Colin Bertram collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to three polar expeditions, Cambridge Expedition to Iceland and East Greenland, 1933, British Graham Land 1934-1937, Cambridge Expedition to Bear Island, correspondence by Bertram and plans for a further Antarctic expedition.

Administrative / Biographical History

(George) Colin Lawder Bertram was born on 27 November 1911. While reading zoology at St. John's College, Cambridge, he participated in the Cambridge Expedition to Bear Island in 1932, conducting a programme of ornithological research. After graduating, he served as a member of the Cambridge Expedition to East Greenland in 1933, in company with the French explorer, Jean-Baptiste Charcot.

Bertram studied coral reefs in the Red Sea before joining the British Graham Land Expedition, 1934-1937 (leader John Riddoch Rymill), as biologist, conducting studies of Weddell and Crabeater seals. He participated in the main southern journey, discovering and traversing King George VI Sound. After the expedition, he returned to Cambridge to complete his doctorate and in 1939, he published Arctic and Antarctic, The technique of polar travel.

On the outbreak of the Second World War, he developed cold weather clothing on behalf of the War Office, and between 1940 and 1944, acted as chief fisheries officer for Palestine. He later served as fisheries adviser to the Middle East Supply Centre and to the Sultan of Muscat. In 1945, he was elected a fellow and tutor of St. John's College, and between 1949 and 1956 was part-time director of the Scott Polar Research Institute. He continued his scientific research, including studies of fur seals and Sirenia, and was concerned with ecological issues and eugenics, publishing Adam's Brood, Hopes and fears of a biologist in 1959. Between 1965 and 1972, he served as senior tutor of St. John's College. He died on 11 January 2001 in Graffham, Sussex.

Published work Memories and musings of an octogenarian biologist by George Colin Lawder Bertram, Self Publishing Association Hanley Swan Worcs. (1992) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Bertram], Antarctica, Cambridge, conservation and population; a biologist's story by George Colin Lawder Bertram, G.C.L. Bertram Cambridge (1987) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Bertram], Arctic and Antarctic, the technique of polar travel by George Colin Lawder Bertram, Heffer & Sons, Cambridge (1939) SPRI Library Shelf 910.2(211), In search of mermaids, the manatees of Guiana by George Colin Lawder Bertram, Peter Davies, London (1963) SPRI Library Shelf 599.55


The collection is split into five sub-fonds comprising of expedition material, 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.

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library, some of which covers the expeditions Bertram was a member of. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to 'George Colin Lawder Bertram, 1911-2001', by Charles Swithinbank in The Geographical Journal volume 167 number 2 June 2001 p191 and 'Colin Bertram, an appreciation' by Brian Birley Roberts in The Polar Record volume 8 number 55 December 1956 p305 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and 'Bear Island' by G C L Bertram and D L Lack in Geographical Journal volume LXXXI 1933 p 45-53 and 'New light on the fauna of the Arctic' by Colin Bertram in Discovery 1934, 127-130

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