The collection comprises of letters to fellow Antarctic explorer Frank Debenham and general correspondence.
Jean Baptiste Charcot collection
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 15 Jean Baptiste Charcot
- Dates of Creation1907 - 1936
- Name of Creator
- Language of MaterialFrench, and English.
- Physical DescriptionCorrespondence (50 leaves)
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Jean-Baptiste Etienne Auguste Charcot was born in France in 1867. He trained as a doctor but gave up his medical practice to become a polar explorer. He led the French Antarctic Expedition, 1903-1905. The expedition prepared to search for the missing Swedish South Polar Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Nils Otto Nordenskjld), but found that the expedition had already been rescued. His ship Le Francais, with a complement of 22 men, then wintered at a station on Booth Island, off the West coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Charcot charted the West side of Palmer Archipelago and also discovered and roughly charted Loubet Coast southwards to Adelaide Island.
Prevented by pack ice from exploring further south, Charcot returned to France and organized the French Antarctic Expedition, 1908-1910, commissioning a new expedition ship Pourquoi Pas?. This expedition visited the South Shetland Islands and the northern Antarctic Peninsula, wintering at Petermann Island in 1909. Charcot charted the West coast of the Peninsula and islands southwards to Adelaide Island and Alexander Island. He sailed south again in the Bellingshausen Sea to within sight of Peter I y, discovering a further ice-bound coast, now called Charcot Island.
These two expeditions established his reputation as a leader in the fields of scientific oceanography, research and survey. After service in the First World War, he continued polar work with a series of ten summer expeditions to the Arctic (1926-1936), in which many young explorers were trained. He died in 1936 on board his ship Pourquoi Pas? in a storm off Iceland.
Published works, Notice sur les titres et travaux scientifiques du Dr J-B. Charcot (French) Masson et Cie, Paris (1921) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Charcot, J B.]
The collection is split into two sub-fonds covering correspondence to Frank Debenham (1883-1965) and general correspondence with other explorers.
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Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to 'Jean Baptiste Charcot, Father of French polar research' by J Malaurie in The Polar Record, (July 1989) volume 25 number 154 p191-196 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) 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
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