Into the Unknown with Frank Hurley

At the age of 25, in 1908, Hurley learned that Australian explorer Douglas Mawson was planning an expedition to Antarctica; fellow Sydney-sider Henri Mallard in 1911, recommended Hurley for the position of official photographer to Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition, ahead of himself. On his return, he edited and released a documentary Home of the Blizzard using his footage from the expedition.

Hurley was also the official photographer on Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition which set out in 1914 and was marooned until August 1916; Hurley produced many pioneering colour images of the Expedition using the then-popular Paget process of colour photography. He later compiled his records into the documentary film South in 1919. His footage was also used in the 2001 IMAX film Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. Frank Hurley took with him  over 600 glass plates most of those would have been about A5  about ( 6inch x 9inch ), Some  120  film for a  compact camera, some motion picture film, and a recently developed, colour film process. Mostly his time was taken up with taking still photographs with the large plate camera or filming using the film camera that he subsequently made into a  silent feature film.

Hurley was a tireless worker, incredible technician, perfectionist. When the ships fate was decided, Hurley had to leave his precious cameras behind, but Shackleton allowed him to keep a selection of photographs and motion-picture footage. Stripped to the waist, Hurley dove into the icy waters to retrieve his treasured images from the sinking wreck of the ship. Together, Shackleton and Hurley chose 120 glass plates to keep and smashed about 400; Shackleton feared that Hurley would endanger himself to return for them later. Hurley sealed the plates in metal tins with improvised solder, along with prints he had developed on board the ship. Hurley documented the remainder of their odyssey with only a handheld Vest Pocket Kodak camera and three rolls of film.

The photographs are from the large plate camera. As a consequence because of the large negative they are technically exceptional and  are of far greater quality than most people realize, that was possible for the day .Hurley was a master, to take and process these images in the conditions that he did.

National Library of Australia -Frank Hurley Negative Collection

Frank Hurley Royalcollection

Photographs that was taken on the Endurance expedition to Antarctica in between 1914-16. This story was probably the most remarkable survival stories of all time. No one's life was lost when many times during the journey they could have all perished. The most well known part of the journey was an open boat journey of over 800 miles in mountainous seas by Shackleton and several of his crew to get help for his men.This is truly one of the most remarkable survival stories of all time. Fortunately the story was well documented mostly by Frank Hurley the official photographer who took motion picture footage as well as the remarkable photographs that you will now see.