Polar Record


The polar ship Scotia

Angus B. Erskine a1 and Kjell-G. Kjær a2
a1 16 Braid Farm Road, Edinburgh EH10 6LF
a2 Torbeinsund, 9136 Vannareid, Norway

Article author query
erskine ab   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
kjaer k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


The ship that the oceanographer Dr William Speirs Bruce used on the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 1902–04, was originally a sealer named Hekla, built in Norway in 1872. In 1889 the Norwegian skipper Ragnvald Knudsen explored the northeast coast of Greenland between latitudes 74° and 75°, and in 1891–92 the ship was used by the Danish naval officer, Lieutenant C. Ryder, to explore the inner recesses of Scoresby Sund, finally visiting Angmagssalik. In 1902, re-named Scotia and captained by Tam Robertson from Peterhead, she sailed to the Weddell Sea under the leadership of Bruce. The southern winter of 1903 was spent at Laurie Island in the South Orkney Islands, and in March–April 1904 the party discovered 150 miles of previously unknown coastline of the Antarctic continent, reaching a farthest south of 74°01′S, 22°00′W. An extensive programme of marine survey and biological research was carried out. Back in the UK, Bruce sold the ship, and she returned to sealing, based in Dundee until appointed to be the first international North Atlantic Ice Patrol ship after the tragedy of Titanic. The Great War caused her to become a freighter in the English Channel area until she caught fire and was burnt out on a sandbank in the Bristol Channel on 18 January 1916.

(Received August 2004)