A major new exhibition on Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition will open at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), London, on 21 November, with an off-shoot exhibition coming to South Georgia early in 2016. The exhibitions are inspired by the glass plate negatives taken by Endurance expedition photographer Frank Hurley, according to the latest edition of the South Georgia Newsletter
Shackleton recognized the power of the photographic image, but when the Endurance was crushed and sunk in the Antarctic and the men had to take to the ice and try and save themselves, he only allowed a select few of the heavy glass plates to be saved. In his book ‘Argonauts of the South’ Frank Hurley wrote, “Sir Ernest and I went over the plates together, and as a negative was rejected, I would smash it on the ice to obviate all temptation to change my mind. Finally the choice was made and the films and plates that I considered indispensable were stowed in one of the boats… Later I had to preserve them almost with my life; for a time came when we had to choose between heaving them overboard or throwing away our surplus food – and the food went over!”
According to the RGS the original glass plates that will feature in the exhibition have never previously been seen by the public. The exhibition will focus on Hurley’s work and his critical role in the expedition. In particular it will celebrate Hurley’s contribution to the world of film and photography. The exhibition will also assess Shackleton’s leadership qualities and reputation in motivating his men to survive as portrayed in Hurley’s photographs. The exhibition is in part sponsored by GSGSSI along with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, the Government of the British Antarctic Territories and Rolex.
GSGSSI supported the RGS Enduring Eye exhibition and the Government is very pleased that a smaller exhibition at Grytviken, based on one at the RGS, will also be opening in the coming months. This will feature 10 replicas of the original glass plates along with associated prints and 12 original lantern slides, all of which will be mounted in a new gallery in the old Slop Chest at Grytviken.