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ALEXANDER, James Edward (1803-1885) African Explorer

Born Stirling, Scotland. For a period of a year, between 1836 and 1837, he explored Namaqualand, an arid area of Namibia, and Damaraland, north central Namibia.

BAIKIE, William Balfour, MDRN, FRGS, FBS, FSA(Scot) (African Explorer)

Born in Kirkwall, Orkney, (1824-1864), he was a Scottish explorer, naturalist and philologist. He founded from scratch the town of Lokoja which eventually became a capital of northern Nigeria. Today, in the Igbo language the name for white-man is “beke” and Britain is called “ala Beke”, (Baikie’s home) both corruptions of his name.

BOWERS, Henry (Birdie) Robertson (Antarctic Explorer) RETAIN

Born Greenock, Scotland (1883-1912). He was one of the five men from the “Terra Nova” Expedition who reached the South Pole 16th January 1912. He was acting as navigator to ensure they reached the exact position of the pole. Prior to the start of the trek he had already suffered horrendous hardship during “The Worst Journey in the World”, a five week ordeal in darkness with temperatures reaching minus 70 degrees F., in an endeavour to obtain Emperor penguin eggs. He perished in a tent along with Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Dr Edward Wilson and Petty Officer Edgar Evans when caught in a blizzard only eleven miles from supplies and safety.

BRUCE, James (1730 – 1794)

Explorer, born in Stirlingshire. Discovered the source of the Blue Nile in 1770.

BRUCE, William Speirs FRSE (1867-1921) Antarctic Explorer


COOK, James FRS RN (1728-1779)

Diaspora. James was named after his father, James Cook, from Ednam near Kelso in the Scottish Borders, who settled in the north of England and married Grace Pace of Thornaby-on-Tees. He went on to become one of the most famous explorers of the 18th century. Among many achievements he was the first European to discover and name the Sandwich Islands (Now Hawaii), and to navigate the eastern coastline of Australia. He named the New Hebrides and New Caledonia and was the first to circumnavigate New Zealand.

Craig Mathieson Polar Explorer.

Craig is the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s explorer-in-residence.

GORDON, Thomas Edward.

A Scottish soldier and explorer. In 1873-1874 he participated in the Second Yarkand Mission, and wrote an account of it in his “The roof of the world being a narrative of a journey over the high plateau of Tibet to the Russian frontier and the Oxus source on Pamir”.

John McDouall Stuart (1815-1866)

Born is Dysart, Scotland. He became one of Australia’s most accomplished explorers, being the first to traverse the country’s centre from Adelaide in the south, to what is now known as Darwin in the north. It allowed construction of the Australian Overland Telegraph Line and the Stuart Highway which was named in his honour.

LIVINGSTONE, David (1813 – 1873)

Born Blantyre, Scotland. Explorer and medical missionary. First white man to travel the length of Lake Tanganyika, discovered Victoria Falls and set out to discover the source of the Nile, but died before acheiving his aim. When Henry Stanley was sent to look for Livingstone, he uttered the famous greeting “Dr Livingstone, I presume”.

MACKAY, Alexander Murdoch (1849-1890) Explorer & Missionary

Mr Mackay of Uganda, as he became known, was born in Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He taught Ugandans carpentry, metal work and road making, and translated the bible into Swahili. He used his engineering skills to improve the country’s infrastructure and is still highly regarded in 21st century Uganda.

MACKAY, Dr Alistair(1878-1913) Antarctic Explorer

Born Scotland. One of a party of three from the Shackleton Antarctic Expedition, who on 16th January 1909 became the first people to reach the South Magnetic Pole. He was also a member of the first party to scale Mount Erebus, the second highest mountain in Antarctica.

PARK, Mungo. 1771 Selkirkshire – 1806 Nigeria

Born at Foulshiels Farm, near Selkirk, Scotland. Explored central Africa and found the long sought Niger river.

PATERSON, William FRS (1755-1810)

Born Montrose, Scotland. He was a soldier, explorer, administrator and botanist who collected plants in South Africa and Australia. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor General of Tasmania, and later appointed Governor of New South Wales.

RAE, John (1813-1893) Arctic Explorer

Born Orkney, Scotland. Discovered the last link in, and finally proved the existence of the Northwest Passage. Also discovered what happened to the ill-fated Franklin expedition. His accomplishments were much greater than any of the other 19th century arctic explorers, and yet he was denied all of the awards and honours granted to others.

ROSS, James Clark (1800-1862) Arctic Explorer


Born London. He was of Scottish lineage, his uncle being the explorer Sir John Ross, whom he accompanied on his first Arctic voyage. He served under his uncle again during his second Arctic exploration, during which they located the position of Magnetic North. Following his promotion to captain he commanded his own voyages to the Arctic and made many discoveries. The British Arctic Survey’s research ship RRS James Clark Ross is named after him.

ROSS, Sir John CB (1777-1856) Arctic Explorer.

Born Balsarroch, Wigtownshire, Scotland. In 1818 he commanded the first of a new series of attempts to find the Northwest Passage. That was followed by command of two further expeditions. Uncle  of Arctic explorer James Clark Ross

SIMPSON, Thomas (1808-1840) Arctic Explorer.

Born Dingwall, Scotland. His herculean efforts filled in blanks left by other explorers in the search for the Northwest Passage.

SLESSOR, Mary (1848-1915) Missionary

Born Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She spent much of her life in the Calabar region of Nigeria. She fought against the sacrifice of children, particularly twins, who were considered to be an evil curse and were usually left in the forest to be eaten by wild animals. She confronted total lack of education for women and the common practice of human sacrifice when a village elder died, on the assumption that he would need retainers to accompany him on his journey. She was a great civilising influence and was the driving force behind establishment of the Hope Waddell Institute in Calabar.


SPIERS BRUCE, William (1867 – 1921)

Oceanographer and Polar Explorer. Studied medicine at Edinburgh University, and immediately thereafter became one of the first of his era to explore the Antarctic (1892). Leader of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition which discovered Coats Land (1902-04). Founded the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory in Edinburgh (1907). Advised Scott (1912) that his supply dumps were to far apart to succeed!

The Polar Academy.

Set up by Craig Mathieson the Scottish Polar Explorer to give “Inspiration Through Exploration” to the youth of Scotland by taking them on Polar explorations.

WORDIE, Sir James “Jock” Mann (1889-1962) Geologist and Polar Explorer.

Born Glasgow, Scotland. Sailed with Shackleton on the Nimrod Expedition as geologist and head of the scientific staff. His polar achievements were unique among members of the expedition staff and later exceptional on a world level. He gained much distinction during his life.

Scottish Achievement, Influence & Heritage is a work in progress