George Gifford collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (leader George Strong Nares) and correspondence by Gifford to his mother

Administrative / Biographical History

George Augustus Gifford was born on 20 February 1849. In 1862, he entered the Royal Navy, serving under Francis Leopold McClintock in the West Indies between 1863 and 1867, and in the Channel Squadron between 1868 and 1870. Advancing to the rank of lieutenant in 1870, he served again in the West Indies from 1871 to 1874. Gifford was appointed third lieutenant in HMS Alert on the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (leader George Strong Nares), sent by the Admiralty to attempt to reach the North Pole by way of Smith Sound and to explore the coasts of Greenland and adjacent lands. Gifford was a member of the Ellesmere Island exploring party, which, in April 1876, accompanied Albert Markham's Pole party to Cape Joseph Henry before continuing westward along the coast. Gifford's party turned back on 25 April at Cape Colan. Although the attempt to reach the North Pole was unsuccessful, the expedition made some geographical discoveries and returned with a large quantity of scientific data.

Gifford resumed his duties with the Navy, serving during the Egyptian campaign in 1882 and as commodore in command of the Newfoundland Fisheries between 1899 and 1901. Promoted rear admiral in 1903 and vice admiral in 1907, he was appointed admiral superintendent of Chatham Dockyard where he remained until 1901. Advancing to the rank of admiral in 1911, he retired in 1913. He died on 23 September 1925.


The collection is split into two sub-fonds comprising of expedition material and correspondence respectively

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 Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and British polar exploration and research a historical and medallic record with biographies 1818-1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Neville W Poulsom and Rear Admiral John A L Myres, Savannah Publications London (2000) SPRI Library Shelf 737.2

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