James Nelson collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1854 (leader Robert McClure) and certificates for Nelson

Administrative / Biographical History

James Nelson was born circa 1835, joining the Navy at the age of thirteen and serving in HMS President as an ordinary seaman between 1848 and 1849 and in HMS Wellington between 1849 and 1850. He was appointed able seaman in HMS Investigator on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1854 (leader Robert McClure), sent by the Admiralty to search for the Franklin's missing Northwest passage expedition by way of Bering Strait. After the expedition, Nelson was discharged from the Navy at the age of twenty, later becoming a customs officer at Gravesend


The collection is split into two sub-fonds comprising of expedition material and certificates 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 Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and British polar exploration and research a historical and medallic record with biographies 1818-1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Neville W Poulsom and Rear Admiral John A L Myres, Savannah Publications London (2000) SPRI Library Shelf 737.2 and 'Able Seaman James Nelson' by William G Mackenzie in North volume 17 number 5 September-October 1970 p14-18

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

Personal Names