was calculated - the first such measurement. Several new lands were discovered and mapped, numerous landings were accomplished, and geological samples were collected. Numerous species of plants and animals new to science were discovered.

Racoviță studied the life of the penguins in Antarctica. But not only that. The Romanian scientist wrote, with his renowned exquisite humor: "Penguins and seals were not good only for entertaining us, in this frozen Wastelands, or to give us subjects for biological observations. They also served as food. The seal and penguin hunting was something common and I can tell that every animal spotted was as good as caught and every animal caught went to the kitchen, if scientific needs did not require the carcass for laboratory. Either if it was intended for zoological studies of for kitchen business, the corpse always passed through my hands. My companions, under the flimsy pretext that I am PhD in sciences at Sorbonne and as such more dexterous in the craft of ripping, left on me the task of splitting the seals and penguins into beefsteaks.". [Racoviță E., Spre sud. Prin Patagonia și spre Polul Sud. (Toward South. Through Patagonia and toward South Pole) Ed. Tineretului, 1959.]


The coin pictures above are present on Romanian coins through the kind permission of an anonymous donor.


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