Sir Erasmus Ommanney collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Ommanney on both Arctic and Antarctic subjects.

Administrative / Biographical History

Erasmus Ommanney was born in 1814. He entered the Royal Navy in 1826, serving the following year with the allied forces at the Battle of Navarino in the Mediterranean. In 1836, he joined the British Relief Expedition (leader James Clark Ross), as third lieutenant in HMS Cove, organized by the Admiralty to rescue the crews of eleven whaling vessels that had been beset and forced to winter in Davis Strait in 1835. Advancing to commander in 1840, Ommanney served in HMS Vesuvius in the Mediterranean from 1841 to 1846. In 1846, he was promoted captain, rendering valuable service during the famine in Ireland.

Returning to the Arctic, he commanded HMS Assistance during the British naval Franklin search expedition, 1850-1851, sent by the Admiralty to search for Sir John Franklin's missing Northwest Passage expedition. Ommanney was responsible for discovering 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 1845-1846. The expedition also conducted extensive coastal surveys and observations of topography, geology, fauna and meteorology.

After the expedition, Ommanney continued to serve with the Royal Navy, commanding the British squadron in the White Sea during the Crimean War. In 1855, he commanded HMS Hawke in the Baltic and was awarded the Baltic Medal. He was promoted rear admiral in 1864, retiring from the Royal Navy as admiral. He was knighted in 1887 and died on 21 December 1904.


The collection is arranged alphabetically by recipient.

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 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 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 and Who was who, 1897-1916, A & C Black Limited, London (1920)

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.

Geographical Names