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South With Endurance; Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917

One Hundred years ago Sir Ernest Shackleton set out to once again to take on the Antarctica, a place he had travelled to some years before. One of his crew was photographer Frank Hurley, also a man who had gone to the Antarctic several times before, capturing the terrifying magnificent of this desolate region and in doing so, earning himself a name for daring, endurance and a quality photograph.

Hurley captured the moment like it was, often at considerable risk to himself.

In this photographic journal kept by Hurley during the three years of the expedition we see through his lens and word, the graphic nature of the elements and the hardship the men endured.

Shackleton left England in 1914 in the Endurance, well equipped to handle the worst the elements could throw at them. The Endurance arrived at South Georgia on November 5, 1914 where Shackleton confirmed information of which he was already aware; the ice conditions in the Weddell Sea were severe. He made the decision to carry on and it was not until January 19, 1915 the ship became stranded in the ice with Shackleton and his men realising they would be there for some time.

They were eventually forced to leave the relative safety of the ship as the conditions on the ice were worsening and the ship was showing distress, making it unsafe to stay aboard.

The dogs had ice shelters built for them and the men off-loaded all the stores onto the ice, settling in for what turned out to be a very long time. It was not long after this the Endurance was crushed between two large ice flows and went to the bottom in deep water on the evening of 27 October, 1915. – this event was  captured with Hurley’s lens.

It is a real tribute to Shackleton that not one of the men on this ill-fated expedition perished, all eventually making safely back to civilisation. It eventually became apparent the only way out was to trek across the ice. Once this decision was made Hurley had to choose between his equipment and photographic plates. Smashing more than 400 glass plates and abandoning most of his camera equipment, fortunately managing to save the 32 Paget Colour Plates which were relatively new technology.

To be able to salvage so many of the plates in a time when survival was utmost and surplus equipment was being ditched is an incredible tribute to the life and times of one Frank Hurley, a man who never said no to a challenge, lived for his work and was noted as a work-a-holic.

Not content with surviving the Antarctic he enlisted in the First World War as the official photographer for the Australian Army going to Flanders, Palestine and Gallipoli.

In peacetime he discovered the art of photography had moved on and once again had to look in different areas for his work, meeting up with war time friends in Keith and Ross Scott when Ross landed in Charleville in 1920, becoming the first man to fly from England in 30 days. He joined them on their leg to Sydney and from that came his first venture into film, ‘’The Ross Smith Flight’.

From then on he actively sought commissions which found him in New Guinea and the Australian Outback, finally returning to war as the man overseeing the Official Cinematographic and Photographic Unit in the Middle East during the second world war,.

Returning to Australia after the war he was 61 years of age and facing yet more changes both in civilian life and family life. Undaunted he moved into print with his first book, Sydney: a camera study, which was followed by several more ‘coffee table’ style glossy books.

He remained active in the photographic industry and broadcasting medium until his death in 1962 at the age of 78.

Today his work is once again being studied and recognised for what it is: magnificent.

Encapsulated in this book there is only a small segment of his work, but it certainly illustrates the talent and the passion of the man who challenged the odds to capture that ‘perfect’ picture and succeeded.

AuthorFrank Hurley
PublisherAllen & Unwin