Ships, Quest collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of plans of the ship.

Administrative / Biographical History

Quest was a two-masted wooden schooner of 205 tons, launched in 1917 at Risor, Norway, and originally named Foca I. Her first owner was the Norwegian whaling businessman, Morten Ingebrigsten, who chartered her out to the Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompagni between 1917 and 1919. In 1921, she was purchased by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton for the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, 1921-1922, and renamed Quest at the suggestion of Lady Shackleton. The ship was extensively refitted for Antarctic waters at Southampton before departing from London on 17 September 1921. After reaching South Georgia, Shackleton suffered a heart attack and died on 5 January 1922. Frank Wild took command and the expedition continued, briefly exploring the South Sandwich Islands and the Weddell Sea before returning to Britain.

After the expedition, Quest was sold to the Norwegian ship-owner, Peter Schjelderup, and she returned to Norway for a re-fit. His son, Ludolf Schjelderup, became her master, and she was used for sealing, usually in the White Sea, and chartered out for scientific or hunting expeditions in the Arctic. In 1928, she was employed in the search for General Umberto Nobile and the crew of the Italian airship Italia who were missing north of Svalbard. Captain Schjelderup was appointed a knight of the Royal Order of Vasa by the King of Sweden for his conduct on this expedition.

In 1930, Quest was chartered by the British Arctic Air Route Expedition, 1930-1931 (leader Henry George Watkins), organized to investigate the feasibility of a commercial air route from England over Greenland to Canada. After the expedition, she continued her sealing voyages and was chartered out for several Arctic expeditions, mostly to Svalbard or the east coast of Greenland. While sealing off Newfoundland in 1940, Quest was requisitioned by allied naval forces and used in various capacities in Canada, Bermuda and British coastal waters during the Second World War. After the war, she returned to sealing under Norwegian ownership until she was beset and sank just north of Newfoundland on 5 May 1962.


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.

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library, some of which covers the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, 1921-1922. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to 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 and The polar ship Quest by Angus B. Erskine and Kjell-G. Kjaer in The Polar Record (April 1998) volume 34 number 189 p129-142 and The Oxford companion to ships and the sea ed by Peter Kemp, Oxford University Press, London (1976) SPRI Library Shelf 629.12

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.

Corporate Names