John Lachlan Cope collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, [Ross Sea Party] 1914-1917 (Captains Mackintosh and Stenhouse), the British Expedition to Graham Land, 1920-1922 (led by Cope) and correspondence by Cope.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Lachlan Cope was born on 31 March 1893. He was educated at Tonbridge public school and studied medicine at Jesus College, Cambridge. Giving up his studies, he joined the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Ross Sea Party], 1914-1917, as biologist and surgeon on board Aurora. This expedition was organized by Ernest Henry Shackleton to meet the Endurance Party intending to sledge across Antarctica from the Weddell Sea. Fast ice prevented Aurora from reaching Cape Royds, so the expedition landed at Cape Evans where in May 1915 the ship was driven from her moorings by a blizzard, making return impossible. With minimal supplies, Cope and nine companions wintered at Cape Evans and laid depots southwards across the Ross Ice Shelf as far as Mount Hope. The seven survivors of the shore party were eventually rescued on 10 January 1917.

Returning to Britain, Cope served in the Royal Navy for the remainder of the First World War. He then organized and led the British Expedition to Graham Land, 1920-1922, which originally promised opportunities for flight on the Antarctic Peninsula. Cope and his second-in-command, George Hubert Wilkins, joined Thomas Wyatt Bagshawe and Maxime Charles Lester who had travelled south to Deception Island ahead of them. The party transferred to Andvord Bay, on the Danco Coast of Graham Land where they intended to set up a base. However, insufficient financial support curtailed the expedition, and Cope and Wilkins withdrew, leaving with the whalers. Cope returned to Britain, resumed his medical studies and qualified as a doctor in 1933. He became a General Practitioner in London and in Birmingham. He died in November 1947.


The collection is split into three sub-fonds covering expedition 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 item is signed by the author.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Shackleton's Forgotten Argonauts by Leonard Bickel, Macmillan Company of Australia, Melbourne (1982) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1914-1917] 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.

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 covers the expedition's Cope took part in. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.