Edward Bird collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Bird to the Polar explorer James Clark Ross

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Joseph Bird joined the Royal Navy in 1812, seeing service at the battle of Algiers in 1816. He was appointed midshipman in HMS Hecla, under George Lyon, on the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1821-1823 (leader William Edward Parry), sent by the Admiralty to search for a passage along the west coast of the unexplored Foxe Basin, north from Repulse Bay. He returned north with Parry as midshipman in HMS Fury on the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1824-1825, sent to seek a passage by following Prince Regent Inlet to the American mainland coast. Serving again as midshipman in HMS Hecla on the British Naval North Polar Expedition (leader William Edward Parry) in 1827, Bird was a member of the party attempting to reach the North Pole over the ice with two boat-sledges.

In 1834, Bird was appointed first lieutenant of Medea under Horatio Austin. He was appointed first lieutenant of HMS Erebus on the British Naval Expedition, 1839-1843 (leader James Clark Ross), sent by the Admiralty to conduct a series of magnetic observations in the southern hemisphere and to locate and reach the South Magnetic Pole if possible. Promoted commander in 1841 and captain two years later, he served as captain of HMS Investigator on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1848-1849 (leader James Clark Ross), sent to search for Sir John Franklin's missing expedition along the shores of Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait, Wellington Channel and Prince Regent Inlet. Exploring parties sledged close to the point where the missing vessels had been abandoned, but on attempting to sail westward through Barrow Strait, Investigator and HMS Enterprise were beset and drifted into Baffin Bay and the expedition was forced to return to Britain. Retiring as vice-admiral in 1869, Bird was promoted to the rank of admiral in 1875. He died in 1881.


The correspondence with Ross is arranged chronologically

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 British polar exploration and research a historical and medallic record with biographies 1818-1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Neville W Poulsom and Rear Admiral John A L Myres, Savannah Publications London (2000) SPRI Library Shelf 737.2

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 possible