Derbyshire weather expert’s letters ahead of Scott’s expedition to South Pole go up for auction

Historic letters from a Derbyshire weather expert who was involved in a famous ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic could sell for thousands of pounds at auction.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 3:55 pm
Letters from Derbyshire meteorologist Sir George Simpson with photos of the balloon experiments.
Letters from Derbyshire meteorologist Sir George Simpson with photos of the balloon experiments.

Correspondence from Sir George Simpson, meteorologist on the Antarctic Terra Nova Expedition in 1910-1913, has been found in a scrapbook.

The two letters sent by the former Derby School pupil to electrical engineer WP Granville are estimated to raise up to £2,000 at auction on Tuesday, June 15.

Simpson constructed one of the continent’s first weather stations to provide important information to help a team of explorers which was led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

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He also carried out balloon experiments to test the altitutde. Photographs of these experiments accompany the two letters.

One of the letters, dated November 27, 1910, reads: “Dear Mr Granville, the small case of (weather) balloons reached us safely in Christchurch. I thought it best not to open it before absolutely necessary, but I have no doubt that the balloons will be in good condition.

‘We are now really on our way south although we call at Duneden tomorrow to take 100 ton of coal on board. We have had a splendid passage so far and we are a real happy party. Everyone has the highest hopes of a successful expedition and I am sure that there will be a lot of good scientific work done."

The Terra Nova Expedition, officially the British Antarctic Expedition, saw Captain Scott and four companions reach the South Pole on January 17, 1912. However, a Norwegian team, led by Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it by 34 days. Scott’s entire party of five died on the return journey.

Six months after Scott’s death, Simpson wrote another letter to Mr Granville. The letterhead states 68 Wilson Street, Derby, and the correspondence reads: “Dear Mr Granville, I expect to be in London at the beginning of next week and intend to call on you to thank you for the balloons and tell you about the work done with them. You will be glad to hear that they were absolutely splendid and gave me no trouble at all.”

Jim Spencer, head of books and works on paper at Hansons, said: “What a fascinating find to make in a scrapbook. Bids are already coming in. Scientific weather observations would have been crucially important to the Terra Nova Expedition team. These newly-discovered letters and images provide important an insight into how that was achieved.”

The letters and other works on paper, some dating back as 1873, are due to be sold at Hansons’ Library Auction at Bishton Hall, Staffs, nd carry an estimated price of between £1,000 and £2,000. To find out more information, email [email protected] or access the catalogue at

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