Frank Hurley on Shackleton's Expedition to the Antarctic

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Frank Hurley on Shackleton's Expedition to the Antarctic
Frank Hurley, ‘Sea Elephant and Harem, South Georgia', 1914
Frank Hurley on Shackleton's Expedition to the Antarctic

In 1914, Frank Hurley joined Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic. The mission stalled when its ship, Endurance, became impacted in the frozen Weddell Sea, trapping the team for the winter. The marooned ship drifted a thousand miles north until the thaw of the following spring crushed and sank it.

Although Hurley’s attempts to photograph were hindered by the difficult weather conditions, he managed to capture the spectacular moment that the ship sank, having waiting for moment on the ice with his camera for three days. As the team abandoned ship, Shackleton told Hurley to leave all his equipment and film behind but the photographer disobeyed and took his glass plate negatives, his previously developed cinema film, a small Kodak camera and three rolls of unexposed film. 400 glass plates were left behind.

With little other choice the team undertook a hazardous voyage in three small lifeboats to the uninhabited Elephant Island. Shackleton then took a small party in one of the lifeboats across 1,500 kilometres of the Southern Ocean to the remote island of South Georgia before returning to rescue Hurley and the rest of the party on Elephant Island four months later.

Hurley’s images that survived the expedition are full of the drama and menace the men must have seen in the alien landscape.

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