William Colbeck collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Relief Expeditions, 1902-1903 and 1903-1904 sent to the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-9104 (leader Robert Falcon Scott)

Administrative / Biographical History

William Colbeck was born in Hull, England in 1871 and was educated at Hull Grammar School. He was apprenticed to the Merchant Navy in 1886 and was serving as second mate on the passenger vessel Montebello when he met Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink. He joined the British Antarctic Expedition, 1898-1900 (led by Borchgrevink) as chief magnetic observer and navigating officer on the expedition vessel Southern Cross. The expedition landed in Robertson Bay, on the west side of Cape Adare. Colbeck transferred to the shore party and thus became one of the first men to winter on the Antarctic Continent. He was also a member of the sledging party that reached a furthest south (78.83°) in February 1900.

Subsequently, he was in command of Morning on the two British Relief Expeditions, 1902-1903 and 1903-1904, which maintained communications with the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott). Scott named Cape Colbeck and Colbeck Bay in his honour.

After further service at sea, he became marine surveyor and bailiff in Liverpool. He died on 19 October 1930.


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 signs the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance of R. Stancombe and reference to The Polar Record, (January 1931) volume 1, number 1, p4 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN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 possible.

Related Material

See SPRI collection Leslie Quartermain for a biographical sketch of Colbeck.