Thomas Williamson collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the both the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904, and the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (both led by Robert Falcon Scott), correspondence and ephemera.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Soulsby Williamson was born in Sunderland in October 1877. He ran away to sea at the age of thirteen, and was serving in the Royal Navy on board HMS Pactolus when he joined the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), as able seaman on board the expedition ship Discovery. He took part in the sledging programme undertaken, including a journey in September 1903 to the Cape Crozier emperor penguin rookery.

He served as petty officer on the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (again led by Scott), and was amongst those who landed at Cape Evans in January 1911. Returning to New Zealand in Terra Nova, he rejoined the main party in February 1912. In April of that year, he was one of those attempting the relief of Victor Campbell's Northern Party. Later, he was a member of a major sledging expedition heading south from Hut Point, Ross Island, on the final search for those missing with Scott. On 12 November 1912, eleven miles beyond One Ton Depot, they found the tent containing the bodies of Scott, Edward Adrian Wilson and Henry Bowers.

After the expedition, he rejoined the Royal Navy, serving in destroyers during the First World War, and was severely wounded when a mine blew up his ship. He was working as a labourer in a Portsmouth dockyard when he died in January 1940.


The collection is split into four sub-fonds covering the two expeditions, correspondence and miscellaneous papers 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 British polar exploration and research, a historical and medallic record with biographies 1818-1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Neville W. Poulsom and Rear Admiral John A.L. Myres, Savannah Publications, London (2000) SPRI Library Shelf 737.2 and The Polar Record (January 1938) number 15 p53 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. This material includes photographic collections for the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 and the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.