The collection comprises of material relating to Weddell's voyages south including the British Sealing Voyage, 1820-1821 and the British Sealing and Exploratory Voyage, 1822-1824, (both led by Weddell), correspondence by Weddell and biographical notes on him and the Weddell family.
James Weddell collection
- For more information, email the repository
- Advice on accessing these materials
- Cite this description
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 15 James Weddell
- Dates of Creation1820-1843
- Name of Creator
- Physical DescriptionExpedition material (11 charts, 3 sketches and 2 volumes, correspondence (Circa 5 leaves) and biographical notes (Circa 16 leaves)
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
James Weddell was born on 24 August 1787 in Ostend, of Scottish parents. At a very early age and with little education, Weddell was apprenticed to ships in the North Sea coastal trade. In 1808, while in a merchant vessel, he knocked down his captain in a dispute and was handed over as a prisoner to the Royal Navy. There, taking advantage of the opportunities for study and rendering himself a capable navigator, he was rapidly promoted to midshipman, petty officer and master.
Paid off from the Navy in 1819, he accepted command of the Jane of Leith, a sealing brig of 160 tons, in which he made two successful voyages to the newly-discovered South Shetland and South Orkney Islands, discovering in the latter the species of seal that bears his name. Although he had no previous experience as a sealer, the voyages were sufficiently successful to enable him to buy a share in the brig, and he was entrusted with the command of a second voyage, the British Sealing and Exploratory Expedition, 1822-1824. Setting out in September 1822, accompanied by Matthew Brisbane in the cutter Beaufoy, he arrived off the South Orkney Islands in January 1823. Seeking new islands, the two vessels turned south and crossed the Antarctic Circle, reaching 70° south, where they found themselves in open sea, free from pack ice due to unusually benign weather. Continuing south, Weddell and Brisbane reached 74° 15' south, at 34° 15 ' 45 seconds west on 20 February 1823, achieving a record furthest south that took them 214 nautical miles beyond Cook's previous record. Weddell named his discovery the Sea of George IV. It is now known in his honour as the Weddell Sea.
Mindful of the weather and the voyage's commercial objectives, he decided to turn north, visiting South Georgia and wintering in the Falkland Islands. In the following summer, the vessels returned to the South Shetland Islands and eventually to Tierra del Fuego in search of fur seals. On his return to Britain, Weddell published an account of his explorations, including his carefully recorded observations of weather, tides and natural history.
Little is known of Weddell's later years, apart from his continuing in trading ventures. He died in London on 9 September 1834.
Published work A voyage towards the South Pole performed in the years 1822-1824 containing an examination of the Antarctic Sea by James Weddell, David & Charles Newton Abbott, England (1970) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1822-1824], Observations on the probability of reaching the South Pole by James Weddell, Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, London (1826) SPRI Library Shelf Special Collection (7)[pub. 1826]
The collection is split into three sub-fonds comprising of expedition material, correspondence and biographical notes respectively.
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 Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and 'Weddell in the Antarctic' by Roger P. Bradley in The Geographical Magazine (November 1984) p558-559 and 'James Weddell (1787-1834)'by John Knox Laughton in The Dictionary of National Biography volume 60, London, 1899 p129-130 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 are possible.