Shackleton's adventure comes in from the cold

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The Independent Online
PICTURES NEVER seen before of Shackleton's expedition to the South Pole are to be published in a new book. The images tell an astonishing story of the crew's months of waiting to be rescued after their ship had sunk; and they show the chilling beauty of Antarctica.

The pictures, some of which are reproduced here, range from a game of football on the polar ice to skinning a penguin for food.

In August 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 set sail aboard The Endurance bound for the South Atlantic. Their goal was to be the first men to cross Antarctica, the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration. Weaving a treacherous path through the icy Weddell Sea, they were within 80 miles of their destination when the ship was trapped in the ice.

For the next 10 months they waited for the ice to break, but it never happened and The Endurance was crushed under the floes and sank on 21 November 1915. For the next five months the crew was stranded on the ice floes before reaching the relative safety of Elephant Island.

Then Shackleton and five of his crew set off in a boat for help 800 miles away in South Georgia. After four rescue attempts, Shackleton and every member of his crew returned home safely.

A new book by the American academic Caroline Alexander charts how they survived. And it also tells another miraculous survival story - those of the photographs of Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer who joined the crew of The Endurance to document their expected achievement.

Hurley's images, most of which have never been seen before, re-create the crew's daily struggles to stay alive. The story of the pictures' survival is a remarkable one.

The glass-plate negatives were stored in hermetically sealed cannisters that lasted five months on the ice floes, a week in an open boat on the polar seas and five months buried in the snows of a rocky outcrop called Elephant Island.

Although ordered to abandon his negatives in the wreck of The Endurance, Hurley dived several times into the freezing waters before rescuing them. Towards the end of the ordeal Hurley had to abandon most of his equipment and captured many of the moments with a pocket camera and a single roll of Kodak film.

Movie film footage that Hurley took has now been restored by the British Film Institute and will be shown next month at the National Film Theatre.

When the financiers of Shackleton's expedition first saw the expedition footage they felt it was not commercial enough, lacking any scenes of polar animal life. So Hurley was ordered to return for shots of penguins and elephant seals.

The Endurance by Caroline Alexander is published by Bloomsbury on 29 November, price pounds 20.

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