ⓘ Scott Polar Research Institute. The Scott Polar Research Institute is a centre for research into the polar regions and glaciology worldwide. It is a sub-departm ..


ⓘ Scott Polar Research Institute

The Scott Polar Research Institute 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.


1. Research

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.


1.1. Research Glaciology and Climate Change Group

This groups 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.


1.2. Research Glacimarine Environments Group

This groups 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.


1.3. Research Polar Landscape and Remote Sensing Group

This groups 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.


1.4. Research Polar Social Science and Humanities Group

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.


2. The Polar Museum

SPRI operates the Polar Museum, which presents a range of objects, artworks, documents and photographs from the Institutes 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 Funds Museum of the Year prize in 2011. 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 and Bank Holiday Mondays, 10:00 – 16:00 and on Sundays, 12:00 - 16:00. Admission is free.

The museum is one of the eight museums and botanic garden which make up the University of Cambridge Museums consortium.


2.1. The Polar Museum Key objects in the Polar Museum collection

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:

  • A folding camera used by Robert Falcon Scott at the South Pole, 1912, on the British Antarctic Expedition 1910–13 Terra Nova.
  • A reindeer-skin sleeping bag used by Captain Lawrence Oates during the journey to the South Pole on the British Antarctic Expedition 1910–13 Terra Nova. The bag was found on 12 November 1912 by the search party looking for the polar party.
  • A sextant used for navigation by Captain Frank Worsley on the James Caird during the Ernest Shackletons Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–16 Endurance.

2.2. The Polar Museum Key artists represented in the Polar Museum collections

The wide ranging collections include art and photographic works by several notable artists and photographers, including:

  • Isobel Wylie Hutchison
  • Kenojuak Ashevak
  • Kathleen Scott
  • Pudlo Pudlat
  • Edward Adrian Wilson
  • Frank Hurley
  • Sidney Nolan
  • Herbert Ponting

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.


3. Library and Collections

The Scott Polar Research Institute houses the worlds most comprehensive polar library and archives. The Institutes 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 librarys 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.


4. History

While climbing Mount Erebus in November 1912 as part of Robert Falcon Scotts ill fated Terra Nova expedition, Frank Debenham came up with the idea of a polar research institute. After the end of World War I, he co-founded the institute with Raymond Priestley and was its first director.

The Grade II listed main building 1933–1934 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.

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  • Scott Institute into a world center for polar research and information, introducing and editing the Universal Decimal Classification for use in Polar
  • Glacier, named after the Scott Polar Research Institute Cambridge, England. List of glaciers in the Antarctic Glaciology Institute Ice Stream Geographic
  • 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
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  • the de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd, Hendon and courses at the Scott Polar Research Institute Cambridge, under Professor Frank Debenham. In 1931 he was appointed
  • as Liz Morris, is a glaciologist and Senior Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute University of Cambridge. She has been a visiting professor
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  • Retrieved 3 December 2016. Polar Record, , vol. 8, issue 54, p. 253 Scott Polar Research Institute Cambridge  Polar Bytes no. 19 cam.ac.uk. Retrieved
  • During the Second World War Bertram was initially based at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, where he worked on the development and testing