Sir Albert Markham collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (leader George Strong Nares), correspondence regarding several expeditions and certificates.

Administrative / Biographical History

Albert Hastings Markham was born on 11 November 1841 at Bagneres-de-Bigorre, France. After being educated at home and at Eastman's Royal Naval Academy, Southsea, he entered the Royal Navy in 1856, serving in China, the Mediterranean and Australia. He was promoted lieutenant in 1862 and commander in 1872. While on leave in 1873, he sailed to the Davis Strait region in the whaler Arctic on the British whaling and reconnaissance expedition (leader William Adams), in order to study ice conditions with a view to further polar exploration.

On his return, while serving as commander in HMS Sultan, he was appointed to command HMS Alert on the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (leader George Strong Nares). This expedition was sent by the Admiralty to attempt to reach the North Pole by way of Smith Sound, and to explore the coasts of Greenland and adjacent lands. Markham was selected to lead the Polar sledging party, which set out in April 1876, man-hauling heavy sledges over sea ice. Struggling north under great hardship, the party achieved a record latitude of 83°20 minutes 26 seconds North on 12 May. For his services during this expedition, Markham was promoted captain.

Markham sailed again to the Arctic in 1879, as a guest on a private British sport-hunting expedition to Novaya Zemlya, returning with animal, plant and geological specimens. From 1879 to 1882, he served with the Navy in the Pacific, and from 1883 to 1886, was captain of HMS Vernon, the naval torpedo school at Portsmouth. Returning to the Arctic in Alert on the Canadian Hudson Bay Expedition in 1886, he made a careful survey of ice conditions in Hudson Strait and Bay. Later on in the same year, he was offered command of the Training Squadron with the rank of commodore, a post he held until 1889, when he was appointed to the command of the Portsmouth Steam Reserve. Promoted rear admiral in 1891, he continued in service until his retirement in 1906. He was knighted in 1903. During the First World War, he devoted himself to the interests of the minesweeping service. He died in London on 28 October 1918. In addition to books describing his own travels, he was the author of several biographies of Arctic explorers.

Published work, The great frozen sea. A personal narrative of the voyage of the Alert during the Arctic expedition of 1875-1876 by (Sir) Albert Hastings Markham, Daldy, Isbister & Co. London (1878) SPRI Library Shelf (42;41)91(08)[1875-1876 Nares] The life of Sir Clements R. Markham, K.C.B., F.R.S. by (Sir) Albert Hastings Markham, John Murray London (1917) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Markham, C.R.]

Biographical, The life of Sir Albert Hastings Markham by M.E. Markham and F.A. Markham, Cambridge University Press Cambridge (1927) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Markham, A.H.]


The collection is split into three sub-fonds comprising of expedition material, correspondence and biographical material 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 Arctic exploration and development c.500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Anthony Holland, Garland Publishing Inc. New York (1994) and Dictionary of National Biography Twentieth Century 1912-1921, with index 1901-1921, Oxford University Press (1927) and 'Rear-Admiral A.H. Markham, R.N., F.R.G.S.' by William G. Fitzgerald in Strand Magazine (November 1895) p548-559 SPRI Library Shelf Pam 92[Markham, A.] and Scottish Geographical Magazine (1918) volume 34 number 12 p469 SPRI Library Shelf Pam 92[Markham, Admiral Sir Albert Hastings] 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.

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Further accessions possible.