John Cator collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating tot he British Naval Franklin Search expedition, 1850-1851 (leader Horatio Austin) and correspondence by Cator

Administrative / Biographical History

John Bertie Cator was born in 1820. He entered the Royal Navy, serving as mate in HMS Wellesley and later served in HMS Herald during the China War of 1842. Promoted lieutenant in 1842, he joined HMS Virago in the Mediterranean between 1843 and 1846. He was appointed lieutenant in command of HMS Intrepid, the tender to HMS Assistance (Erasmus Ommanney), on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1851 (leader Horatio Austin), sent by the Admiralty to search for Sir John Franklin's missing Northwest Passage expedition by way of Baffin Bay and Lancaster Sound. During the expedition, Ommanney discovered the first evidence that Franklin had in fact reached the Canadian Arctic, finding signs of a field camp at Cape Riley, Devon Island, and a cairn and other relics on Beechey Island, which was subsequently shown to have been Franklin's winter quarters in 1845 and 1846. Cator retired as captain in 1867, later becoming a conservator of the River Humber.


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 Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and 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

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, which includes an image of Cator. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.