Charles Enderby collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Charles regarding his proposed whaling station on Auckland Island.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Enderby was born circa 1798, the grandson of Samuel Enderby (1720-1797), founder of Enderby & Sons, a sealing and whaling firm active in both the Arctic and Southern Ocean. On the death of his father, Samuel Enderby Jnr. (1756-1829), Charles and his brothers Henry and George took over, moving the firm in 1830 from Paul's Wharf to Great St Helens in the City of London. In the same year, Charles became a founding member of the Royal Geographical Society, later serving on its council on several occasions between 1842 and 1847.

Charles encouraged masters of Enderby vessels to report geographical discoveries and had notable successes with John Biscoe and John Balleny, who between them discovered Enderby Land, Graham Land, the Balleny Islands and the Sabrina Coast. An Enderby captain, Abraham Bristow, had discovered the Auckland Islands in 1806, naming one of the islands Enderby Island. However, by the mid-nineteenth century, the firm's profits were in decline following losses made by the exploring expeditions, and the destruction of the firm's Greenwich rope-making factory by fire in 1845. Whaling vessels, too, required expensive strengthening in order to withstand impact by ice in the Southern Ocean.

Looking for a way to revive the firm's fortunes, Charles sought government backing to establish a whaling station on the Auckland Islands. In 1849, the Southern Whale Fishery Company was established to manage the enterprise and Charles Enderby was appointed lieutenant governor of the islands. He himself chose to lead the expedition, even though he had never before been on such a voyage. In December 1849, three vessels loaded with settlers and stores arrived at Enderby Island, where land was cleared for the colony and whaling station. However, the cold, damp climate and acid soils made agriculture impossible, and the eight whaling ships attached to the station caught very few whales. In 1852, Enderby Settlement was dismantled and closed and Charles Enderby returned to London in the following year.

This ill-fated enterprise overstrained the resources of Messrs Enderby, which was liquidated in 1854. Charles Enderby died in poverty in London on 31 August 1876.


The correspondence 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.

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 Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1877) volume 47 cliii and BBC and The Enderby Diaries by Barbara Ludlow 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.

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Further accessions possible.