The Rookery, the
scientific laboratory with Hussey (right)
examining the Dimes anemometer and James
(left) removing rime from the dip-circle, the electrograph
is on the right.
The Endurance Expedition
"Gentle Jimmy" was the expedition's magnetician and
physicist. Macklin wrote that he had: "some wonderful electrical machines
which none of us understood...and a joke of ours that annoyed him very
much was that he did not either."
Like many of the men who were to join the Endurance,
James joined almost by accident after hearing about the position from
someone else. In his case, he was walking down a Cambridge street while
a postgraduate student at the Cavendish laboratory, when a man James had met,
but didn't know very well called him from his window and asked if he
was interested in going to Antarctica. James gave no as an answer, but
was eventually convinced and so his name was given to the Master Christ's
College Cambridge, Sir Arthur Shipley who had been asked by Shackleton
to recommend scientific staff. Shipley interviewed James and a few weeks
later James attended an interview in London with Shackleton.
After 5 minutes, the interview was over
- "All that I can clearly remember of it is that
I was asked if I had good teeth, if I suffered from varicose veins,
and if I could sing." James was appointed the Expedition's
The son of an umbrella maker born at Paddington in
London. Reginald James read physics at London and Cambridge
On return from the Antarctic, James joined the British
army and was posted to Ypres in France in the Royal Engineers Sound
Ranging Section, after much front-line
work was made Captain and Officer in Command of
the British Army Sound Ranging School. James played a major part in
the development of the technique of Sound Ranging which was a means
of calculating the position of enemy guns using microphones to calculate
the arrival of the sound.
After the war, James became a lecturer in Physics
at Manchester University, becoming senior lecturer in 1921 and reader
in experimental physics in 1934. He was gaining a world-wide reputation
as an authority in the newly developing technique of X-ray crystallography.
To the great surprise of those who knew him, he announced
in 1936 that he was to marry and had applied for the position of Chair
of Physics at Cape Town University South Africa. Early in 1937 he moved
to South Africa with Annie, his wife where he took up the post. They
remained in South Africa for the rest of their lives, they had three
children born between 1938 and 1943.
From 1953-57 James was appointed Vice Chancellor and Acting Principal
of Cape Town University, in 1955 he was elected a fellow of The Royal
Society. He entered semi-retirement in 1958, but lectured part-time
basis until 1963. He died in Cape Town on the 7th of July 1964 at the age of 73.
References to Reginald James in Shackleton's
Sunday, January 24, was a clear sunny
day, with gentle easterly and southerly breezes. No open
water could be seen from the mast-head, but there was a
slight water-sky to the west and north-west. "This is the
first time for ten days that the wind has varied from north-east
and east, and on five of these days it has risen to a gale.
Evidently the ice has become firmly packed in this quarter,
and we must wait patiently till a southerly gale occurs
or currents open the ice. We are drifting slowly. The position
to-day was 76° 49´ S., 33° 51´ W. Worsley and
James, working on the floe
with a Kew magnetometer, found the variation to be six degrees
The drift was to the west, and an observation
on the 31st (Sunday) showed that the ship had made eight
miles during the week. James
and Hudson rigged the wireless in the hope of hearing the
monthly message from the Falkland Islands. This message
would be due about 3.20 a.m. on the following morning, but
James was doubtful about hearing
anything with our small apparatus at a distance of 1630
miles from the dispatching station. We heard nothing, as
a matter of fact, and later efforts were similarly unsuccessful.
The conditions would have been difficult even for a station
of high power.
Clark, Robert S.
Green, Charles J.
Hudson, Hubert T.
Hurley, James F. (Frank)
Hussey, Leonard D. A.
James, Reginald W.
Kerr, A. J.
Macklin, Dr. Alexander H.
Marston, George E.
McIlroy, Dr. James A.
Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Shackleton, Ernest H.
Second in Command
Wordie, James M.