I’ve just finished watching Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure – a documentary film of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s now-legendary 1914-1916 British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. He wanted to be the first man to cross the Antarctic continent on foot.
He never fulfilled this dream. What he did do though was embed his name forever into the history books.
Through sheer perseverance and a determination that made him unique, he and his crew experienced conditions that any man would shy away from.
He watched his beloved ship ‘Endurance’ be crushed by ice, camped on ice floes under horrific conditions, spent many days at sea in life boats with his crew, and perhaps the most incredible part of this journey, he and 5 other men rowed 800 miles from Elephant Island to South Georgia.
This is the part I can’t believe. They rowed in the lifeboat, the James Caird, across the worlds most dangerous ocean, experienced gale force winds, treacherous seas and freezing, wet conditions.
All with the hope and belief that he could accomplish this formidable task.
They eventually made it to South Georgia. They unfortunately landed on the opposite side to the whaling station, so Shackleton and two others walked the 30 miles across South Georgia, with leather boots, 2 compasses, an axe and an old rope. They walked non-stop for 36 hours over dangerous crevasses, formidable peaks and complicated land. They eventually reached their destination – an unbelievable feat.
This is a story of courage, perseverance, hope and the human spirit. This heroic adventurer had eternal optimism, unequalled leadership qualities and believed anything could be accomplished. This caring gentle man nurtured his crew like they were his own family.
This really is one of the greatest journeys of all time….watch this film (click on the link below) and please let me know what you think of the film in the comments below.
Ok, so as I’m all fired up about the ANTARCTIC, here are some of the coolest facts (sorry again:)
1.The lowest recorded Antarctic temperature of -89.2 C was at the the Russian Research Station, Vostok on 21st July, 1983…
– When I went to the Antarctic, I wore clothes made from state of the art breathable fabrics that were warm, windproof and, most importantly, kept me dry. Early Antartic explorers wore heavy woollen fabrics and outer layers that would soak up the moisture produced by sweat.
Getting dressed in the morning would often involve putting on outfits that were FROZEN SOLID with ice in the fabric. The garment would gradually become more flexible as it warmed up.
– Antarctica is the highest, driest, windiest, coldest place on earth.
– Shackleton’s Hut is situated at Cape Royds, Ross Island and was constructed by Shackleton and nine of his crew in 1908. They spent an entire year in this hut during his 1907-1909 expedition. Today it still holds over 5000 items including cuff links, darned trousers, a jar of gherkins, penguin eggs, seal blubber, books and canned food which have all been preserved by the cold weather.
Google has recently taken some fisheye photographs and created a 360 degree panoramic photograph of the hut.
To view inside Shackleton’s hut, click on the map below. You can use the navigator on the top left, or I find it easier to click the mouse anywhere on the map and drag the photo to view. You can also make the map bigger by clicking on the top right corner. Spend some time really looking at the provisions. It’s as though time has stood still…absolutely fascinating!!!
– At the beginning of winter, the Antarctic sea ice advances by approximately 100,000 square kilometres PER DAY, and eventually doubles the size of Antarctica, adding up to an extra 20 million square kilometres of ice around the land mass. WOW! That’s approximately double the size of Australia’s land mass. This ice then breaks up and melts each year. Unbelievable.
I spent part of this weekend ‘gallery minding’ my photography exhibition, FROZEN LENSES – a photographic journey to the Antarctic.
I spoke to lots of people, showed them maps, talked about photos and described myself as a ‘passionate photographer.’
Later on in the afternoon I had the chance to do some reading – a book I’ve recently acquired called ‘The Heart of the Great Alone – Scott, Shackleton and Antarctic Photography’ by David Hempleman-Adams, Sophie Gordon and Emma Stuart.
This book is beautiful. The photographs are stunning. As I was reading I came across a couple of pages dedicated to Frank Hurley – the Australian photographer who (amongst other journeys) accompanied Shackleton on the Imperial Transantarctic
Expedition 1914-1917. Hurley was hired to accompany Shackleton and his men who were attempting to cross the Antarctic continent on foot (1800 miles.) His job was to document the journey and secure photographic evidence of the trip.
In Buenos Aires on the 12th October 1914 Hurley set sail aboard the Endurance with Shackleton and his crew. He commenced photographing them and working life aboard the ship.
So far, this is like any other photographer. Being passionate about the job at hand, I can totally relate to this.
What happens next though in this story is ABOVE AND BEYOND.
The ‘Endurance’, on its maiden voyage was built to crush through pack ice. After five months the expedition reached the freezing Weddell Sea and were within sight of land when the Endurance became trapped in the freezing ice. Nine months later, the ship was finally crushed, leaving the crew stranded on drifting ice floes in the unforgiving Antarctic.
Hurley photographed in adverse conditions that were unimaginable. With temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celcius, he continued his photography until the ship was finally destroyed by the ice. His darkroom was the ship’s walk in refridgerator.
Cold and then more cold.
His determination and commitment to his craft were unflinching and above his personal safety. During the final disintregation of the the ship, Hurley spent almost three days out on the ice, not wanting to miss one moment of the final peril of the vessel.
He had salvaged most of his glass plates and camera equipment from the wreck, but on November 2nd 1915 he wanted to retrieve the film canisters and negatives.
In Argonauts of the South (1925), Hurley wrote:
“We hacked our way through the splintered timbers and , after vainly fishing in the ice-laiden waters with boathooks, I made up my mind to dive in after them. It was mighty cold work groping about in the mushy ice in semi-darkness of the ship’s bowels, but I was rewarded in the end and passed out the three precious tins.”
Now read that again. He dived down into the FREEZING ANTARCTIC WATERS to retrieve canisters of film to be developed to show the world his photographs?
I understand doing whatever it takes to get the shot and preserving it for all to see, but honestly, Hurley’s story shows commitment that far surpasses many ordinary photographers.
A great deal of money had been advanced to the expedition against the rights to the films and photographs and it was well known how valuable these photographs were to pay for the cost of the expedition.
Hurley and Shackleton had the agonising task of deciding which 120 plates to keep and destroying the remaining 400 plates. This was necessary to reduce the weight of the equipment the men would have to carry across the ice.
This would be truly heart wrenching. As a photographer, I know how personally attached I am to each and every photograph. A huge amount of energy is expended taking each pic and to have to decide which ones to destroy would be an incomprehensible task.
Take a look at this shot of me (the girl in sitting down in the cream hat) photographing in the Antarctic earlier this year. Hurley and I share the same passion for photography, but I live in such different times.
I wonder what Frank Hurley would say if he saw this photo of me sitting comfortably in a zodiac, using a high end DSLR camera and lens, dressed in contemporary polar clothing?
I am in awe of a courageous human being like Frank Hurley. What a true inspiration.
If you would like to enjoy some of these fantastic photographs, you can obtain a copy of this beautiful book here.
Hempleman-Adams David, Gordon Sophie, Stuart Emma. ( ) The Heart of the Great Alone – Scott, Shackleton and Antarctic Photography, United Kingdom: Royal Collection Enterprises,pages 60-62