University of St Andrews

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Taming the Leviathan: cataloguing whaling, seal hunting and fishing archives.

Images from the Discovery papers

The Taming the Leviathan project has been created to catalogue items from the Professor Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson papers as well as the archives of the Sea Mammal Research Unit. These collections contain potentially significant marine science records, and with thanks to the National Cataloguing Grants Programme and the Andrew Mellon Foundation, we can finally start to catalogue and provide access to these records.  

Professor Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948) was one of the most famous scientific personalities of his time. He was Professor successively of Biology and Natural History in the University of St Andrews for 64 years (1885-1948). In this project, we will be cataloguing his material relating to fisheries, seal hunting and marine sustainability. The papers to be catalogued include his correspondence with those concerned with the fishing and whaling industries, marine biology, oceanography and related disciplines. Other papers include his work and relevant papers on fisheries, in and around Scotland, his investigations into the Behring Sea fur-seal trade and his research and reports for the International Council on the Exploration of the Sea. Within this collection there is also a large amount of photographic material and lantern slides.

The Sea Mammal Research Unit archive is an extensive collection containing records relating to whaling from across the world, but mainly the Southern Oceans and the whaling stations on South Georgia. This collection includes research papers, reports, photographs, catch log books and field notes from the Discovery Committee, International Whaling Commission, National Institute of Oceanography and the whaling vessels. This collection contains an incredible amount of scientific data, which we are hoping can been used by scientists today in their marine research. 

These records will be available through our Archive Catalogue, where you can also search for other archives relating to these marine industries. 

Manuscript or muniment?

Not quite sure what the difference is? Learn about how to distinguish between our different archival collections.

Collection development policy

Discover how the Special Collections Division makes decisions on the development of its manuscript and muniment collections.

Current projects

Read about the exciting projects the Archive team is currently working on, and those that have been completed recently.