11 November 2015

Enduring Eye: The Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley

One of the greatest ever photographic records of human survival will shortly go on display in a remarkable new exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). Honouring the achievements of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the men of the Endurance Expedition of 1914-1917, newly digitalised images will reveal previously unseen details of the crew’s epic struggle for survival both before and after their ship was destroyed. The Enduring Eye exhibition will open to the public on Saturday 21 November, exactly 100 years to the day that the crushed Endurance sank beneath the sea ice of the Weddell Sea, and run until 28 February 2016.

At the heart of the exhibition are more than ninety high resolution images, taken by Shackleton’s official expedition photographer Frank Hurley, and saved by him under the most extreme circumstances to provide a lasting record of the men of the Endurance and their story.

For the first time, the fragile glass plate and celluloid negatives, stored securely at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for more than 80 years, have been digitised directly from the originals. Now viewed at full definition, the images unlock the remarkable detail captured originally by Hurley in his photographic processing, including interior images of the Endurance and high resolution information of life on the pack ice of the Weddell Sea.

As one of the first truly modern documentary photographers and film-makers, Australian born Hurley hoped to have his images seen at as large scale size as possible. 100 years later, this intention will be honoured with giant dimension prints, some over 2 metres in width and height, at the heart of the exhibition, providing viewers with a sense of awe and wonder.

In addition to the newly digitised images, the exhibition will include a number of ‘precious survivors’ – personal artefacts that were carried through every stage of the successive journeys for survival from the Weddell Sea to Elephant Island and onto South Georgia. These include the Bible from the Society’s collections, originally presented to Shackleton by Queen Alexandra on visiting the Endurance on 16 July 1914 and inscribed by her.

The exhibition has been researched, written and curated by Meredith Hooper, the Antarctic historian, writer and broadcaster, from original source material in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, whilst also drawing also on information provided by descendants of some of the 28 men on the expedition.

‘The Enduring Eye’ is kindly supported by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT), with the Governments of the British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.

The Society acknowledges the generosity of the UKAHT as lead supporter of the curation and creation of the exhibition and in contributing specialist knowledge and expertise to the exhibition as part of its role in the protection, conservation and promotion of the public understanding of the United Kingdom’s Antarctic heritage. We also thank Rolex for its support of the Society’s Picture Library and contribution toward conservation of its collections.

To read the full press release click here.

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