Frank Hurley would do anything to get the perfect shot. As a teenager, the Australian photographer gained a reputation for standing in front of oncoming trains in order to get a stunning image. Yet it was in 1914, when he was 29 years old, that Hurley embarked on his most famous adventure — accompanying the legendary Ernest Shackleton on his journey to Antarctica.
The trip has since become infamous for its brutal accounts of survival and despair, yet Hurley managed to capture not only the first color images of Antarctica but also some of the first color photographs ever produced anywhere.
As a pioneer of a color screen plate technique called the Paget process, Hurley brought nearly 40 pounds of equipment on his trip. But all of it was lost when Shackleton’s ship, The Endurance, became trapped in ice and was crushed and sank. The images you see here were captured by Hurley over the course of the next nine months using only a pocket camera and three rolls of film.
In all, Hurley spent nearly three years trapped with Shackleton’s men, documenting their plight. The photographer himself became noted for his hardiness. “Hurley is a warrior with his camera,” wrote one of the sailors.
Amazingly, after making it out alive in 1917, Hurley went immediately to Europe to photograph World War I. He became a captain in the Australian Army and captured brilliant photographs of battle scenes at the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium. He would also serve as a war photographer in World War II.
To read more about Hurley and Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica, check out Kodak’s Endurance website.
All photos courtesy of Frank Hurley/State Library of New South Wales.
A sailor mending a net.
The Endurance’s rigging is covered in rime – white ice left from freezing fog.