James Mann Wordie collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, [Weddell Sea Party], 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton), correspondence by Wordie and papers on Svalbard.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Mann Wordie was born on 26 April 1889 at Partick, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He studied geology at Glasgow University and St. John's College, Cambridge. In 1913 he visited the Yukon and Alaska, and the following year joined the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Weddell Sea Party], 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton), as geologist and chief of scientific staff. After Endurance was crushed in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea, the crew lived for six months on drifting ice until this broke up northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Proceeding in three open boats, the party of twenty-eight men reached Elephant Island on 15 April 1916. Wordie and his companions were rescued from the island on 30 August 1916.

During the First World War, he served with distinction as an artillery officer. Between 1919 and 1937, he ran a series of expeditions to the Arctic, including Spitsbergen, Jan Mayen, east and west Greenland, and Baffin Island. In 1947 he returned to the Antarctic to advise on the future programme of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey.

Advancing from tutor of St. John's College in 1923 to master in 1952, he became an influential member of British committees concerned with the polar regions, and advisor to the government on polar matters. He was closely associated with the Scott Polar Research Institute from its foundation in 1920, serving as chairman of the committee of management between 1937 and 1955.

He received numerous awards throughout his career, including the CBE in 1947, and he was knighted in 1957. He died on 16 January 1962 in Cambridge.


The collection is split into three sub-fonds covering expedition material correspondence and Svalbard papers respectively.

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 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 and Sir James Mann Wordie, C.B.E., by Vivian Ernest Fuchs in The Polar Record (May 1962) volume 11 number 71 p212-213 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and Dictionary of National Biography, 1961-1970, Oxford University Press, Oxford (1981)

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.