Nils Otto Nordenskjld collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Swedish South Polar Expedition, 1901-1904 (led by Nordenskjld) and general correspondence.

Administrative / Biographical History

Nils Otto Gustaf Nordenskjld was born on 6 December 1869 at Sjgle in the province of Smaland, Sweden. His uncle, Baron Adolf Erik Nordenskjld, led the Swedish Northeast Passage expedition from Karlskrona, 1878-1880, the first expedition to navigate the Northeast Passage. Niles Nordenskjld gained a doctorate in geology, lecturing at Uppsala University. His first journey to the Southern hemisphere was as leader of the Swedish geological expedition to Tierra del Fuego from 1895 to 1897. In 1898, he took part in an expedition to Alaska and was a geologist on the Danish East Greenland expedition under Carl Amdrup in 1900.

Nordenskjld had spent over four years in lobbying and fund-raising for his own Antarctic expedition, with private benefactors eventually providing most of the money for his Swedish South Polar Expedition, 1901-1903.

He and five companions landed at Snow Hill Island in February 1902 after the expedition ship Antarctic met impenetrable pack ice trying to reach King Oscar II Coast. The party explored widely and in October 1902, Nordenskjld and two companions took a small team of dogs on a sledging journey to 66.05°south on the east side of the peninsula, collecting rock samples. The Snow Hill group was forced to spend a second winter on the island unaware that Antarctic had been crushed in pack ice in 1903 and that the ship's company had been wintering on Paulet Island. An Argentine naval vessel Uruguay eventually rescued both parties in November 1903. Despite the difficulties of the expedition, the Swedish scientists produced exceptional results, publishing a series of reports that set a pattern for later expeditions to follow.

In 1905, Nordenskjld was promoted to the chair of geography at the University of Gothenburg, a post he held until 1928. In 1908, he established the Geographical Society of Gothenburg and in 1923, founded and became the first director of the Gothenburg School of Economics, now part of the University. In 1909, he went to Greenland for geological and glaciological work, and in 1914, together with British scientists, was preparing an expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula when the outbreak of the First World War put an end to the plans. He visited Peru and Southern Chile from 1920 to 1921. He died on 2 June 1928.

Published work, Antarctica, or two years amongst the ice of the South Pole by Nils Otto Gustaf Nordenskjld and Johan Gunnar Andersson, C.Hurst and Co. London (1977) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1901-1904 Nordenskjld]


The collection is arranged into two sub-fonds covering 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 signs the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Antarctica; or two years amongst the ice of the South Pole by Nils Otto Gustaf Nordenskjld and Johan Gunnar Andersson, C.Hurst and Co. London (1977) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1901-1904 Nordenskjld] and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) 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.