The story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic has long been one of my favorites. (I think I’ve seen the IMAX film at least three times.) But one aspect of the adventure I had not explored much was that of the ships photographer/cinematographer — Frank Hurley — and the great lengths he went to to capture the events of the disaster and the tough choices he had to make. An excerpt of the wgbh website reads as follows:
After they abandoned the debilitated Endurance, Shackleton ordered the crew members to pare their personal possessions down to two pounds each. Hurley had to leave his precious cameras behind, but Shackleton allowed him to keep a selection of photographs and motion-picture footage. Stripped to the waist, Hurley dove into the icy waters to retrieve his treasured images from the sinking wreck of the ship. Together, Shackleton and Hurley chose 120 glass plates to keep and smashed about 400; Shackleton feared that Hurley would endanger himself to return for them later. Hurley sealed the plates in metal tins with improvised solder, along with prints he had developed on board the ship. Hurley documented the remainder of their odyssey with only a handheld Vest Pocket Kodak camera and three rolls of film.
[read the entire article here]
How hard would it have been to smash those plates?! Ugh. But thankfully, 120 plates survived and we can catch a glimpse of what that experience must have been like. I thinks the stills capture an authenticity of the dire circumstance in which those men found themselves in. And of course, seeing any color photos of the early 20th century is always a treat.