The Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) is a centre for research into the polar regions and glaciology worldwide. It is a sub-department of the Department of Geography in the University of Cambridge, located on Lensfield Road in the south of Cambridge ( ).
SPRI was founded by Frank Debenham in 1920 as the national memorial to Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his companions, who died on their return journey from the South Pole in 1912. It investigates issues relevant to the Arctic and Antarctic in the environmental sciences, social sciences and humanities. The Institute is home the Polar Museum and has some 60 personnel, consisting of academic, library and support staff plus postgraduate students, associates and fellows attached to research programmes. The Institute also hosts the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.
|Scott Polar Research Institute|
|Director||Professor Julian A. Dowdeswell|
SPRI has several research groups. Notable researchers that have been based at the Institute include current Director, Julian Dowdeswell, British diplomat Bryan Roberts, and glaciologist Elizabeth Morris.
This group's work involves quantifying the state of the cryosphere using remote sensing by satellites, plus accurate field measurements and computer simulations, to understand the processes in detail. In particular, the group has been able to observe the melting of the Larsen Ice Shelf, the rapid retreat of ice in western Antarctica, and increased summer melting in northern Canada. This work has contributed greatly to understanding climate change.
This group's work focuses on the dynamics of ice-sheets and delivery of sediment to the marine environment. The group uses geophysical and geological evidence gathered by icebreakers in the polar seas.
This group's work focuses on the processes which modify the polar and sub-polar environments, such as Arctic vegetation, and snow and ice cover. Improving techniques for measuring vegetation from satellite data is an important part of the work.
This is an interdisciplinary group covering the anthropology, history and art of the Arctic. Its work includes looking at politics and environmental management in the polar regions, with particular expertise in the religion, culture and politics of the Russian North.
|The Polar Museum|
The Polar Museum, Scott Polar Research Institute
|Accreditation||Arts Council England accredited|
|Collections||Objects, art, archive and picture library holdings related to polar research and exploration|
|Director||Professor Julian Dowdeswell|
|Architect||Sir Herbert Baker|
|Owner||University of Cambridge|
|University of Cambridge Museums|
SPRI operates the Polar Museum, which presents a range of objects, artworks, documents and photographs from the Institute's extensive polar collections. The collections include material related to polar history, exploration, science, art and Arctic cultures.
In 2010 the renovated Polar Museum opened its doors to the public; the reopening was met with widespread acclaim and the museum was shortlisted for the Art Fund's Museum of the Year prize in 2011. The museum welcomed 52,392 visitors in 2017. It contains displays of Arctic art and artefacts, material from the nineteenth century search for the Northwest Passage, the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (including the last letters of Captain Scott) and contemporary research and policy relating to the polar regions.
As well as permanent exhibits, the museum regularly hosts special exhibitions. The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10:00 – 16:00, and admission is free.
Important material representing a wide of range of people concerned with the polar regions is cared for by the Scott Polar Research Institute and on display in the Polar Museum includes:
The wide ranging collections include art and photographic works by several notable artists and photographers, including:
The Institute is actively adding to its collection of contemporary polar art through its artist in residence scheme, managed by the Friends of SPRI, which enables an artist to travel to the Antarctic and the Arctic each year.
The Scott Polar Research Institute houses the world's most comprehensive polar library and archives. The Institute's Thomas H. Manning Archive contains an unparalleled collection of manuscript material relating to the polar regions, research and exploration. For scientists and scholars, the library offers a collection developed since the 1920s covering all subjects relating to the Arctic, the Antarctic, and to ice and snow wherever found. For industry, it is a prime information source on such subjects as exploration and exploitation of natural resources and on the environmental implications of such activities in the polar regions; on the design of ice-strengthened shipping and selection of sea routes; and on problems of construction and transportation in cold environments. The library also offers an unrivalled resource for the needs of international relations and strategic defence.
The Picture Library contains a photograph collection from both the Arctic and Antarctic, mainly depicting the history of exploration in the polar regions, including much material from the expeditions of Scott and Shackleton. Its Thomas H. Manning Polar Archives are named in honour of the British-Canadian Arctic researcher, a university alumnus. Its work includes an oral history programme which interviews people who have worked in the polar regions over the years. Due to high demand, the Polar Archives runs a booking scheme for anyone wishing to consult material.
The most recent addition to the library is the Shackleton Memorial Library, which in 1999 won a regional award from the Royal Institute of British Architects. This part of the building holds much of the library's Antarctic collection, as well as some of its subject-based material.
The library is part of the Inspire Libraries scheme and is open to anyone with a polar interest to use for reference work and research.
The Grade II listed main building (1933–34) is by Sir Herbert Baker. The small halls have shallow domed ceilings painted with the aspect of the globe from north and south poles, by MacDonald Gill. The small gardens are home to a range of sculptures and historic artefacts relating to the polar regions.
Beau Riffenburgh (born 1955) is an author and historian specializing in polar exploration. He is also an American Football coach and author of books on football history.Bernard Stonehouse
Dr Bernard Stonehouse (1 May 1926 – 12 November 2014) was a British scientist who specialised in polar research and popular science.Brian Roberts (polar expert)
Brian Birley Roberts (23 October 1912 – 9 October 1978) was a British polar expert, ornithologist and diplomat who played a key role in the development of the Antarctic Treaty System.Charles Swithinbank
Charles Winthrop Molesworth Swithinbank (17 November 1926 – 27 May 2014) was a British glaciologist and expert in the polar regions who has six places in the Antarctic named after him.
He was born in Pegu, Burma, the son of Bernard Swithinbank of the Indian Civil Service, and educated at Bryanston School. He served for two years with the Royal Navy before going up to Pembroke College, Oxford to read Geography in 1946, graduating DPhil in 1955.
Having developed an interest in glaciology he became a research fellow at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, studying the distribution of sea ice and its effect on shipping in the Canadian Arctic, which involved the first hand observation of sea ice conditions from aboard the icebreaker Labrador in the Baffin Island region.
In 1959 he moved to the University of Michigan to take up an appointment as a research associate and lecturer, spending three summers in the Antarctic investigating the glaciers which feed the Ross Ice Shelf in New Zealand’s Ross Dependency. He then returned to Britain to take up a further research appointment at the Scott Polar Research Institute, spending two summers and a winter in the Antarctic as the British representative at the Soviet Novolazarevskaya ice shelf station.
He worked at the Scott Polar Research Institute until 1976, from 1971 as chief glaciologist and from 1974 as head of the Earth Sciences Division of the British Antarctic Survey. During this period he revisited the Antarctic in the summer of 1967-68 and took part as sea ice specialist in the transit of Canada’s Northwest Passage by the supertanker Manhattan in 1969, and in the return passage to the North Pole by the nuclear submarine Dreadnought in 1971.
In 1976 he joined the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. Every other season he spent several months in the Antarctic, primarily directing low level radio echo-sounding flights to measure the thickness of the ice within the British Antarctic Territory.
After his retirement from the Survey in 1986 he joined up with two pilots to locate suitable landing strips in Antarctica to enable flights to be inaugurated for the benefit of mountaineers, skiers and other tourists.
He died in 2014. He had married Mary Fellows (née Stewart), with whom he had a son and a daughter.David Drewry
David John Drewry (born 22 September 1947, in Grimsby) is a glaciologist and geophysicist who was described in the conferring of an honorary degree by Anglia Ruskin University in 1998 as having an "outstanding reputation as an eminent scientist of international repute". Drewry has also received several awards for his work. Since 1 July 2015 he is the Vice-President of the European University Association.Edward Adrian Wilson
Edward Adrian Wilson FZS ("Uncle Bill") (23 July 1872 – 29 March 1912) was an English physician, polar explorer, natural historian, painter and ornithologist.Elizabeth Morris
Elizabeth Mary Morris, OBE (born 7 September 1946), also known as Liz Morris, is a glaciologist and Senior Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge. She has been a visiting professor at the University of Reading since 1995. Formerly head of the ice and climate division at the British Antarctic Survey, from 1986 to 1999, and president of the International Glaciological Society, from 2002 to 2005. She was awarded the Polar Medal in 2003 for her services to Antarctic science.Frank Debenham
Frank Debenham, OBE (26 December 1883 – 23 November 1965) was Emeritus Professor of Geography at the Department of Geography, Cambridge University and first director of the Scott Polar Research Institute.Henry Robertson Bowers
Lieutenant Henry Robertson "Birdie" Bowers (29 July 1883 – 29 March 1912) was one of Robert Falcon Scott's polar party on the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition (1910–1913), all of whom died during their return from the South Pole.Herbert Ponting
Herbert George Ponting, FRGS (21 March 1870 – 7 February 1935) was a professional photographer. He is best known as the expedition photographer and cinematographer for Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Expedition to the Ross Sea and South Pole (1910–1913). In this role, he captured some of the most enduring images of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.Institute Ice Stream
The Institute Ice Stream (82°S 75°W) is an ice stream flowing north into the Ronne Ice Shelf, Antarctica, southeast of Hercules Inlet. The feature was traversed by the United States Antarctic Research Program (USARP) Ellsworth–Byrd Seismic Party, 1958–59, and the USARP – University of Wisconsin Seismic Party, 1963–64. It was delineated by the Scott Polar Research Institute – National Science Foundation – Technical University of Denmark airborne radio echo sounding program, 1967–79, and in association with Foundation Ice Stream and Support Force Glacier, named after the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England.James Wordie
Sir James Mann Wordie CBE FRSE LLD (26 April 1889 – 16 January 1962) was a Scottish polar explorer and geologist.John Heap (geographer)
John Arnfield Heap, CMG (5 February 1932 – 8 March 2006) was an English polar scientist who helped protect Antarctica from exploitation. His son, Tom Heap, is the BBC's Rural Affairs Correspondent and presenter of BBC One's Countryfile programme and a reporter for the same channel's Panorama programme and BBC Radio 4's Costing the Earth programme.John Rymill
John Riddoch Rymill (13 March 1905 – 7 September 1968) was an Australian polar explorer, who had the rare second clasp added to his Polar Medal.Julian A. Dowdeswell
Julian A. Dowdeswell (born 18 November 1957) is a British glaciologist and is the Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and a Professor of Physical Geography in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge.Kathleen Scott
Kathleen Scott, Baroness Kennet, FRBS (27 March 1878 – 25 July 1947) was a British sculptor. She was the wife of Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the mother of Sir Peter Scott, the painter and ornithologist. By her second marriage, to Edward Hilton Young, she became Baroness Kennet, and mother to the writer and politician Wayland Hilton Young.Launcelot Fleming
William Launcelot Scott Fleming (7 August 1906 – 30 July 1990) was a British Anglican bishop. He was the Bishop of Portsmouth and later the Bishop of Norwich. He was also noted as a geologist and explorer.Piers Vitebsky
Piers Vitebsky is an anthropologist and is the Head of Social Science at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, England.Polar Record
Polar Record is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal covering all aspects of Arctic and Antarctic exploration and research. It is managed by the Scott Polar Research Institute and published by Cambridge University Press. The journal was established in 1931 and the editor-in-chief is Ian R. Stone (Scott Polar Research Institute).