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

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.


Further reading