Frank Hurley

Australian, 1882–1962

Endurance trapped in the ice at night, 1915
Black-and-white photograph
Royal Geographical Society, London

Frank Hurley, a professional photographer and filmmaker, journeyed to Antarctica six times. In 1914, he accompanied Ernest Shackleton (British, 1874–1922) on his now-legendary expedition to cross the continent.  Before even landing on Antarctica, Shackleton’s ship Endurance was crushed by pack ice.

After camping on drifting ice floes for more than a year, the crew journeyed by rescue boats to Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and five comrades traveled in a lifeboat 800 miles across rough, open seas to reach South Georgia Island. The captain then climbed a rugged mountain range to reach a whaling station, where he hired a boat to rescue the stranded men.

Hurley’s photographs have come to symbolize this heroic journey. For Endurance trapped in the ice at night, the photographer used 20 hidden flashlights. Shot during the 24-hour blackness of a winter night, the resulting phantom image recalls the ship in Gustave Doré’s poem, Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Hurley’s description of his photograph as a “spectre ship” suggests that he knew the 19th-century artist’s illustration.