James Marr (biologist)

James Marr at Base A, Port Lockroy, 5 Nov 1944, during Operation Tabarin

James William Slessor Marr (9 December 1902 – 30 April 1965) was a Scottish marine biologist and polar explorer. He was leader of the World War 2 British Antarctic Expedition Operation Tabarin during its first year, 1943–1945.


Marr was born in Cushnie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on 9 December 1902. Son of farmer John George Marr and Georgina Sutherland Slessor.[1] While studying classics and zoology at the University of Aberdeen, he and Norman Mooney were selected among thousands of Boy Scout volunteers to accompany Sir Ernest Shackleton on the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition in 1921, on board the vessel Quest. The expedition failed to reach its final objective the Weddell Sea due to Shackleton's death on 5 January 1922. Upon his return Marr completed his MA in classics and BSc in zoology. In between he had to participate in fund raising events that were organised in order to cover the expedition's debts. Which included standing in scout uniform outside cinemas where the film Quest was being shown. Marr spent 1926 as a Carnegie Scholar at a marine laboratory in Aberdeen. He took part in the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) with Sir Douglas Mawson. He went on to become a marine biologist, taking part in the Discovery Investigations (1928–1929, 1931–1933 and 1935–1937) specializing in Antarctic Krill.[2]

In 1943, during World War II, Lieutenant Marr was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on appointment as expedition leader of Operation Tabarin. This was a secret British Antarctic Expedition launched in 1943 with the intent of establishing permanently occupied bases, thus solidifying British claims to the region.[2] Marr led the overwintering team at Port Lockroy in 1944 but resigned in December due to poor health. In 1949, he joined the National Institute of Oceanography as a Senior Scientific Officer working there until his death on 30 April 1965. His 460-page work Natural History and Geography of Antarctic Krill was published three years after his death.[3]

Honours and awards

  • 1936 - W. S. Bruce Medal - for his work in the southern ocean and more particularly for his monograph on the South Orkney Islands[4]
  • 7 October 1941 - Clasp to the Polar Medal (Bronze) - for good services between years 1925–1939, in the Royal Research Ships "Discovery II" and "William Scoresby": James William Sleesor Marr, Esq., M.A., BSc (now Temporary Lieutenant, R.N.V.R.), H.M. Ships Discovery II and William Scoresby.[5]
  • 30 November 1954 - Polar Medal - For good services with the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey in Antarctic expeditions: Temporary Lieutenant-Commander James William Slessor Marr, R.N.V.R., Base Leader, Port Lockroy, 1944.[6]

Mount Marr, in Antarctica, was discovered in January 1930 during the course of BANZARE and subsequently named after Marr.[7]

Marr Bay, on Laurie Island, South Orkney Islands was named in Marr's honour in 1933 by members of the Discovery Investigations.[8]

See also


  1. ^ "National Records of Scotland - Statutory records of births". Scotlands People. Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  2. ^ a b Haddelsey 2014, pp. 31–35.
  3. ^ Haddelsey 2014, pp. 223–224.
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "No. 35300". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 October 1941. p. 5785.
  6. ^ "No. 40339". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 November 1954. p. 6790.
  7. ^ "Mount Marr". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  8. ^ "SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica". Australian Antarctic Data Centre. Retrieved 2 July 2022.


  • Haddelsey, Stephen (2014). Operation Tabarin : Britain's secret wartime expedition to Antarctica, 1944–46. Stroud, UK: The History Press. ISBN 978-0-75249-356-5.

Further reading

  • "Operation Tabarin overview". British Antarctic Survey (BAS), Archives Service. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  • "History of BAS Research Stations". British Antarctic Survey, history. Retrieved 25 March 2021. Includes the 4 bases established during Tabarin: Base A, Port Lockroy; Base B, Deception Island; Base C, Coronation Island; Base D, Hope Bay.
  • Bryan, Rorke (2011). Ordeal by Ice: Ships of the Antarctic. Seaforth Publishing.
  • Dudeney, J. R.; Walton, D. W. (2012). "From Scotia to Operation Tabarin - Developing British Policy for Antarctica". Polar Record. 48 (4): 1–19. doi:10.1017/S0032247411000520. S2CID 145613031.
  • Fuchs, Sir Vivian E. (1982). Of Ice and Men. The Story of the British Antarctic Survey 1943-1973. Anthony Nelson.
  • Fuchs, Sir Vivian E. (1973). Evolution of a Venture in Antarctic Science - Operation Tabarin and the British Antarctic Survey in Frozen Future edited by Lewis, R. S. and Smith, P.M. New York: Quadrangle Books. pp. 234–239.
  • James, D. P. (1949). That Frozen Land. Falcon Press.
  • Kjær, Kjell-G.; Sefland, Magnus (2005). "The Arctic Ship Veslekari". Polar Record. 41 (216): 57–65. doi:10.1017/S0032247404003997. S2CID 131638156.
  • Lamb, Ivan Mackenzie (2018). The Secret South - A Tale of Operation Tabarin, 1943-46 edited by Haddelsey, S. and Lewis-Smith, R.. Greenhill Books.
  • Pearce, Gerry (2018). Operation Tabarin 1943-45 and its Postal History. ISBN 978-1-78926-580-4.
  • Robertson, S. C. (1993). Operation Tabarin. BAS. Information booklet produced for 50th anniversary.
  • Taylor, Andrew (2017). Heidt, D.; Lackenbauer, P. W. (eds.). Two Years Below the Horn. Operation Tabarin, Field Science and Antarctic Sovereignty, 1944-1946. Canada: University of Manitoba Press. ISBN 978-0-88755-791-0.
  • Wordie, J. M. (1946). "The Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, 1943-6". Polar Record. 4 (32): 372–384. doi:10.1017/S0032247400042479.
  • Various (1993). "Operation Tabarin 50th Anniversary". BAS Club Newsletter. BAS Club. 30 (Summer): 30–72. Includes articles by several expedition members.

External links

Media files used on this page

Operation Tabarin. James Marr (BAS AD6 1 19 A55 cropped).jpg
Three quarter portrait of Marr, wearing wooly hat.