Henry McNish collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Weddell Sea Party], 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton).

  • MS 1651;BJ McNISH H. Diary, 9 December 1914 to 16 May 1916 [Also includes a typescript copy of the letter written by Ernest Henry Shackleton, 16 May 1916 before the crossing of South Georgia] typescript copy. Original held in Australia

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry [Harry] McNish was born on 11 September 1874 at Port Glasgow, Scotland.

McNish was selected as carpenter for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Weddell Sea Party], 1914-1917 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton). After Endurance was crushed in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea the entire company spent five months on the ice before escaping in the three lifeboats to Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands. Two of the life boats were made into a shelter for the company while Shackleton, Thomas Crean, Frank Worsley, Timothy McCarthy, McNish and John Vincent sailed 1450Km to South Georgia in the James Caird. Arriving at South Georgia Shackleton, Crean and Worsley made the first major trek across the island to the whaling station at Stromness. The steam tug Yelcho rescued the men on Elephant island in August 1916.

After the expedition, McNish joined the New Zealand Shipping company, eventually settling in Wellington. Retiring due to ill health, he died on 24 September 1930 in Wellington Hospital, New Zealand, and was buried with full Naval honours.


The material is arranged by accession number

Access Information

Access to archive material is by appointment only.

An on line booking form is available via the SPRI archive web pages


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they quote the entire MS reference and the name of the author

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author signs the item.

Other Finding Aids

Published catalogue by 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 for material received after 1982.

Archivist's Note

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Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN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 Visit and learn and Shackleton's captain, a biography of Frank Worsley by John Bell Thomson, Hazard Press, Christchurch New Zealand (1998)

Conditions Governing Use

Copying of material 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 are 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 photographs from the Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link. Any requests for photographs should be directed to the SPRI Picture Library Manager.

Other archival collections contain mention of McNish and the Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition.