Antarctica: Frank Hurley

Hurley's request to join the AAE


When Hurley heard of Douglas Mawson’s need for a skilled photographer for the planned Australasian Antarctic Expedition, he immediately applied and made time to see Mawson and plead his case despite his inexperience.


Permission denied by his mother

Hurley’s attempts to join his first expedition, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-1914, were nearly blocked by his anxious mother.

Correspondence of Douglas Mawson, 29 September - 16 October 1911, no date - from Mrs Hurley

Mrs Hurley wrote to Douglas Mawson, then organising his expedition south, explaining that her son was ill with a lung complaint and therefore not fit to join the expedition. In response to Mrs Hurley's plea Mawson asked Hurley to have a medical examination. Hurley passed the examination and sent Mawson an official medical certificate proving his fitness for the expedition.

As Official Photographer

On 20 October 1911 Mawson wrote to Hurley officially offering him a position on the Expedition team with the following conditions.

'You will have to conform to the regulations of the Expedition before leaving Hobart. This includes the fact that all photographs taken during the currency of the Expedition shall be copyright of the Expedition but shall always be published with the name of the photographer subscribed. It will be necessary for us to make use of these photographs at the expiration of the expedition in order to raise the necessary funds to meet liabilities.'

As part of the agreement Hurley's travel expenses to Hobart would be covered by the Expedition and all equipment supplied. On his return in April 1913 Hurley was promised ₤300.

Many weeks were spent preparing the equipment for the expedition. The photographic supplies included 48 dozen glass-plate negatives of assorted sizes with sensitised papers, 17,000 feet of film, a stereocamera and numerous standard cameras.



Made possible through a partnership with the Graham & Charlene Bradley Foundation.