Endurance in her death throes photographed by Frank Hurley. One of the images from Photographs of Scenes and Incidents in Connection with the Happenings to the Weddell Sea Party. Estimate: £30,000-40,000.

Sir Ernest Shackleton: His Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1917 is remembered as one of the great feats of human daring and valour. Attempting to sail across the Weddell Sea, the expedition ship Endurance became trapped in pack ice, eventually disintegrating in October 1915. The dramatic escape of the crew is the stuff of legend. The expedition’s official photographer, Australian Frank Hurley, captured life on board the stricken vessel and the ship’s final hours.  


A newly discovered rare presentation album of Hurley’s Photographs of Scenes and Incidents in Connection with the Happenings to the Weddell Sea Party is offered at Bonhams Travel and Exploration Sale in London on Wednesday 26 February. Consigned by a private owner in the UK, it is estimated at £30,000-40,000.

Bonhams Shackleton Join The World
Endurance, Shackleton Expedition by Frank Hurley.

Frank Hurley joined the Shackleton expedition as the official photographer in 1914, having gained experience with Douglas Mawson’s 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition. After Endurance became immobilised in the frozen Weddell Sea, he photographed the daily life of the crew as they awaited developments.  It was hoped that seasonal weather changes would warm the sea sufficiently to allow the ship to float free, but before this could happen Endurance gradually and inexorably buckled under the pressure of the ice.  Hurley spent the last three days of the ship’s life photographing the unfolding drama from every angle.  

Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition Join The World Magazine
Shackletons Antarctic Expedition by Frank Hurley.

The unavoidable decision to abandon ship presented Hurley with an unenviable task. With a long march ahead into an uncertain future, weight was at a premium and he was forced to destroy 400 plates to lessen the load. (It could have been worse; Mrs Chippy, the ship’s cat had to be shot). Of the 120 plates that were carried to safely, 79 were used to produce the carbon prints in the presentation album, only six other copies of which are known to exist. (One copy was presented to King George V immediately after Hurley returned to England). Hurley later used the material to produce lantern slides for lectures and a documentary film, South, in 1919.

Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition by Frank Hurley
Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition by Frank Hurley

Bonhams Head of Books, Manuscripts and Photographs, Matthew Haley said:

“The fate of Endurance and the crew’s astonishing and tortuous journey back against all the odds is rightly seen as a testament to the human spirit under extreme pressure.  Hurley’s images convey the terrible situation in which the men found themselves, and have come to define  the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration as it drew to a close.”     

Frank Hurley (1885-1962)

One of Australia’s greatest photographic pioneers. In addition to his work in the Antarctic, he also produced many memorable images as an official photographer with the Australian forces during both World Wars.  He was an acclaimed documentary and feature filmmaker.  

Sale: Travel and Exploration
Location: Montpelier Street Knightsbridge
Date: Wednesday 26 February at 1 p.m.

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