Joseph Kay collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Naval Expedition, 1828-1831 (leader Henry Foster) and correspondence

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph W (Henry) Kay served as midshipman on the British Naval Expedition, 1828-1831, on board Chanticleer. The expedition visited Isla de los Estados, and the South Shetland Islands to make pendulum and magnetic observations on Deception Island. Deception Island was charted and the expedition made surveys of Isla de los Estados and southern Tierra del Fuego. Maximum and minimum thermometers were left at Port Foster, Deception, Island, which were later collected by the United States Sealing Voyage (from Newport), 1841-1842 (leader William Horton Smyley).

Kay later served as lieutenant on the British Naval Expedition, 1839-1843 (leader James Clark Ross), on board HMS Terror under Francis Crozier. The voyage was organized primarily to conduct a series of magnetic observations in the Southern Hemisphere. A geophysical observatory 'Rossbank' was established at Hobart in 1840 with the co-operation of the Governor, Sir John Franklin (Kay was a nephew of Franklin's first wife).

Kay was left in charge of the observatory with two other officers and remained there until 1853. The position of the South Magnetic Pole was calculated as 75.83°South, 154.13°East. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of his work and after leaving the Observatory he continued to pursue a scientific career.


The collection is split into two sub-fonds covering the expedition and later 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 signs the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Ross in the Antarctic; the voyages of James Clark Ross in Her Majesty's ships Erebus and Terror 1839-1843 by M.J. Ross, Caedmon of Whitby (1982) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1839-1843 Ross] 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, some of which cover the expeditions Kay served on. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.

Personal Names