Vivian Fuchs collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS), the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1955-1958 and correspondence by Fuchs

Administrative / Biographical History

Vivian Ernest Fuchs was born on 11 February 1908 at Freshwater, Isle of Wight. While an undergraduate at St. John's College, Cambridge, he joined the Cambridge East Greenland Expedition in 1929, under the leadership of his tutor James Mann Wordie. On graduating, he joined and led a series of archaeological and geological expeditions to East Africa between 1930 and 1938, and was awarded his doctorate in 1936. During the Second World War he served as an infantry officer in Africa and Europe and was demobilized with the rank of major.

In 1947 Fuchs was appointed field commander and geologist of the Falkland Island Dependencies Survey (FIDS), serving for two years at Base E on Stonington Island where he learnt dog-sledging and travel techniques. On returning to Britain in 1950, he was appointed director of FIDS Scientific Bureau, developing a programme for an effective scientific use of Britain's Antarctic stations. In 1955, he took leave from FIDS to organize the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1955-1958, planning to cross Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. Setting out from Shackleton Base on the Weddell Sea, he reached the South Pole on 19 January 1958. Here he met Sir Edmund Hillary who had laid depots in support of the remainder of his journey to Scott Base, Ross Island, where he arrived on 2 March.

Following his return to London, Fuchs was knighted and received many honours from scientific societies, including the special gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. After completing with Hillary the official account of the expedition The crossing of Antarctica in 1958, Fuchs returned to FIDS in 1959, which under his direction became the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in 1961 and was incorporated in the Natural Environment Research Council in 1967. Retiring in 1973, he remained active in polar and scientific affairs, serving as president of the Royal Geographical Society between 1982 and 1984. He died on 11 November 1999 at Cambridge.

Published work A time to speak, an autobiography by (Sir) Vivian Ernest Fuchs, Anthony Nelson Ltd. Oswestry (1990) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Fuchs] Of ice and men; the story of the British Antarctic Survey, 1943-1973, by (Sir) Vivian Ernest Fuchs, Anthony Nelson Ltd. Oswestry (1982) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(091)[pub.1982]


The collection is split into three sub-fonds comprising of FIDS material, Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1955-1958 papers and correspondence by Fuchs

Conditions Governing Access

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 'Sir Vivian Fuchs' by Bernard Stonehouse in The Polar Record volume 36 number 199 October 2000 p364-365 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and 'Sir Vivian Ernest Fuchs FRS 1908-1999' by John Arnfield Heap in The Geographical Journal volume 166 part 2 June 2000 p189-190 and Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events by Robert Keith Headland (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

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