Erich von Drygalski collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by von Drygalski with Antarctic explorers and scientists including William Speirs Bruce (leader of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 11902-1904) and Hugh Robert Mill.

Administrative / Biographical History

Erich Dagobert von Drygalski was born on 9 February 1865 in Knigsberg, East Prussia. He was educated at the universities of Knigsberg, Bonn, Leipzig and Berlin, before working as an assistant at the Institute of Geodesy at Potsdam.

In 1891, he undertook a preliminary expedition to West Greenland sponsored by the Gesellschaft fr Erdkunde zu Berlin to select a suitable site for a major study of the motion of the Greenland ice cape in preparation for the German glaciological expedition, 1892-1893 (leader Erich von Drygalski). The results were published in a two-volume work in 1897.

In 1899, he was appointed professor of geography and geophysics at the University of Berlin, and the following year was selected to lead the German South Polar Expedition, 1901-1903. The expedition ship Gauss was beset and wintered in the pack ice about 80 kilometres off the Wilhelm II Coast. Expedition members were confined to small-scale local studies of sea ice, marine biology and the nunatak Gaussberg, their nearest point of land. The results of the expedition were published between 1905 and 1931 in twenty volumes with supplementary atlases under the collective title Deutsche Sdpolar-Expedition 1901-1903.

In 1906, Drygalski was appointed professor of geography at the University of Munich, a post he held until his retirement in 1934. In 1910, he participated in the German Preliminary Airship Expedition to Svalbard (leaders Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin and Heinrich Prinz von Preussen), conducting a study of the glaciations of Spitsbergen. During the First World War, he served as a battalion commander in Belgium. After the war, he became interested in political and anthropological geography, travelling extensively in Siberia, Europe, Asia and North America. He died on 10 January 1949 in Munich.

Published work, Grnland-Expedition der Gesellschaft fr Erdkunde zu Berlin 1891-1893 by Erich von Drygalski, W.H. Khl, Berlin (1897) SPRI Library Shelf (38)91(08)[1891-1893], Deutsche Sdpolar-Expedition 1901-1903 im Auftrage des Reichministeriums des Innern by Erich Dagobert von Drygalski and others, Walter de Gruyter & Co. Berlin (1921-1931) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1901-1903 Drygalski]


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient.

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 Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and Arctic exploration and development c.500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Anthony Holland, Garland Publishing Inc. New York (1994) and Erich von Drygalski 1865-1949 by Gunter Tiggesbaumker in Geographers, Bibliographical Studies (1983) volume 7 p23-29 SPRI Library Shelf Pam 92[Drygalski] and Erich von Drygalski by Wolfgang Louis Gottfried Joerg in The Geographical Review (1950) volume 40 number 3

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.

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Further accessions possible.