Douglas Clavering collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Naval Scientific Expedition, 1823 (led by Clavering) to Svalbard and Greenland and correspondence by Clavering.

Administrative / Biographical History

Douglas Charles Clavering was born on 8 September 1794 in Holyrood House in Edinburgh. He entered the Navy circa 1808, later serving as midshipman in HMS Shannon, employed in protecting British trade off the coast of North America. Promoted lieutenant, he served on the North America Station and in the Mediterranean until 1821 when he was appointed commander of HMS Pheasant, sailing with the astronomer Edward Sabine in a voyage to conduct pendulum observations in the Atlantic.

In 1823, Clavering was appointed to lead the British Naval Scientific Expedition, sent at the request of the Board of Longitude to Svalbard and the east coast of Greenland to enable Sabine to extend his observations on the length of the seconds pendulum. Setting out from London in HMS Griper in May 1823, the expedition visited Hammerfest, Norway, before sailing to northwest Svalbard where Sabine was left to conduct observations while Clavering attempted to sail Griper to a high northern latitude. He reached 80° 21 minutes North on 6 July before pack ice forced him to return to the observatory.

Setting sail from Svalbard later in July 1823, the expedition reached the east coast of Greenland, exploring the coast northwards and attaining latitude 75° 12 minutes North before returning south to Sabine , where an observatory was established. Leaving Sabine to his work, Clavering set out on a boat journey south, encountering a small group of Eskimos on the south coast of Clavering the most northerly inhabitants of east Greenland ever encountered by Europeans. In August 1823, the expedition sailed south in Griper, discovering and naming Foster's Bay [Foster Bugt], before heading for Norway for further observations, then returning to England.

In January 1825, Clavering was appointed commander of HMS Redwing, engaged in the suppression of the slave trade on the West Coast of Africa. He was lost at sea in 1827.

Published work Journal of a voyage to Spitsbergen and the east coast of Greenland, in his Majesty's ship Griper, by Douglas Clavering, New Philosophical Journal, Edinburgh (1830) SPRI Library Shelf Pam 91(08)(3)[1823 Clavering]


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 Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) ISBN number 0824076486 and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and 'Commander D C Clavering's voyage to East Greenland, 1823', by A G E Jones in Musk-ox number 19 1976 p15-20 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

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

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