Joseph Russell Stenhouse collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Ross Sea Party], 1914-1917 (Captains Mackintosh and Stenhouse).

Some of the material was created by other members of the expedition or those associated with it.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Russell Stenhouse was born on 15 November 1887 in Dumbarton, Scotland. In 1903, he joined the Merchant Navy and was one of the last men to gain a Master's certificate in square-rigged sailing ships. In August 1914, he was appointed sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve and later the same month joined the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton). Initially, he was appointed chief officer of Aurora, under Æneas Lionel Acton Mackintosh, but when the ship reached a possible landing place near Hut Point in January 1915, Mackintosh went ashore with the Ross Sea party and Stenhouse took overall command. Stenhouse commanded Aurora through the long period of drifting in the ice, returning eventually to New Zealand in 1916.

During the First World War, he served in Q (mystery) ships, and was awarded the DSO for anti-submarine actions. Later in the war, he served with Sir Ernest Shackleton in northern Russia, advising on polar equipment and transport and was decorated for the second time. After the war, he returned to the Antarctic with the Discovery Committee with the responsibility of fitting out RRS Discovery. He commanded the ship between 1925 and 1927 while she was engaged on whaling and oceanographic research, and was in command during the voyage to Wiencke Island in 1927. Between 1931 and 1932, he worked with an international travel service that tried unsuccessfully to promote ship-borne travel and tourism, in particular to historic sites in Antarctica. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he rejoined the Navy, as senior officer afloat of the Thames and Medway Examination Service. His ship struck a mine and sank in October 1940. Although injured, he risked his life to save one of the men. After three months treatment he saw action in northern waters and the Gulf of Aden where, during operations from the shore base, he was posted missing, presumed drowned, on 12 September 1941.


The collection is split into three sub-fonds, comprising of Expedition material, correspondence (Deposited before 1982) and material on long term loan at the Institute.

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 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 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 Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7)

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.

Alternative Form Available

Material deposited on long term loan (MS 1590) is a copy.

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