About Our Archives

Glacier crevasse

Crevasse in the Upper Zadazan Glacier, Switzerland 1894. Courtesy: H. F. Reid/NSIDC

Polar and glacial exploration began in the 1850s. In these first ventures, the lines between heroism and madness sometimes blurred. Woefully unprepared or inexperienced groups ventured across thousands of miles of ice sheet or frozen pack ice, usually spending years in the process. Starvation, hypothermia, and disorientation claimed the lives of many explorers. For those who endured and survived the extremes, NSIDC’s archival collection bears witness to their valuable observations and measurements.

NSIDC has gathered records from the early days of polar exploration (1850 to 1970). The archives stocks an impressive collection of old polar books, selected for their first-person descriptions or meticulous records of early ventures to the poles. Our renowned, globe-spanning Glacier Photograph Collection provides witness to a warming planet.

An Essential Resource

Collection and preservation of photos, field notes, rare books, measurement logs, and hundreds of other types of records from the pre-digital past are a boon to researchers who track change. Reading Nansen’s descriptions of Arctic sea ice in the1880s, or the weather records of expeditions to Australia, Antarctica, or central Africa, gives a historical perspective on changes in sea ice and climate. In many cases, early measurements are quite accurate—for example, early maps of the ice fronts of Greenland's glaciers.

See Also

Data at NSIDC
The National Snow and Ice Data Center offers hundreds of data products to researchers, commercial applications users, and others worldwide.

NSIDC Glossary
NSIDC's Glossary contains general and scientific terms related to Earth's frozen places. You can search for particular terms in the Keyword box, or browse subsets of the glossary.

Related Resources

Norlin (CU Libraries)
The University Libraries system on the CU-Boulder campus includes five branch libraries–Business, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Math/Physics, and Music—and Norlin Library, housing Archives, Government Publications, Special Collections, East Asian, and Science libraries.