George Strong Nares collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (led by Nares) correspondence including mention of the search for the missing British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1845-1848 (leader Sir John Franklin) and the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), the final part of the collection covers papers and certificates for Nares

Administrative / Biographical History

George Strong Nares was born on 24 April 1831 at Straloch, near Aberdeen. He was educated at the Royal Naval School, New Cross and entered the Royal Navy in July 1845. He passed his lieutenant's examination in 1852, serving that year as second mate in HMS Resolute on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (Captains Henry Kellett and Francis Leopold McClintock). This expedition was ordered by the Admiralty to search for the Franklin Arctic Expedition in the region of Melville Island. The voyage took him far into the pack ice of the Canadian Arctic and he took part in several sledging journeys. Promoted to lieutenant on his return to England, Nares concentrated on his naval career and by 1862 had been promoted to the rank of commander. In July 1865, Nares was appointed to command the paddle steamer Salamander to visit the coast of Queensland, Australia and to maintain links with the new settlement on Albany Pass. He was also instructed to carry out some surveying duties and much time was spent investigating the hydrography of the coastal waters. Having established himself as a surveyor, Nares spent the next few years conducting marine surveys.

In 1872, Nares commanded HMS Challenger during the first two years of the British Naval Voyage, 1872-1876 (Chief Scientist Charles Thomson). Nares conducted important oceanographic research, discovering that the very cold water found in the depths of the ocean, even in the tropics, was of polar origin. Challenger also became the first steam vessel to cross the Antarctic Circle south of the Indian Ocean. After the expedition reached Hong Kong for a refit, Nares was recalled to command the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876, sailing from Portsmouth in two ships, HMS Discovery and HMS Alert. The expedition was sent by the Admiralty to attempt to reach the North Pole by way of Smith Sound and to explore the coasts of Greenland and adjacent lands. Although the attempt to reach the North Pole was unsuccessful, the expedition made some geographical discoveries and returned with a large quantity of scientific data.

On his return from the Arctic, Nares was knighted and awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. He was appointed Marine Adviser to the Board of Trade in 1879, remaining in that post until 1896. On his retirement, he was appointed Acting Conservator of the River Mersey, a post he held until 1910, and he continued to take an active interest in Arctic and Antarctic exploration, serving on the planning committees of several expeditions. He was appointed rear admiral in 1887 and vice admiral in 1892. He died on 15 January 1915.

Published work Narrative of a voyage to the polar sea during 1875-1876 in HM Ships Alert and Discovery by Capt. Sir G S Nares, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington London (1878) SPRI Library Shelf (41)91(08)[Nares 1875-1876]


The collection is split into three sub-fonds comprising of expedition material, correspondence and papers 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 The Polar Record volume 18 number 113 May 1976 p127-141

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 Nares and the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.