1867–1921, Scottish explorer and authority on the polar regions.
His introduction came on a British whaling expedition to the Falkland Islands and vicinity in 1892-93. Four ships set forth from Dundee on this pioneering Scottish whaling reconnaissance: the Active, commanded by Thomas Robertson, the Diana, commanded by Robert Davidson, the Polar Star, commanded by James Davidson, and the Balaena, commanded by Alexander Fairweather. While in the Antarctic region, Bruce (aboard the Balaena) and Charles W. Donald (aboard the Active) undertook scientific work in the Joinville Island group and northern Trinity Peninsula. The expedition actually met up with Carl Larsen and the crew of the Jason near Joinville Island. Bruce's desire and passion for further scientific work among the ice was now firmly in place.
First, going to the Antarctic as a ship’s surgeon in 1892, he later did survey work in Franz Josef Land and oceanographic work in the Arctic Ocean. He led (1902–4) the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition in the Scotia, performing much valuable scientific research in the Weddell Sea and discovering Coats Land. He established a meteorological station on Laurie Island (in the South Orkney group). Bruce edited the reports of the expedition (6 vol.) and wrote Polar Exploration (1911). Bruce made a number of voyages to Spitsbergen and became an authority on the islands.
One of the more humorous images he captured on a research expedition is a classic photo of a piper in a kilt, apparently serenading a penguin on the ice.
Although his voyage was indeed one of the most exciting for people of his time, the drama and glory was simply not there. As a result, some historians in Scotland are attempting to make him remembered and honored as a hero, instead of the excerpt in encyclopedias he has become.
After all...he was successful.
As part of the Scotia celebrations, the Dundee-based composer Gordon MacPherson has been commissioned to write a symphony to be premiered in the summer.