The Antarctic collection

Weddell seal

Weddell seal

The Discovery expedition was one of the first official British explorations of the Antarctic. It launched the careers of Ernest Shackleton, Dr Edward Adrian Wilson and expedition leader Robert Falcon Scott.

Organised by the Royal Society and the Royal Geographic Society, the Discovery expedition set out to undertake scientific and geographical research in the Antarctic. The expedition ran from 1901 to 1904 and was welcomed with much enthusiasm by the public on its return.

Discovery's findings were investigated at the Museum and published in more than 50 reports. The expedition led to significant progress in the fields of biology, zoology, geology, meteorology and magnetism. The Museum holds many of Discovery's manuscripts, original reports and field notebooks.  

Dr Edward Adrian Wilson

Dr Wilson was a prominent figure in early Antarctic exploration. His expertise as a painter and illustrator was invaluable to the Antarctic expeditions. Wilson believed in the importance of capturing the true nature of wildlife by sketching subjects live in the field where possible.

His illustrations have true scientific value and many were reproduced in the reports following the expedition. The Museum holds many of Wilson's watercolours and reproductions.

Terra Nova    

The Terra Nova expedition (191013), which was also led by Scott, had specific scientific and geographic objectives. Scott wanted to continue the work he had begun during the Discovery expedition, and also be the first to reach the geographic South Pole.

Tragically, Scott and his party – comprising Edward Wilson, Lawrence Oates, Henry Bowers and Edgar Evans – died on the return journey from the pole. Search parties later retrieved their journals, photographs and notebooks. Scott's widow Kathleen bequeathed to the Museum the scientific collections he had made on his voyage.