Polar exploration

Wrap up warm and take a journey to the icy ends of the earth. From the countless attempts to find the fabled North-West Passage in the Arctic Circle, to the race to reach the South Pole, read about the triumphs and the tragedies of history's polar explorers.


The Terra Nova was built in 1884 as a whaling ship but became better known for her role in Polar exploration and her association with Captain Scott. 

Since North-West Passage exploration began over 400 years ago the polar ice caps have started to melt due to global warming.


'Aurora Australis' was the "first book ever written, printed, illustrated and bound in the Antarctic".

Christopher Middleton's HMS 'Discovery'.jpg

In 1741, Anglo-Irish MP Arthur Dobbs commissioned Christopher Middleton, a captain in the Hudson’s Bay Company, to search for the North-West Passage.


In 1612, explorer Thomas Button sailed in two ships, Resolution and the Discovery, in search of the North-West Passage.

Watercolour showing Noss Head, by Horatio Nelson Head (tile)

For August’s Caird Library and Archive Item of the Month, Graham Thompson presents a collection of drawings by a midshipman who showed much promise, but died young before he had established his reputation as a Royal Navy officer. 


Henry Hudson was a well-known English explorer and navigator in the 17th century. He was the third explorer to search for the North-West Passage.


Thomas James’s 1631 voyage to find the North-West Passage became famous thanks to his memoir The Strange and Dangerous Voyage of Captain Thomas James (1633).


The recent discovery of HMS Terror may shed new light on the much-debated fate of Franklin's final expedition. Our curators, Claire Warrior and Jeremy Michell, cover what we know of the story so far.


Captain James Cook came out of retirement to look for the North-West Passage in 1776. It was to be his last expedition and he never returned home.