Frank Hurley was an audacious Australian photographer and adventurer best known for his remarkable images of Antarctica, particularly those he took on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. When Hurley wrote this diary entry on 2nd November 1915, Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, had for months been struggling in the unforgiving grip of the pack ice, and on 27th October he had ordered his crew to abandoned ship. As noted in this entry, Hurley’s concern at this point was not only their survival but also the preservation of his precious photographic negatives—a visual testament to their harrowing journey. Just over a fortnight later, Endurance sank to the bottom of the Weddell Sea. The wreckage was finally discovered in 2022.
The Diary Entry
Spent day taking team to & from ship for salvage. Salved canvas tripe milk & case sugar. Have now in camp food 1lb per diem per man for 180 days. Hacked the side out of refrigerator etc to try & salve negatives & bared from head to waist probed for same by the mushy ice. The cases which fortunately were zinc lined & soldered & containing the negatives in soldered tins I located submerged beneath 3 feet of mushy ice & practically all were intact. Returning team startled by killer breaking through ice only about 20 yards ahead. 3 seals killed.
Frank Hurley’s handwritten diaries from this expedition live at the State Library of New South Wales, who have made some of the pages viewable online. 2011 saw the publication of The Diaries of Frank Hurley 1912-1941, edited by Robert Dixon and Christopher Lee. That book, which is excellent, uses a version of the diary that was later rewritten by Hurley, unlike the one shown above.