Published 20th November 2019

2019 Stamp Set: Centenary of the Scott Polar Research Institute

The British Antarctic Territory is delighted to mark the centenary of the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI).

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The stamps illustrate the origins of SPRI and the Institute today.

Founded in 1920, as part of the University of Cambridge, the Institute is the oldest international centre for polar research within a university.

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 and projecting the history and environmental significance of the polar regions to the wider community for public benefit.

£1.75 Captain Robert Falcon Scott

The British Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Terra Nova Expedition after its ship, took place between 1910 and 1913. It was led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and had a number of scientific and geographical objectives, including journeying to the South Pole.

Frank Debenham, a geologist, who participated in the expedition, had first proposed a polar centre in December 1912, shortly after receiving the news that Scott and his four companions had died returning from the South Pole. The idea for the Institute followed Debenham to Cambridge, where he and several other scientists had come together to write up their results. Following his appointment to the University’s first Chair of Geography in 1919, Debenham’s lobbying brought about the establishment of the Institute in 1920, bringing together the records of polar expeditions and acting as a fitting memorial to the lost men.

In one stamp, you can see Scott at his desk in the hut erected at Cape Evans in McMurdo Sound during the Terra Nova Expedition together with the ship as photographed by Herbert Ponting in Antarctic waters.

£1.75 The Scott Polar Research Institute

Located close to the centre of Cambridge, UK, the building that now houses the Institute, its 50 or so researchers and its Polar Library, Archive and Museum was completed in 1934 specifically for polar research.

Sculpted by Scott’s wife, Kathleen, the bust of Scott has been at the front of the Institute since 1934. An inscription on the front of the building reads “Quaesivit arcana poli videt dei”, which translates as “He sought the secret of the pole but found the hidden face of God”.

In the second stamp you can see the Institute building and a close up of the bust of Scott.

During the early years when it occupied one room in the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge, the Institute’s aim was to provide a place where polar travellers and explorers could meet and where material of polar interest might be collected and made accessible for future research.

Today, the SPRI is a centre of excellence in the study of the Arctic and Antarctic. Both doctoral and masters students are trained there. Research includes the natural and social sciences and is often interdisciplinary, as were both of Captain Scott’s expeditions. 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 Polar Museum within the Institute is free to visit. It hosts displays of both the history and contemporary environmental significance of the Arctic and Antarctic and their surrounding seas. The museum has produced a range of online resources, including short films and resources for teachers, as well as providing ever growing searchable catalogues about their extensive polar collections.

The Government of the British Antarctic Territory has proudly supported and worked with SPRI for a number of decades.

Technical details

PhotographsScott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
DesignerBee Design
PrinterCartor Security Printing
ProcessStochastic lithography
Perforation13 ¼ x 13 per 2 cms
Stamp size38 x 30.6mm
Sheet layout10
Release date18 November 2019
Production Co-ordinatorCreative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd