- Founded in 1830
- Initially served as communication link between geographical societies in support of scientific geographical research
- Collection contains over two million documents including maps, charts, photographs, etc.
Will I ever become less amazed by the things we are able to see on this trip? I am begining to doubt it. Though I have never been overly knowledgable about the expeditions in question, I found myself wholly riveted as the principal librarian, Eugene Rae, regaled us with fascinating tales of exploration using the objects on the table before him. He started with a bit of information on the library, the most interesting to me being that they have over 4000 atlases with the oldest dating from 1480. They began collecting information in 1830 and are still collecting today. Eugene then took us on a voyage from the Arctic where we learned stories like that of James Clark Ross who went on a expedition to search for John Franklin who never returned from his own expedition into the arctic. Ross caught arctic foxes, tagged them with collars and used them to help find Franklin! In 1873 he discovered signs of a camp containing a biscuit and a block of chocolate that had been left undisturbed for 20 years and were still intact! The RGS still has them today! Leopold McClintock eventually found a progress report that confirmed the death of Franklin on his expedition.
In Central Africa, we learned the story of Richard Burden’s quest to find the source of the Nile River. After failed expeditions by both Burden and Speke, Dr. David Livingstone set out on his own expedition. He followed a fruitless trail and disappeared! Henry Stanley, a journalist, set out to find Livingstone and in 1871 he succeeded! “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
From Africa we journedy to Antarctica and sailed with Shackleton on his expedtion from 1901-1904. During the winter months it was too cold to venture outside so the crew made magazines called The South Pole Times that were type written and hand drawn!
Finally we ventured up Everest with George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on their final trek. In May of 1924, both Mallory and Irvine disappeared. Never to be heard from again until 1999 when an expedition uncovered Mallory’s body at the base of Everest.The boot pictured below was taken from his body. Eugene allowed us to smell it, and we were amazed by the musky scent of leather that solidly remained. As I leaned towards it, Rae said, “You’re smelling history.” and my heart leapt. What a fantastic thought!