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Welcome to SPRI

The Scott Polar Research Institute, established in 1920 as part of the University of Cambridge, is a centre of excellence in the study of the Arctic and Antarctic. Research covers both the natural and social sciences and is often interdisciplinary. The Institute also houses the World's premier Polar Library, extensive archival, photographic and object collections of international importance on the history of polar exploration, and a Polar Museum with displays of both the history and contemporary significance of the Arctic and Antarctic and their surrounding seas. The Institute is a sub-department of the Department of Geography.

SPRI's mission is to enhance the understanding of the polar regions through scholarly research and publication, educating new generations of polar researchers, caring for and making accessible its collections (including its library, archival, photographic and object collections), and projecting the history and environmental significance of the polar regions to the wider community for public benefit.

Research at SPRI

SPRI's five research groups investigate a range of issues in the environmental sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities of relevance to the Arctic and Antarctica:

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Graduate study

SPRI has a friendly community of postgraduate students. Many are working for the PhD degree, awarded on the basis of individual research and requiring three years of full-time study. Others are working for the MPhil in Polar Studies.

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The Polar Museum

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a unique collection of artefacts, journals, paintings, photographs, clothing equipment, maps and other materials illustrating polar exploration, history and science. Come and find out how past discoveries in the Arctic and Antarctic help today's scientists to investigate our changing environment.

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The Library offers a collection developed since the 1920s with over 700 current journals and over 250,000 printed works covering all subjects relating to the Arctic, the Antarctic, and to ice and snow wherever found.

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Staff and students

SPRI's staff publish regularly in a range of leading journals, and attract research funding from a wide variety of sources.

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Shackleton 100

Shackleton 100

The Shackleton 100 site brings together in one place information on events taking place across the world to commemorate the 1914-17 Antarctic expeditions.

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SPRI Review 2015

5th September, 2016


SPRI Review 2015, is now available online. SPRI Review is the Annual Report issued by SPRI, giving information on the Institute's activities over the past year.

Visions of the Great White South exhibition to open in London

22nd June, 2016


In August 2016 "Visions of the Great White South", an exhibition to be held at Bonhams will reunite the iconic photography of Herbert Ponting with the evocative watercolours of Edward Wilson over a century after the two men first dreamt up their plan for a joint exhibition. The British Antarctic Expedition, better known by the name of its ship the Terra Nova, took place from 1910-1913. Captain Robert Falcon Scott appointed Dr Edward Wilson, a close friend and a fine watercolourist, as his chief scientist. He also invited camera artist Herbert Ponting to join the expedition as official photographer, in a bold move in an era when high quality photography required great skill and careful attention in ordinary circumstances, let alone in the extreme environment of the Antarctic. Both Wilson and Ponting captured expedition life as well as keeping a visual record of scientific phenomena that the crew were studying.

Alongside the historic artworks, visitors will have the opportunity to see contemporary interpretations of the 'great white south'. For several years the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute, with the support of Bonhams and the Royal Navy, have run an artist in residence scheme which sends an artist to the Antarctic on board the icebreaker HMS Protector. Artists including Captain Scott's grand-daughter Daphila Scott and renowned wildlife artist Darren Rees will exhibit their responses to the frozen wilds of Antarctica.

Conference: The Historical Antarctic Sealing Industry: history, archaeology, heritage, site and artefact conservation, biodynamics and geopolitics

15th February, 2016


This multidisciplinary conference will provide a forum for academics and heritage specialists to communicate and develop their research and expertise concerning the historical Antarctic sealing industry.

Debenham Scholarship

12th January, 2016


The Scott Polar Research Institute is very pleased to be able to offer a Debenham Scholarship to one outstanding applicant for the M.Phil. in Polar Studies. This scholarship is worth £7,176 (2016-17 rate). The award is generously funded by a bequest from the late Barbara Debenham in memory of Frank Debenham, one of the members of Scott's 1910-1913 (Terra Nova) Expedition to the Antarctic, and founder and first Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute.

New exhibition of the historic Antarctic photographs taken by Herbert Ponting opens onboard polar tour ships

11th January, 2016


SPRI, and Salto-Ulbeek publishers, are pleased to announce a major new partnership with the Canadian polar tour operator, One Ocean Expeditions, to exhibit limited edition platinum prints of the historic photographs taken by Herbert Ponting during Captain Scott's British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913.

The exhibition of the Ponting prints opened on board the One Ocean Expeditions polar tour vessels, Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Sergei Vavilov, on 4 January 2016. The prints will be displayed on the ships until March 2018.

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