Unreal Photos From Shackleton's 1915 Antarctic Expedition


Photo: Flickr/State Library of New South Wales collection

Beginning on August 8, 1914, Englishman Sir Ernest Shackleton led a crew of 27 men on the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration in an attempt to make the first land crossing of Antarctica.The Trans-Antarctic Expedition almost didn’t happen as Shackleton offered his ships, stores and services to his country the night before World War I broke out, but the Royal Navy and First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill desired that the journey proceed

Australian photographer Frank Hurley brought 40 pounds of colour photo equipment on the onerous journey and would have to dive into three feet of icy seawater to salvage cases of glass negative plates from their wrecked ship.

Good thing he did because the expedition became one of the earliest examples of colour photography.

Shackleton's ship, Endurance, departed for Antarctica from Buenos Aires on December 5, 1914

It battled through a thousand miles of pack ice over the next six weeks

On January 15 Endurance came to a glacier that formed a bay which appeared a good landing place

Two days later they would have to take shelter from the wind and weather near an iceberg

Endurance continued toward their destination (Vahsel Bay), but was forced westward 14 miles before stopping altogether

The crew made strenuous efforts to release the ship but could not clear enough ice

On February 24, 1915, Shackleton realised the ship would be stuck all winter and had to change the crew's plans

The ship's interior was converted into a winter abode for the officers, scientists, engineers and seamen on board

As winter set in the ship drifted north because of the shifts in the massive packs of ice

In the dark winter months of May, June and July, Shackleton maintained his crew's morale by putting on plays aboard the ship and encouraging moonlight walks

Three days later Shackleton was forced to give the order to abandon ship in temperatures below −15°F (−25°C)

Over the next few weeks the crew salvaged supplies, including Hurley's photographic plates of which Hurley had to choose the best 150 and smash the other 400

The men had to make new shoes out of wood from the scavenged pieces of the ship as they began an ill-fated march west with two of the ship's lifeboats carried on sledges

Over the next few months they ran low on supplies and were eventually forced to shoot the last of the dogs on April 2, 1916, to add to their rations

Eventually Shackleton took four men and a lifeboat to nearby Georgia Island to arrange the rescue of the rest of his crew

The rescued crew members last had contact with civilisation in 1914, and when they returned to England in mid-1916 many of them entered the war through military or naval service

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