John Robert Francis Wild collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton), the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914 (leader Douglas Mawson) and the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, 1921-1922 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton), correspondence by Wild including letters written during the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott) and the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1916 [Weddell Sea Party] (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton) and biographical material.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Robert Francis [Frank] Wild was born at Skelton, Yorkshire in 1874. He joined the Merchant Navy in 1889, and in 1900, transferred to the Royal Navy. Volunteering for the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), he served as an able seaman in Discovery. He took part in several sledging expeditions, including an attempt to reach Cape Crozier in March 1902, and he was a member of the main Western party, led by Albert Armitage.

He joined the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton), and was one of the party chosen by Shackleton to make an attempt on the South Pole. The four men, accompanied by four ponies, crossed the Ross Ice Shelf and discovered a route south up the Beardmore Glacier. On the polar plateau, they continued southward, man hauling on severely reduced rations. On 9 January 1909, they sledged to a farthest south of 88.38°, 180 kilometres from the Pole, where their physical condition forced them to turn back.

Wild joined the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914 (leader Douglas Mawson) and was in charge of the Western Base at the western termination of Shackleton Ice Shelf. His party undertook extensive scientific programmes and several extended sledge journeys were made, including one during which he reached Mount Barr Smith with three companions in December 1912.

On the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Weddell Sea Party], 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton), he was second-in-command. After Endurance was crushed in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea, Wild steered the James Caird in the open-boat journey to Elephant Island, taking charge of the Elephant Island camp while Shackleton sailed for South Georgia. Twenty-two men remained on the island for 105 days, and it was largely due to Wild that morale was maintained until Shackleton returned to rescue them.

On his return in 1916, Wild was commissioned in the Royal Navy, and acted as transport officer on the North Russian front. In 1918-19, he wintered in Spitsbergen and soon afterwards went to southern Africa to farm, breaking off to serve as second-in-command of the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, 1921-1922. On Shackleton's death on 5 January 1922 in South Georgia, Wild took command and the expedition continued, briefly exploring the South Sandwich Islands and the Weddell Sea before returning to Britain.

Wild received many geographical awards, including the Patron's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, and was made a Freeman of the City of London in 1923. He returned to southern Africa in 1922, engaging in various farming enterprises. He died in Johannesburg on 19 August 1939.

Published work, Frank Wild by Leif Mills, Caedmon Whitby (1999) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Wild, Frank], Shackleton's last voyage. The story of the Quest ... from the official journal and private diary kept by Dr A.H. Macklin by John Robert Francis Wild, Cassell and Company, London (1923) SPRI Library Shelf (7):91(08)[1921-1922 Shackleton]


The collection is split into five sub-fonds comprising of expedition material, correspondence and biographical material 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 The Polar Record (January 1940) volume 3 number 19 p280-281 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

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