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October 14, 2012

Photos of Antarctic Nearly 100 Years Ago

If you ever need some encouragement for sticking with photography when times get tough, you should read about the adventures of Frank Hurley. Born in Australia in 1885, he took up photography as a young man and eventually became skilled enough to be selected as the official photographer for multiple expeditions to Antarctica and for the Australian military in both world wars. Among his many photographic escapades, one stands out from among the rest: being stranded in the Antarctic for nearly two years.

Selected as the official cameraman for Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Hurley set out in October 1914 for Antarctica with Shackleton and 26 other men. As they neared their destination, the ship (named the Endurance) became trapped in the thick ice. Unable to do anything but wait it out, the crew spent the next 10 months living on the ship.

Hurley made the best of his unfortunate situation, turning the ship’s fridge into a darkroom and creating hundreds of glass plate photographs. During this time, he wrote of the unique challenges he was facing in creating his photos:
Darkroom work rendered extremely difficult by the low temperatures it being -13°C outside. Washing [plates] is troublesome as the tank must be kept warm or the plates become an enclosure in an ice block…. Development is a source of annoyance to the fingers which split & crack around the nails in a painful manner.

[There is] difficulty in obtaining sufficient water for washing operations.
Here’s a selection of Hurley’s photographs:

(via PetaPixel)


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