Journal kept on board the Christian of Aberdeen on a voyage to the northern whale fishery

Scope and Content

Journal kept on board the Christian of Aberdeen on a voyage to the northern whale fishery, by George Kerr, acting as ship's surgeon, Feb 1791 - Aug 1791.

Daily entries give prevailing weather conditions, approximate position of the vessel, other ships sighted, etc., with comment on ship board activities, living conditions in northern waters, marine life observed. In a note added at the end of the volume, he records the loss of this boyish journal for thirteen or fourteen years; he also mentions a log book which he had kept, which had passed into the possession of Messers Brebner and Co., and a separate notebook containing observations he had made during this voyage on the suppuration of wounds.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Kerr was a student in Arts and Medicine at Marischal College, Aberdeen, from 1786 - 1790, and a founder member of the Aberdeen Medical Society (est. 1789, subsequently, Aberdeen Medical Chirurgical Society). In 1791 joined the crew of the Aberdeen-registered Christian as ship's surgeon during its voyage to the northern whaling fishery. He subsequently continued his medical studies at Edinburgh, before returning to Aberdeen where he practiced medicine for the rest of his life.

He published several short medical works, including Observations on the Harveian doctrine of the circulation of the blood (London: 1816); Medical sketches on the following subjects: 1.: On the use of Hellebore... 2.: Of Colchicum Autumnale 3.: Observations on the sudden death of women in child-bed (London: 1818); and A brief memoir concerning the typhus fever, prevailing in Aberdeen, during the years 1818 and 1819 (Aberdeen: Booth, 1820). In Examination of a pamphlet entitled Plan of education in the Marischal College and University of Aberdeen, with the reasons of it, drawn up by order of the Faculty, 1755 (Aberdeen: 1826), he commented upon the radical changes proposed to the curriculum and teaching of Marischal College at this time. His library was sold in 1821 by virtue of a warrant issued by the Magistrates of Aberdeen.

For further details see Fasti Academiae Mariscallanae Aberdonensis: Selections from the Records of the Marischal College and University, 1593 - 1860: Volume 2: Officers, Graduates and Alumni, ed. by Peter John Anderson, (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1898), p 365; Ella Hill Burton Rodger, Aberdeen doctors at home and abroad: the narrative of a medical school (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1893); and Studies in the History and Development of the University of Aberdeen: A Quarter centenary Tribute Paid by Certain of Her Professors and Her Devoted Sons, ed. by Peter John Anderson, Aberdeen University Studies: no 19 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1906)


Single item.

Access Information

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the University in 1956 from E. Hall, bookseller. Previously owned by J. Munday, Chelsea, who purchased it from the library of W.S.W. Vaux.

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive list available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail:

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

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Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

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Related Material

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For publication of much of the text see George Kerr, An arctic whaling journal of 1791, edited by Ann Savours, (Cambridge: Polar Record, 1959), Polar record 9.

For a short description of GB 231 MS 2238, in the context of other diaries and journals deposited in the University, see Colin McLaren, Reports and surveys of archives in northern Scotland, Northern Scotland, 1 (1) (1972).

Additional Information

This material is original