The Scott Polar Research Institute, which holds one of the world's finest polar archives, has just acquired two valuable additions to its collections.

The Scott Polar Research Institute, which holds one of the world's finest polar archives, has just acquired two valuable additions to its collections.

The Institute, with substantial assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, purchased the diary of Dr Alexander Macklin and the archive of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Quest expedition at auction at Christies, on 25 September 2001.

Dr Macklin was one of two surgeons on board RYS Endurance on its ill-fated voyage to Antarctica in 1914 under the leadership of Sir Ernest Shackleton. His diary recounts one of the most dramatic stories in polar exploration. The ship was crushed in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea and the members of the expedition watched from a camp on an ice floe as she broke up and finally sank.

The twenty seven members of the expedition camped on the ice until, fearing they were drifting too far north, they manned three small lifeboats and made their way through treacherous seas to Elephant Island. From here, Shackleton and four companions sailed to South Georgia in the James Caird to fetch help, leaving the remaining twenty two men to survive the next twenty two months on Elephant Island. They were completely out of touch with the world, and had no idea whether or not they were ever likely to be rescued.

Macklin's diary describes the daily routine, hopes and fears felt by the men until, finally, Shackleton returned on board the Yelcho, a Chilean naval vessel, to rescue them. No lives were lost.

The Quest Archive holds a large collection of papers from Shackleton's third and final Antarctic expedition. During this expedition, in February 1922, Shackleton died prematurely of a heart attack on board the ship as it was anchored off the coast of South Georgia; the expedition continued, however, under the leadership of Frank Wild. Macklin's description of Shackleton's death, and his death certificate, are included in this collection.

With these papers in the SPRI's archives, the Institute hopes that Polar historians will be able to gain a clear understanding of this less-appreciated expedition.

Robert Dufton, Head of the National Heritage Memorial Fund said:
"The National Heritage Memorial Fund is delighted to have been able to help the Scott Polar Research Institute to acquire such important records from these Antarctic expeditions. Shackleton's heroic leadership is well known and inspires us all today. The Macklin Diary and Quest Archive illustrate the steadfastness and courage of all the men who took part in the Polar expeditions of 1915 and 1921."

The Scott Polar Research Institute was founded in 1920 as a memorial to Captain Robert Falcon Scott, R.N. and his four companions who died returning from the South Pole in 1912. It is the oldest international centre for Polar research within a university, and was established with the aim of providing a place where Polar travellers and explorers could meet and where material of Polar interest might be collected and made accessible for future research.

As well as a fine museum displaying artefacts, artwork and manuscripts from both the Arctic and Antarctic, the Institute houses the most comprehensive Polar library in the world, including the Shackleton Memorial Library. It also contains the Thomas H. Manning Polar Archives, a picture library, offices, laboratories, cold rooms and a lecture theatre.

Saturday night lectures take place fortnightly during term time and are open to members of the public with an interest in Polar affairs. The museum is open on weekday afternoons and entry is free.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. If you use this content on your site please link back to this page.