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Dr Charles Swithinbank

Dr Charles Swithinbank

The Institute is sorry to learn of the death of Dr Charles Swithinbank.

Charles died peacefully on the morning of 27th May 2014. Many will be familiar with Charles' exceptional achievements concerning science and exploration of the polar regions, especially in Antarctica, which spanned six decades. Charles was an excellent and supportive colleague and a friend to the Institute over many years. There will be a funeral, followed by a memorial service in due course.

An obituary has been published in the Telegraph.

His funeral will be at 11.15 on Monday 16th June, in the West Chapel of Cambridge Crematorium.

Emeritus Associate


I am a glaciologist and have been involved in polar research for 60 years. My connection with the Scott Polar Research Institute goes back to 1949, when I became a member of the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1949-52. I was employed by the expedition until 1955 and then at the SPRI until 1959. From 1959 to 1963 I was a Research Associate and Lecturer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. From 1963 to 1974 I was at the SPRI and from 1974 to 1986 I was with the British Antarctic Survey, first as Chief Glaciologist and then as Head of the Earth Sciences Division. I have spent three winters and more than 20 field seasons in the polar regions. Since retiring I have been involved in the interpretation of satellite images of Antarctica, mapping, and the development of ice runways for transport aircraft.

I am an Emeritus Associate of the SPRI although I work mostly at home.


  • 1959 - 1963: Research Associate and Lecturer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 1963 - 1974: SPRI
  • 1974 - 1986: British Antarctic Survey, first as Chief Glaciologist and then as Head of the Earth Sciences Division


The SPRI Library catalogue lists more than 100 of my publications. I have published four books describing my own field work. They are aimed at the general reader and describe adventures in the pursuit of science — rather than the science itself. All the books are printed on art paper and lavishly illustrated, with maps, endnotes, glossary and references. The books can be purchased from the SPRI Museum Shop (or direct from me for a signed copy).

  • Vodka on Ice, A Year with the Russians in Antarctica (UK, The Book Guild, 2002). Hardbound, 8vo, ix + 165 pp, 64 colour plates, 6 B&W, 5 maps, notes, glossary, appendix, index. ISBN 1857766466.
  • Foothold on Antarctica, The First International Expedition (1949-1952) through the Eyes of its Youngest Member (UK, The Book Guild, 1999). Hardbound, 8vo, viii + 260 pp, 100 photographs, 8 maps, notes, references, bibliography, glossary, index. ISBN 1857764064.
  • Forty Years on Ice, A lifetime of Exploration and Research in the Polar Regions (UK, The Book Guild, 1998). Hardbound, 8vo, x + 228 pp, 80 colour plates, 15 B&W, 7 maps, notes, references, glossary, index. ISBN 1857762614.
  • An Alien in Antarctica, Reflections upon Forty Years of Exploration and Research on the Frozen Continent (USA, McDonald & Woodward, 1997). Hardbound, 4to, xviii + 214 pp, 57 colour plates, 27 B&W, 10 maps, notes, references, glossary, index. ISBN 0939923432.


My photograph library contains thousands of transparencies of Arctic and Antarctic subjects, all of which are available for reproduction. For details, please contact the Picture Library.