UPDATE - 9 March 2022
The sunken wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance, has been located in on the seabed 3,000m below the surface off the coast of Antartica. As we see the amazing video images of the wreck shot by underwater drones, and exhibition of photographs of the boat caught in the ice in 1915 are currently on show. Shot by Australian photographer Frank Hurley, they show the beauty of the ship, and its eventual sinking months later.
One of the best-known explorers of the 20th century, Sir Ernest Shackleton led the ill-fated Endurance expedition of 1914-1916, which planned to cross Antarctica via the South Pole.
A new exhibition, ‘Shackleton’s legacy and the power of early Antarctic photography’, explores the influences and motivations from which Shackleton derived his lifetime commitment to the polar region.
These include the role of photography and literature throughout his career, and how Shackleton’s decision to document the experience through the power of photography was so important – as well as taking photographs himself, Shackleton also commissioned some of the leading photographers of the day, including Frank Hurley (opens in new tab).
In doing this, the exhibition revives the Royal Geographical Society’s 2015 exhibition of Hurley’s Endurance expedition photographs, ‘The Enduring Eye‘, which was curated by polar historian Meredith Hooper.
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The Endurance expedition was Shackleton’s third and stalled early in 1915 when the Endurance was trapped in ice, before going on to sink 10 months later.
By this point, Shackleton and the crew had abandoned the ship and were living on the floating ice. They set off for Elephant Island, off the coast of Antarctica, in three small boats in April 1916.
Shackleton then took five crew in one boat and managed to reach a whaling station on South Georgia after 16 days at sea and a gruelling overland trek; the remaining crew of the Endurance were rescued in August 1916. Incredibly, no-one died on the Endurance expedition.
Shackleton’s passion for exploration was undimmed, though; he attempted a circumnavigation of the Antarctic continent but died from a heart attack in January 1922.
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See the power of early polar photography
The content of the new exhibition is complemented by original documents and photography, including some previously unseen and newly digitised, which chronicle the polar explorer’s early life, schooldays, career, his own writing and love of poetry, as well as the achievements before and after the expedition which catapulted him to fame.
This has been gathered by guest curator Dr Jan Piggott, former Keeper of Archives and Rare Books at Dulwich College in south London, Shackleton’s alma mater.(opens in new tab)
Through a consideration of polar photography and the chance to marvel at the stunning images taken by Shackleton or other leading photographers, visitors to the exhibition will learn what influenced Shackleton’s passion for the Antarctic.
But alongside the drama and heroics of his expeditions, visitors will also be able to develop a keen sense of Shackleton and his vision. He was a champion of visual communication in the early 20th century, without which our awareness and understanding of Antarctica would not exist in the present day.
The new exhibition was organized to coincide with the search for the wreck of the Endurance: the Endurance 22 project which departed from Cape Town on 4 February. Now the wreck has been found, the plan is to make a detailed 3D scan of it. There will be no salvage attempt.
Shackleton exhibition open now, until 4 May
’Shackleton’s legacy and the power of early Antarctic photography’ runs until 4 May 2022 at the Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AR. Entry is free – click here for information (opens in new tab) about planning your visit.
The exhibition is open from 10am-5pm Monday to Friday and 10am-4pm on Saturdays, and will be closed on bank holidays.
The Royal Geographical Society plans to tour the exhibition in the UK to the Shipwreck Treasure Museum in Saint Austell, Cornwall, between April and October 2022.
’Shackleton’s legacy and the power of early Antarctic photography’ has been made possible through the generous support of British performance apparel company Shackleton, the James Caird Society, the Folio Society, the South Georgia Association, the Devon and Cornwall Polar Society, and private donation.
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