Shackleton Centenary

The centenary of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-17) – led by Sir Ernest Shackleton and photographed by the Australian photographer Frank Hurley is perhaps better known today as the Endurance expedition – is to be celebrated through the next three years.

The Antarctic enrichment resources provided for Silversea guests by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) will reflect this, and in particular examine Frank Hurley’s iconic images in innovative ways, seeking to inspire guests through the story of the Endurance and a wider understanding and appreciation of Antarctica.

In a modern, visual age, there is no better way to tell the story than through the eyes of Frank Hurley, the official expedition film-maker and photographer using 68 of the unique photographic glass plates which were rescued from the sinking ship by the Hurley under the direct instruction of Sir Ernest Shackleton and which have been securely stored at the Society for nearly a century.

In documentary terms, the photographic plates provide an extraordinary record of one of humankind’s greatest stories of survival against all odds.

How did Hurley overcome the technical challenges he faced in the Antarctic to achieve the remarkable quality of image he captured?

Sir Ernest and I went over the plates together, and as a negative was rejected, I would smash it on the ice to obviate all temptation to change my mind.

Finally the choice was made and the films and plates that I considered indispensable were stowed in one of the boats… Later I had to preserve them almost with my life; for a time came when we had to chose between heaving them overboard or throwing away our surplus food – and the food went over!

Frank Hurley’s account published in ‘Argonauts of the South’, 1925.

Through Hurley’s carefully chosen shots we come to a better understanding of the Antarctic landscape and challenges faced by those involved in documenting scientific observation.