DEB: Geographer, Scientist, Antarctic Explorer

A biography of Frank Debenham

Peter Speak


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'Don't go looking for Antarctica without this book.' - Susan Solomon




Frank Debenham – ‘Deb’ to all who knew him – was one of the youngest members of Scott’s Terra-Nova Expedition of 1911–13. Largely overlooked by history, he was nevertheless at the heart of that great adventure, during which he had his own life-threatening experiences. He was destined to go on to far greater things, for which he was awarded both the OBE and the Polar Medal, and to make his mark indelibly in Cambridge history.

Originally from Australia, Deb worked in Cambridge writing up the Expedition’s cartographic and survey reports and then more permanently as lecturer in geography. It is thanks to Deb’s conviction that Cambridge University has today a designated Geography Department, and he applied that same passion to fulfilling Scott’s wish for a centre for polar research. The now world-renowned Scott Polar Research Institute was founded in 1920, and Deb ensured its continued development through to his retirement in 1946.

This thoroughly researched account is supported by illuminating extracts of correspondence, interviews and personal communications, as well as numerous photographs and maps, some published here for the first time. Written in an engaging and accessible style, this book gives insight into the character of Deb, the caring and sensitive family man, and Deb, the geographer, scientist and Antarctic explorer.

His legacy lives on today, to the benefit of many.

The author
Peter Speak, MA, M.Phil. (Cantab), FRGS, Emeritus Associate of Scott Polar Research Institute, was Head of the Geography Department at the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology, 1950–87. In 1983 he became Master of Philosophy in Polar Studies and then Director of the M.Phil. course, 1989–94, both at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge. Peter has published several articles and is still active within the Polar academic community.

Category: Biography/Polar History/Local History
Publisher: Polar Publishing Ltd in association with the Scott Polar Research Institute
ISBN: 978-0-9548003-1-4 Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9548003-2-1 Limited Edition Hardback
Publication date: 7 June 2008
Format: 210 x 148 mm, 144 pages
Illustrations: 4 pp colour plate section, 28 b&w illustrations
Price: £12.99 paperback, £25 limited edition hardback

Available from bookshops or direct from the Scott Polar Research Institute,
Tel: (+44) 1223 336540 or Website:




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