Shackleton Expedition

Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Endurance expedition was one of the most famous in Antarctic history. Photographer Frank Hurley recorded the perilous journey in photographs and diaries, now held in the collections of the State Library of New South Wales.

In October 1914, Frank Hurley joined Shackleton's British Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition, 1914-1917, as official photographer and film maker. The aim of the expedition was to cross the Antarctic continent via the South Pole. The Expedition party arrived at the remote whaling station of Grytviken, South Georgia, Atlantic Ocean, on board the Endurance on 5 November 1914. Despite warnings of heavy pack ice ahead, they departed one month later for the Weddell Sea, Antarctica.

During January and February of 1915, the Endurance became inexorably trapped in the ice. On 27 October 1915, the ship was crushed. Consequently, the Expedition party was forced to camp on the ice floe which drifted towards Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands. In three life boats from the Endurance, the party braved treacherous seas, to reach Elephant Island on 15 April 1916. One of the boats, named the James Caird, was later strengthened, and Shackleton, together with five companions, sailed 800 miles across stormy seas to South Georgia to instigate the rescue of the remaining men stranded on Elephant Island.

The remainder of the party, led Frank Wild who was second in command of the expedition, lived on Elephant Island in a structure of two upturned boats positioned on the rocks and fastened together with canvas. These makeshift quarters, termed 'the snuggery', housed 22 men in cramped and freezing conditions for four months. The men were finally rescued by the Chilean trawler Yelcho on the 30 August 1916, when they were reunited with Shackleton, who had organised their rescue. So ended one of the most dramatic and perilous expeditions in Antarctic history.

View Frank Hurley's striking colour photography of the expedition
View Hurley's striking colour photography of the expedition

Read Frank Hurley's diary account of the crushing of the Endurance
Crushing of the Endurance

Read of their perilous escape into open waters aboard the lifeboats
Polar Castaways

See a sketch of the snuggery where the men lived for four months on Elephant Island
See sketch of the snuggery where the men lived for four months on Elephant Island

View a selection of Frank Hurley's famous images of the ship and expedition View a selection of Hurley's famous images of the ship and expedition

 

> Read another manuscript account of the British Trans-Antarctic Expedition by Frank Wild, who was second in command of the expedition catalogue link  

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