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Traces of many of these men, the records they leave in maps, diaries, photographs, printed materials and ephemera are preserved in the State Library of New South Wales. They are a reminder of the contribution they made to our understanding of the world. In the worst case, they are a reminder of their sacrifice and of an untimely end to a life of potential and contribution.
Companions in the south, the paths of these men sometimes crossed in the trenches of the European war. Here, Australian photographer Frank Hurley met sledging companions Leslie Russell Blake and Eric Webb. A few years before, during their expedition towards the South Magnetic Pole, these friends nearly died in the harsh and dangerous conditions on the Antarctic plateau. Later, while on leave in London, Hurley met both Douglas Mawson and Ernest Shackleton.
The living conditions on the front often reminded men like Hurley of his experiences in the south. Only a short time after his extraordinary time lost on the bitter Antarctic Elephant Island and living for 4 1/2 months with 21 others under upturned lifeboats, Hurley wrote in his war diaries about the warmth of companionship. In his diary, he commented on his response to the carnage while walking through battlefields strewn with dismembered corpses :
The Menin road is like passing through the Valley of Death, for one never knows when a shell will lob in front of him. It is the most gruesome shambles I have ever seen, with the exception of the South Georgia whaling stations, but here it is terrible as the dead things are men and horses. [17 September 1917]