Alexander Stevens, Shackleton’s Chief Scientist, on the deck of the Aurora, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Photo credit: Antarctic Heritage Trust
Twenty-two never-before-seen photographic negatives, left a century ago in Captain Robert F. Scott’s last Antarctic expedition base at Cape Evans, have been discovered and conserved by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust.
The photographs are from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Ross Sea Party, which spent time living in Scott’s hut after being stranded on Ross Island when their ship, the SY Aurora blew out to sea.
The Ross Sea Party was part of Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17, and was tasked with laying a series of supply depots across the Great Ice Barrier from the Ross Sea to the Beardmore Glacier. Shackleton’s main expedition party was to arrive on the opposite side of Antarctica, however their ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the ice and eventually sank. This singular event led to one of the most historic stories of survival and perseverance ever told.
Upon discovering the images, Nigel Watson, Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Executive Director commented, “It’s an exciting find and we are delighted to see them exposed after a century. It’s testament to the dedication and precision of our conservation teams’ efforts to save Scott’s Cape Evans hut.”
Conserving the images
The photographs found in Captain Scott’s expedition base required specialist conservation treatment. The Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZ) engaged Photographic Conservator Mark Strange to undertake the painstaking task of separating, cleaning (including removing mold) and consolidating the cellulose nitrate image layers. Twenty-two separate sheets were revealed and sent to New Zealand Micrographic Services for scanning using a Lanovia pre-press scanner. The digital scans were converted to digital positives.
In 2010 the Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZ) discovered three crates of whisky and two crates of brandy under Ernest Shackleton’s 1908 base during conservation work.
The images are available online at www.nzaht.org
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