William Adams Jr collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of certificates regarding Adams' voyages.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Adams was born in 1869, the son of a whaling captain, William Adams Sr. He served his apprenticeship in the barque Helenslea of Dundee, later serving as mate under his father in the whaler Maud in 1890 and under Captain Walker in Novaya Zemyla the following year. In 1892, he was selected as mate of Balaena on the British Whaling Exploration (Dundee), 1892-1893. The expedition was organized to investigate the commercial possibilities of whaling in the Antarctic, although no right whales were caught or sighted.

Between 1895 and 1896, Adams had his first independent command in the Arctic in the whaler Esquimaux and the following year commanded Blencathra on a private expedition to the Kara Sea. He resumed whaling in 1898, commanding Diana until 1904 and Morning from 1905 to 1911. Returning on one last voyage to the Arctic, Adams served as first mate in Albert under Captain Milne on the British Trading Expedition, 1914-1915 (leader Henry Toke Munn), a private venture to establish trading posts on Baffin Island.

During the First World War, he served with the Admiralty and from 1918 until his retirement in 1939 was employed as a North Sea pilot for the Brocklebank Line. He died in September 1942 at Crail.


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

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

The Institute holds logbooks for several whaling vessels including Esquimaux, Diana and Morning.

The Institute holds several collections which contain mention of the British Whaling Exploration, 1892-1893 to Antarctic waters including GB 015 William Speirs Bruce who served as a scientist during the voyage.