John Rymill collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Graham Land Expedition, 1934-1937 (led By Rymill).

Administrative / Biographical History

John Riddoch Rymill was born on 13 March 1905 at Penola in South Australia. On completing his education at Melbourne Grammar School, he travelled to Europe. Here he was invited to participate in the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology expedition to Arctic Canada in 1929. This was followed by an invitation to join the British Arctic Air Route Expedition, 1930-1931 (leader Henry George Watkins) to Greenland, in which he learnt dog-sledging, navigation and kayaking. Between 1932 and 1933, Rymill participated in the British East Greenland Expedition, during the course of which Watkins was drowned and Rymill became leader.

On his return, Rymill organized and led the British Graham Land Expedition, 1934-1937, sailing in the schooner Penola to the Antarctic Peninsula where bases were established in the Argentine Islands and Debenham Islands. During a reconnaissance flight in August 1936, Rymill detected an ice-filled rift between Alexander Island and the mainland, later named King George VI Sound. The following month, sledging parties proceeded southwards along the Sound to 72°S and eastwards to the high plateau of Graham Land, proving that Graham Land was a peninsula and not an archipelago as previously supposed following flights by Sir Hubert Wilkins and Lincoln Ellsworth. Southern lights, his account of the expedition, was published in 1938.

Rymill was awarded the Founders Medal of the Royal Geographical Society. After service with the Royal Australian Navy in the Second World War, Rymill returned to manage his family sheep farm at Penola. He died on 7 September 1968 at Adelaide, Australia, following a car accident.

Published work Southern lights; the official account of the British Graham Land Expedition by John Riddoch Rymill, Alfred Stephenson and Hugh Robert Mill, Chatto and Windus, London (1938) SPRI Library Shelf Special Collection (7)91(08)[1934-1937]


The collection 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.

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library, some of which covers this expedition. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to 'John Riddoch Rymill' by Quintin Riley in The Polar Record (January 1969) volume 14 number 91 p524-525 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and Arctic and Antarctic. The will and the way of John Riddoch Rymill by John Mayston Bechervaise, Bluntisham Books, Huntingdon (1995) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Rymill, J.R.]

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.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible.