Posts Tagged ‘Frank Hurley’

Frank Hurley- Endurance in the Antarctic- Ghost Ship 1915I came across these photos from the great Frank Hurley when he was part of the fabled Shackleton Expedition (Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917) that tried to cross Antarctica but was trapped  en route in a huge moving ice floe that ultimately crushed and sank their ship, the Endurance.  They  drifted for months and months on ice floes and were in lifeboats in the frigid sea for several days until finally making landfall, nearly 500 days since their voyage began.  This photo shows the Endurance as it is held in the clutches of the Antarctic ice at night.  It’s ghostly image really caught my eye and made me wonder how the members of the expedition might have felt, trapped in a most inhospitable place so far from anyone without any form of communication as you watch your only means of escape slowly be crushed.  

What makes man push to those extremes?

Frank Hurley- Endurance in the Antarctic Night 1915Part of me admires them mightily and makes me wonder if I have ever possessed anything near that drive.  It certainly doesn’t feel like it as I live my relatively safe and comfortable life.  In fact, most of us spend our lives striving to avoid ever being put in harm’s way.  But what drives these others?

I certainly don’t know.  As I said, their exploits fascinate me.  Their actions, which on the surface seem foolhardy for even being considered, take on heroic perspective over time and I suppose that explains my admiration.  I think we all like an epic, almost mythic,  journey.  But I still find myself wishing that I could really get a sense of what they truly felt as they stood in cold silence of the Antarctic night and looked at the frozen bones of their ship.

Perhaps that is just part of the soul of a man.  Here’s a great version of the old Blind Willie Johnson song, Soul of a Man, from David Lindley and Harry Manx.  Great playing on this cut.

Frank Hurley Endurance in the ice 1915 



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I came across a photo recently and it really pulled me in immediately with an almost mystical appeal.  It’s an image of an iceberg taken under a midnight sun by during one of the great Antarctic expeditions of  the early part of the 20th century.  The photographer was Frank Hurley and doing a quick search revealed an amazing life of a man from Australia who documented with his camera some of the most storied explorations into Antarctica and both World Wars.  This being Memorial Day, I thought I’d share a couple of his WW I photos that mix artistry and the  hard reality of the battlefield.

The photo above shows the newest forms of warfare at the time, the biplanes,  swooping over soldiers coming out of the trenches.  I can only imagine the  element of terror that the plane hovering menacingly above must have added to the reeling minds of those soldiers trapped in that deadly cacaphony.

The second shows the battlefield under an icredible sky with light filtering from behind a dark cloud, casting an eerie radiance down on the trenches and bodies that gives it an end-of-the -world feel, which for many of the combatants, it was just that.  It makes me appreciate how easy and soft my own life is, how I have been spared the horrors of war.  It puts context behind the imagery of the rows of flags fluttering in blue skies that we often associate with Memorial Day and makes the words Lest We Forget have reall meaning.

Have a great holiday and try to remember what is behind the celebration.  If only for a moment, try to give it a bit of the reverence for which it stands.

Here is the photo of the iceberg [ further inspection reveals that it is not an iceberg but  land] that brought me to Mr. Hurley’s work.  It was taken during the Mawson Expedition which is the subject of a great book, Mawson’s Will, that tells an incredible story of survival of explorers trapped for two winters in the harshness of Antarctica.   I read it many years ago and highly recommend it.

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