James Paton collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of diaries written during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Ross Sea Party], 1914-1916 (Captains Mackintosh and Stenhouse) and correspondence to family members written during the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott).

Administrative / Biographical History

James Paton was born in Glasgow in 1869. He was an able seaman, residing with his family in Lyttelton, New Zealand, when he joined Morning, the relief ship sent to McMurdo Sound in 1902-1903 and 1903-1904 to assist the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott). His next Antarctic voyage was as able seaman on board Nimrod on the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton), after which he was invited to join the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott) as able seaman in Terra Nova. Paton's final Antarctic venture was as boatswain on Aurora during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Ross Sea Party], 1914-1917 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton). In May 1915, Aurora was driven by a blizzard from her moorings off Cape Evans and beset by pack ice, leaving ten men ashore to winter with minimal supplies. After drifting for ten months in the Ross Sea, she broke free in March 1916 and returned to New Zealand. Aurora, with Paton still boatswain, rescued the seven survivors of the shore party at Cape Evans in January 1917.

After the expedition, Shackleton sold Aurora to an American firm and Paton was on board the vessel when she sailed for Chile in June 1917. Paton was lost at sea, as nothing more was heard of Aurora, which was finally posted missing in January 1918.


The collection is split into two sub-fonds comprising of 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 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 Antarctica's Forgotten Men by Leslie B. Quartermain, Millwood Press, Wellington (1981) ISBN 0-908582-52-8 SPRI Library Shelf 92(08)[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.

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 Paton served on. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.

For a biographical sketch of Paton see SPRI collection Leslie Quartermain.

Personal Names