Tannatt William Edgeworth David collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton) and correspondence by David, some of which relates to the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott).

Administrative / Biographical History

Tannatt William Edgeworth David was born in Wales in 1858 and was educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford. He studied geology at New College, Oxford, and the Royal College of Science, London. His work in the geological field soon attracted attention and in 1882 he was appointed assistant geological surveyor to the Government of New South Wales. His time with the Geological Survey was particularly noticeable for his significant discoveries in economic geography, especially the discovery of valuable coal and tin deposits.

In 1891, David was appointed to the Chair of Geology and Physical Geography at the University of Sydney, attaining world wide recognition among his fellow geologists for his research work on glacial epochs. Shackleton, in Australia en route to the Antarctic in 1907, asked David to join the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton), as geologist. The expedition wintered on Ross Island and in 1908 Shackleton selected David as a member of the summit party for the first ascent of Mount Erebus (3794 metres).

During the winter of 1908, Shackleton decided that one of the major journeys during the coming months must be an attempt to reach the South Magnetic Pole, and he chose David to lead this party. The party of three men reached the region of the South Magnetic Pole on 16 January 1909, taking possession of Victoria Land for Britain.

In the months that followed the expedition, David undertook an extensive lecturing tour in order to raise funds for the publication of the scientific results of the expedition. During the First World War he served with distinction in the Australian Army, immersing himself in his University scientific work in Sydney after the war ended. He was knighted in 1921 and retired in 1924 to complete his major work on the geology of Australia. He died in 1934.


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 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 Antarctica's Forgotten Men by Leslie B. Quartermain, Millwood Press, Wellington (1981) ISBN 0-908582-52-8 UDC number 92(08)[1981] and 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.

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

For a biographical sketch of David see SPRI collection Leslie Quartermain.