Sir Raymond Priestley collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton), the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), The Royal cruise of 1956-1957 and the United States Antarctic Expedition, 1958-1959 (operation Deep Freeze IV), correspondence by Priestley, collected papers including lecture notes and scientific papers and diaries from his time as vice-chancellor at Melbourne University.

Administrative / Biographical History

Raymond Edward Priestley was born in 1886. He was educated at Tewkesbury Grammar School and read botany and geology at Bristol University College. He joined the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton) as a geologist. He took part in the sledging programme, working under Professor Edgeworth David of Sydney University, and then continued his studies at Cambridge and Sydney universities.

In 1910, he joined the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), as geologist to the Northern Party. This group left Cape Evans on 5 January 1911 to carry out the exploration of the coast west and south of Cape Adare. The party was to have been brought back by ship to the main base before the winter of 1912 set in, but gales and ice prevented the ship from reaching them. Priestley and five companions wintered in a snow cave on Inexpressible Island on very few rations. On 30 September 1912 they set out on the 200-mile sledge journey to Cape Evans, arriving there on 7 November. Priestley described his experiences on that journey in Antarctic Adventure.

He served with distinction as a signals officer in the Second World War, then returned to Cambridge as Fellow of Clare College to write a history of the Signal Service and complete his Antarctic reports. From Cambridge, he was appointed vice-chancellor of Melbourne University (1935-1938), and vice-chancellor of Birmingham University (1938-1952). Knighted in 1949, he became acting-director of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey from 1955 to 1959, and president of the Royal Geographical Society from 1961 to 1968. He died on 24 June 1972.

Published work, Antarctic adventure, Scott's northern party, with a new foreword by Sir Vivian Fuchs, by Sir Raymond Edward Priestley, C. Hurst & Co. London (1974) SPRI Library Shelf (7) 91(08)[1910-1913 Scott]


The collection is split into seven sub-fonds covering the four expeditions, correspondence, collected papers and the Melbourne diaries 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 Scott of the Antarctic by Elspeth Huxley, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London (1977) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Scott, R.F.] and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and Antarctic Adventure, Scott's Northern Party by Raymond Priestley, C Hurst & Co. London (1974) SPRI Library shelf (7)91(08) [1910-1913 Scott] and 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

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 are possible.

Related Material

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library. This material includes photographic collections for the Antarctic expeditions Priestley was a member of. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.