James Mackintosh Bell collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Bell to Robert Falcon Scott relating to the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott).

Administrative / Biographical History

James Mackintosh Bell was born in Canada in 1877. He was educated at Queen's College, Kingston, graduating with an MA in 1899, and continued his studies at Harvard University, receiving his doctorate in 1904. He served as second-in-command on the Canadian Geological Survey expedition, 1899-1900 (leader Robert Bell), sent to the region of Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake to conduct a geological and geographical survey. His uncle, Robert Bell, returned to Ottawa in December 1900, leaving him to continue the survey into the following year.

On his return from the expedition, Bell was offered the post of geologist on the British National Antarctic expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), but declined the offer. In 1904, while teaching at Harvard, Bell was appointed geologist to the New Zealand Mines Department, and in February 1905, was appointed director of the Geological Survey of New Zealand, a post he held until 1911. Bell was invited to participate in the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), but the New Zealand government refused to release him. During the First World War, he served as an officer with the Canadian forces in France, and from 1917 to 1919, was seconded to the British Military Mission to Russia. He was awarded the OBE in 1919. After the war, Bell made a successful career as a consultant in mineral exploration and mine development, working for several Canadian mining companies. He died in Canada in 1934.

Published work, A geographical report on Franz Josef Glacier by James Mackintosh Bell, Reginald Palmer Greville and Leonard Cockayne, New Zealand Geographical Survey Wellington (1910) SPRI Library Shelf Seligman 73


The correspondence is arranged chronologically.

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 'Bell, James Abbott Mackintosh 1877-193' by Alan Mason from Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and Arctic exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Anthony Holland, Garland Publishing Inc. New York (1994) 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.