Primary Sources 50 stories from 50 years of the Archives

British Antarctic (Terra Nova) expedition

Raymond Edward Priestley was reading geology at University College, Bristol (1905–1907) when he was invited to work as a geologist alongside Edgeworth David with the British Antarctica (Nimrod) expedition (1907–1909) led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. After the expedition, Priestley worked with Edgeworth David at the University of Sydney to write up their geological and geographical findings. It was there that Priestley was recruited as the geologist and meteorologist for the British Antarctic (Terra Nova) expedition (1910–1913) led by Robert Falcon Scott.

Priestley was dispatched with the northern party to Cape Adare before landing a further 200 miles south for what was scheduled to be a short period of fieldwork. In summer clothes and with eight weeks provisions, the six-man party found themselves trapped at Terra Nova Bay. The expedition ship which was to pick them up was unable to make it through the unseasonal ice and they were forced to winter for six and a half months in a snow cave surviving on penguin and seal meat.

The endurance, resilience and ultimate survival of the northern party was tempered by the deaths of the expedition leader Robert Falcon Scott and the entire southern party in 1912. One of Scott's pipes was retrieved from his last tent and is now held in UMA.

After serving in World War I, Priestley returned to England in 1920 to resume his work and write up the findings of the British Antarctic expedition. His research on glaciers led him to take his bachelor of science after which he studied a diploma of agriculture at Christ's College, Cambridge. He became a fellow of Clare College and served the University of Cambridge in numerous administrative positions from 1924 to 1934. On the strength of having excelled in several simultaneous positions, Priestley was offered the first salaried vice-chancellorship of the University of Melbourne (1935–1938).

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