Just how many Christmas blogs can we get from our Royal Society collections? I’m not sure, but I thought I should have a go at writing at least one more, following on from two good ones last year (see Sending season’s greetings and How not to cook your goose). Naturally I started by typing ‘Christmas’ into our catalogue, and decided to highlight our fascinating volumes on the British National Antarctic Expedition 1901-04.

The six volumes of the BNAE contain over 900 photographs from the expedition, and are available to anyone able to pop into the Library and see them. We also have a number of associated papers in our Archive collection (reference numbers MS/547 and MS/591). This expedition numbered among its personnel two polar explorers who remain well known today, Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton. In fact our printed works collection contains editions of Scott’s ‘Voyage of the Discovery’, his account of this particular expedition. The rest of the party was made up of a mixture of naval officers, sailors and scientists. The Royal Society itself became involved as far back as 1898, by invitation of the Royal Geographical Society, and in ‘Voyage of the Discovery’, Scott describes the Society’s involvement. 

But back to Christmas and the somewhat tenuous link that these volumes have, other than featuring copious amounts of snow. Well the pictures below are of the expedition’s camp (NAE/5/513) and of a sledge ride (NAE/6/750), both taken on Christmas Day:

British National Antarctic Expedition 1901-04: the camp (ref. NAE/5/513) British National Antarctic Expedition 1901-04: a sledge ride on Christmas Day (ref. NAE/5/750)

Although there is nothing ‘Christmassy’ as such in these photos they were still able to mark the day in some ways. For example in Scott’s account of the expedition he recalls that in 1902, they named a mountain that they were passing in honour of the day. Incidentally Scott also named a mountain range in honour of the Royal Society, with individual peaks named after some of our Fellows, such as Mount Lister in honour of our former President, Lord Joseph Lister. The current Royal Society President, Sir Paul Nurse, will be visiting the Scott base in Antarctica in January 2013. Perhaps he’ll bring back some photographs to add to our archival collections relating to polar research …

If you are interested in learning more about this expedition or the history of polar exploration then why not search our online catalogues, or visit us here in the Library to see if there’s anything else of interest to you!

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