Guide to the papers of HMS Discovery (as filmed by AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

The British National Antarctic Expedition
Papers of HMS Discovery (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
9 August 1901 - August 1904
Collection Number
15 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) Online Portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948-1997.


Scope and Contents

Logbooks kept during the HMS Discovery expedition of Antarctic exploration 1901-1904. Subjects include: details of bacteria from various specimens, recorded by first medical officer and Reginald Koettlitz; collections registers; station logs; measurements of crew; and diary 1901-1904 kept by Thomas Hodgson.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February-23 September 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the National History Museum Library, London, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1991 (AJCP Reel: M2596). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

Library, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London England.

For further information see Natural History Museum Library and Archives. (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding Aid Note

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2019. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Antarctica; Botany: Antarctica; Discovery, HMS (1900–04); Exploration: land; Great Britain; Hodgson, Thomas; Koettlitz, Reginald


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 138, pp. 50-51.[]

Biographical / Historical

The British National Antarctic Expedition, the first British expedition to the Antarctic for sixty years, was organised by the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society. In 1893 the biologist Sir John Murray, who had visited Antarctic waters on HMS Challenger, called for a renewal of Antarctic exploration. His call was taken up with enthusiasm by Sir Clements Markham, the president of the Royal Geographical Society.

Markham persuaded the Admiralty to release Lieutenant Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) to be leader of the expedition. Other members included Albert Armitage (second in command and navigator), Charles Royds (first lieutenant), Ernest Shackleton (third officer), Frank Wild (able seaman), Edward Wilson (surgeon and geologist) and Louis Bernacchi (magnetic observer and meteorologist).

HMS Discovery left Cowes in August 1901 and sailed to New Zealand. After a short stay, it sailed south and reached Cape Adare, the northerly point of Victoria Land, on 9 January 1902. The coast was explored as far as Cape Crozier and a base was then established at McMurdo Sound. Following the winter of 1902, Scott, Wilson and Shackleton journeyed southwards on the Barrier ice, finally turning back on 30 December 1902 at 82 degrees north 17 degrees south. They reached the ship, which was still icebound, in February 1903. Following the 1903 winter, several exploring trips were made, with Scott's party discovering the Polar Plateau. Two relief ships, the Morning Star and Terra Nova, arrived in January 1904. Plans were made to abandon the Discovery, but in February it broke free from the ice. The three ships then returned to New Zealand and the Discovery reached England in September 1904.

HMS Discovery was a barque-rigged auxiliary steamship, believed to be the strongest wooden ship ever built. It was owned by the Royal Geographical Society and launched on March 1901 by Lady Markham, the wife of the president of the Society. It was sold to the Hudson Bay Company in 1905.

Item Descriptions

Seal stomachs, January 1902 - January 1903 (File 1)

Contents of stomach of various varieties of seals. (13p.)

Seal temperatures (last page).

Memoranda for Discovery sledge party, November 1903 - December 1903 (File 2)

Instructions as to collecting specimens of moraine, taking measurements etc. (5p.)

Dredge and trawl. Garstang and Towler nets, January 1902 - August 1902; 26 February 1904 (File 3)

Details of depth of dredge and specimens brought up. (29p.)

Stations log, 14 August 1901 - 8 February 1902; 26 February 1904 - 29 March 1904 (File 4)

Details of wind, soundings, locality, sea, results from net, weather etc. (15p.)

Koettlitz Bacteria, 22 January 1902 - 1903 (File 5)

Details of bacteria from various specimens and samples by Reginald Koettlitz (1860-1916), first medical officer and botanist to the expedition. (64ff.)

Koettlitz Plankton, October 1901 - March 1903; August 1904 (File 6)

Details of plankton specimens by Reginald Koellitz. (20p.)(some pencil, faint).

Measurements of crew, September 1901 - October 1903 (File 7)

Details of height, weight, waist, biceps, grip, calf, blood count etc., made monthly for each crew member, including Capt. Scott, E.H. Shackleton, E.A. Wilson. (81p.)

Includes summary of scorbulic symptoms of crew.

Reginald Koettlitz Summary book, October 1901 - March 1902 (File 8)

Weekly summary of scientific work, results of trawls, measurements of sea water etc. (22p.)

Sea temperature register, 13 August 1901 - 26 June 1903; 14 April 1903 - 2 July 1903 (File 9)

Details of date and depth, temperature. (5p. and 7p.)

Hodgson Diary 1, 10 August 1901 - c. November 1903 (File 10)

Diary of voyage to New Zealand and biological notes on crustacea, seals, birds etc. Diary of sledge journey to Terror Bight, Nov 1903, and to Black and Brown Islands, Dec 1902-Jan 1903. (193p.)

Kept by Thomas Hodgson, biologist to the expedition.

Blank pages have not been filmed.

Hodgson Diary 2, 21 December 1901 - 14 March 1904 (File 11)

Subjects include: weather, scientific observations and work done - results of dredges and tow nets, examination of seals, birds and penguins; life at camp - writing letters, 'Hockey again', 'sing song in the evening'. (169p.)

Kept by Thomas Hodgson.

Collections Register 1, 9 January 1902 - July 1904 (File 12)

Antarctic, botanical, freshwater and land collection (6p.)

Details of algae, lichens, moss etc from Cape Adam, Mt Terror, Winter Harbour, Auckland Island, etc.

Collections Register 2, 9 August 1901 - July 1904 (File 13)

R. Koettlitz marine collection.

Details of diatoms, etc. (33p.)

Collections Register 3, 22 December 1901 - 30 July 1903 (File 14)

Details of fish, polyzoa, sponges, etc. from nets and holes. (210p.)

Collections Register 4, 1 August 1903 - 16 July 1904 (File 15)

Details of fish, worms, sponges, etc. from nets and holes. (62p.)