Carl Anton Larsen collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Norwegian Expedition from South Georgia, 1908 (led by Larson).

Administrative / Biographical History

Carl Anton Larsen was born in Norway in 1860. He gained his master's certificate when he was twenty and commanded whaling ships in the Arctic Ocean. He was captain of Jason on the Norwegian Whaling Exploration, 1892-1893, making a solitary voyage to Antarctic waters from Sandefjord in search of opportunities for whaling. Landing on Seymour Island, he collected specimens of sedimentary rocks that included fossils, the first recovered from continental Antarctica. He caught no whales but secured enough seal oil to justify the cruise. Larsen impressed Christian Christensen, the owner of Jason, with the commercial possibilities for sealing and whaling and returned in the following season, on the Norwegian Sealing and Whaling Exploration (from Sandefjord), 1893-1894, accompanied by Julius Evensen in Hertha and Morten Pedersen in Castor. The three ships spent the southern summer exploring widely on both flanks of Antarctic Peninsula. Larsen penetrated the Weddell Sea Coast of the Antarctic Peninsula to 68.17°South, discovering King Oscar II Coast, Foyn Coast and Robertson Island. Jason met the two ships at South Georgia, which Larsen quickly appreciated would make an ideal base from which to hunt the fast-swimming rorqual whales, so abundant in the Southern Ocean, using techniques developed by Sven Foyn in the Arctic.

On his return from the expedition, Larsen became the manager of a whaling station in Finnmarken, Norway in 1895. He lost no time in investigating possibilities for establishing a whaling station on South Georgia, a step that founded the southern whaling industry. He returned south as captain of Antarctic with the Swedish South Polar Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Nils Otto Nordenskjld), and visited Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia in the 1902 winter. At the end of the winter, the ship could not reach the Snow Hill Island expedition base, and after sailing northward, was crushed in pack ice. Larsen and the ship's party escaped to and wintered on Paulet Island in 1903, and he and five companions rowed from Paulet Island via Hope Bay to Snow Hill Island. The Snow Hill Island party and the Paulet Island party were eventually rescued in November 1902 by Uruguay, a relief ship of the Argentine Navy, and returned to Buenos Aires. Larsen took the opportunity to convince businessmen in Buenos Aires that whaling from South Georgia would be profitable and raised capital to form the Compania Argentina de Pesca. He returned to Norway and sailed south in November 1904 with two supply ships to set up the first Antarctic land-based whaling station at Grytviken, a harbour in South Georgia.

In 1914, he returned to Norway and began to investigate whaling possibilities in the Ross Sea. He spent three years trying to raise the capital for an expedition, eventually commanding the Norwegian Whaling Expedition from Sandefjord, 1923-1924, in Sir James Clark Ross, accompanied by five whale-catchers, Star I to V. Larsen went on to command the second whaling expedition to the Ross Sea, the Norwegian Whaling Expedition (from Preservation Inlet, Stewart Island), 1924-1925, but died on 8 December 1924, after which Oscar Nilsen took command of the expedition.

Biographical works, Kaptein C.A. Larsen(Norwegian) by Sigurd Risting, Cappelen, Oslo (1929) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Larsen, C.A.] Antarctica, or two years amongst the ice of the South Pole by Nils Otto Nordenskjld; Johan Gunnar Andersson, Carl Anton Larsen, Carl Johan Fredrik Skottsberg, Hurst & Blackett, London (1905) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1901-03]


The collection is arranged chronologically.

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 Antarctica; or two years amongst the ice of the South Pole by Nils Otto Nordenskjld and Johan Gunnar Andersson, C.Hurst & 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.

Related Material

See SPRI collection GB 015 Otto Nordenskjld for information on the Swedish South Polar Expedition 1901-1903 (led by Nordenskjld) Larsen was Captain of the expedition ship Antarctic. The Institute also holds an archival collection for the Compania Argentina de Pesca, which it is hoped will be made available on the HUB in due course.