William Adams Sr collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to a whaling voyage to Greenland in Maud.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Adams Sr. served in Princess Charlotte and Narwhal before becoming master of the whaler Arctic in 1868. In 1872, he commanded Arctic on the British Whaling and Exploration Expedition from Dundee, returning to the Davis Strait region in 1873 as captain of Arctic on a British Whaling and Reconnaissance Expedition. This voyage was joined by Albert Hastings Markham of the Royal Navy for the purpose of gaining Arctic experience with a view to further polar exploration. The following year, Arctic, commanded by Adams, was lost in Cresswell Bay, Prince Regent Inlet.

In June 1875, Messrs. Alexander Stephen & Sons of Dundee launched a new Arctic [Arctic II], commanded by Adams on several whaling voyages to the Arctic until 1883 when he bought the wooden barque Maud, converting her into a whaler in 1886.

In 1890, Adams commanded Maud on his final whaling voyage to the Arctic, accompanied by his son William Adams (1869-1942). During the return journey, the vessel was heavily battered in the Atlantic and Adams Sr. died after landing at a Caithness port in 1890.


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 'Captain William Adams and Dr. R.W. Gray' by (Sir) James Mann Wordie in The Polar Record volume 4 number 27 January 1944 p119-120 and The Arctic whalers by Basil Lubbock, Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd. Glasgow (1955) SPRI Library Shelf 639.245.1: (3) and Dundee City Council and Tayside, maritime History

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.