Thomas Robertson collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence to Bruce and other polar explorers regarding the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 1902-1904 and other matters.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Robertson was born in Peterhead, Scotland in 1855. He was apprenticed to the Merchant Navy and travelled to Australia and China, before becoming more interested in whaling. At the age of twenty-four, he was appointed master of the Polar Star, in which he made several voyages to the East Greenland and the Davis Straits seal and whale fisheries. Robertson joined the British Whaling Exploration (Dundee), 1892-1893, as captain of the Active one of the expedition ships. The expedition was organized to investigate the commercial possibilities of whaling in the Antarctic, although none of the right whales were successfully caught. In 1897, as captain of Balaena he visited Franz Josef Land, where William Speirs Bruce was a member of the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition, 1894-1897 (leader Frederick George Jackson).

He joined the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 1902-1904 (leader William Speirs Bruce) as captain of the expedition ship Scotia. Although the ship was twice beset by ice in the Weddell Sea during this expedition, Robertson's experience in ice fields enabled him to successfully extricate the ship.

After the expedition, Robertson contributed several logs dealing with Arctic weather conditions to the Meteorological Office and ice reports to the Danish Hydrographic Department. He was awarded the silver medal, commissioned by Bruce, for his services to geographical exploration. He died in Dundee, Scotland, on 14 December 1918.


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to 'Captain Thomas Robertson, 1855-1918' by Robert Cockburn Mossman in Scottish Geographical Magazine (1919) volume 35 number 4 p139-140 SPRI Library Shelf Pam 92[Robertson, T.] and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events,(1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

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Further accessions are possible.