James Murray collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Murray on polar matters.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Murray was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1865. He began the study of medicine, but gave that up to study sculpture at the Glasgow School of Art. After travelling in the United States and Europe, he returned to Glasgow and became a member of the Natural History Society of Glasgow, publishing papers on flora and fauna. In 1902, Murray was appointed biologist on the Scottish Loch Survey, working principally on rotifera and tardigrada. While engaged in this work, he was selected as biologist and naturalist on the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton). During the absence of the two parties attempting to reach the South Magnetic and Geographical Poles, Murray was placed in charge of the winter quarters, Cape Royds, and spent much of his time examining the flora and fauna of the surrounding district.

On his return from the Antarctic, Murray joined the Bolivian Boundary Commission as naturalist, publishing notes on his scientific work in the region. He joined the Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1913-1918 (leader Vilhjalmur Stefansson), as oceanographer in Karluk. The ship was originally attached to the Northern Division of this expedition, and assigned the role of establishing a base for Stefansson and the scientists on the north-western fringe of the Canadian Arctic archipelago. However, after transporting Stefansson to Alaska, Karluk became beset in the ice and sank. Led by Captain Bob Bartlett, a camp was established on the ice at the site of the wreck. In February 1914, Murray, with three companions, left in an attempt to reach land, and was last seen approaching Herald Island.

Published work Antarctic days; sketches of the homely side of polar life by two of Shackleton's men... by James Murray and George Marston, Andrew Melrose London (1913) SPRI Library Special Collection (7)91(08)[1907-1909]


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient.

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 Shackleton's Lieutenant; the Nimrod Diary of A.L.A. Mackintosh, British Antarctic Expedition 1907-1909 edited by Stanley Newman Polar Publications Ltd (1990) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1907-1909 Shackleton] and Arctic exploration and development c.500 BC to 1915 an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing Inc. New York (1994) and 'James Murray. Naturalist and explorer' by Peter MacNair in Glasgow Herald January 1915 SPRI Library Shelf Pam 92[Murray, James, 1865-1914] and Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events by Robert Keith Headland (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