Henry Bowers collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material covering all aspects of Bowers life including school reports, his time with the Royal Indian Marine Service and the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott).

The collection also includes material created by or about the Bowers Family.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Robertson Bowers was born in Greenock, Scotland on 29 July 1883. He was educated at the High School in Streatham and at the age of fourteen entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in the training ship HMS Worcester. In 1899, he went to sea in the sailing ship Loch Torridon, where he rose to be Chief Officer. He was appointed to the Royal Navy Reserve and in 1905 to the Royal Indian Marine.

Bowers was selected for the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), initially as stores officer in the Terra Nova, but he became a valued member of the shore party. He took part in several sledging journeys, including the winter journey, led by Edward Wilson, to Cape Crozier to collect early embryos of emperor penguins. Bowers was one of four in the support group that accompanied the main polar party up the Beardmore Glacier and across the polar plateau. In a late change of plan, Scott decided to expand the polar party to five, though whether Bowers or Oates was the fifth man is unclear. Certainly, Bowers' skill as navigator was indispensable to Scott, who had more than enough to think about without having to navigate as well. On 17 January 1912, Bowers, along with Scott, Wilson, Lawrence Oates and Edgar Evans, arrived at the Pole only to find that Roald Amundsen had reached the South Pole on 14 December 1911. On the return journey, the weakened party faced exceptionally unfavourable weather and sledging conditions. Bowers died with Scott and Wilson in late March 1912, laid up by a blizzard 11 miles short of One Ton Depot.

Biographical works, The fifth man, the life of H.R. Bowers by Charles H. Lagerbom, Caedmon, Whitby (1999) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Bowers, H.R.] and Birdie Bowers of the Antarctic by George Seaver, John Murray, London (1938) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Bowers, H.R.]


The collection is split into three sub-fonds. This comprises of MS 1505 (The Bowers Papers), British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 material and correspondence 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 The Geographical Journal (April 1913) volume 41 number 4 p395 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7)

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.

Related Material

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