Photography, Photos
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Stuff I Did – Shackleton Exhibition

If you’ve been clicking on this blog for a while, you might have seen me gushing about my love for the Antarctic, and all explorer type things related to it (see here, here, here, and here). So I was REALLY REALLY EXCITED when I saw news of an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum here in Sydney, which was to be all about Sir Ernest Shackleton, and his ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1917. I won’t go into too much detail about it here, otherwise I’ll never get this post finished, but the long and the short of it is that the expedition was a complete disaster. The ship was caught in the ice and eventually crushed to pieces, and the men of the expedition were forced to live on the ice for months until it began to break up and they could attempt an escape. Eventually the crew made it to a small island, and from there Shackleton and five of the crew members sailed 800 miles (1,300 km) in one of the ship’s lifeboats to the island of South Georgia. Then a crossing of the island was undertaken in order to reach the populated area of the island (the men had no proper climbing equipment and very little food by this point). Shackleton and his men crossed 40km of mountainous terrain in a mere 36 hours. To put that into perspective, in 2013 a recreation of the South Georgia trek was done, and it took those men 96 hours.

I know that I haven’t conveyed the heroics enough, so you should check out the Wikipedia page about the expedition here (I’ve read enough about the expedition to know that this page is pretty accurate). It will blow your mind and you’ll be in amazement at the courage and endurance of these men. Physical feats today definitely pale in comparison (in my opinion).

So anyway, last weekend I went to the exhibition. It was pretty awesome. There was all sorts of little knick-knacks and gadgets that were used in Antarctic exploration in the early 1900’s, including a reindeer sleeping bag, compasses, and even a display of a dog sled team. My favourite thing though was the ‘Still Life’ room. In here was a short video presentation (I think about 5-10 minutes) of photographs taken by the official expedition photographer, Frank Hurley. The photos are displayed on three walls of a darkened room, and are just the most incredible photographs you’ll see (you can also get a book of the photographs in the gift shop [which of course I did]).

I would highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Sydney. The exhibition is running until 6th April 2016 – you can get all the details at the National Maritime Museum website. The exhibition itself isn’t huge, but there’s some other cool stuff in the museum to check out as well.

And now, here are a few photos I took myself. I started my day with lunch at Circular Quay, then walked the long way around to Darling Harbour where the museum is, so I’ve included a couple of photos from my wandering as well.

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12 Comments

  1. Oh, neat!! Antarctica is at the top of my “when I’m rich” travel bucket list. I know a bit about Shackleton, but haven’t done quite as much research as you. Looks like I should do some more reading on him and his trek, it sounds absolutely fascinating!

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    • Yep – I plan on going there one day as well. It just looks so amazing.

      You should definitely read a little more about it – the story is amazing. ‘South’ by Shackleton is really good, it covers the entire expedition. But the autobiography of him by Roland Huntford (I think it’s Huntford) is amazing as you get a real sense of the man.

      But the best part of the exhibition was definitely the photos by Frank Hurley. There’s a book of his (which I finally managed to get a copy of when I was at the exhibition), called ‘South With Endurance’ that’s full of his photos from the expedition. They are incredible. If you can get your hands on it you should definitely check it out (I know you’re into photography and stuff!).
      He was pretty amazing in his own right. As he wasn’t with Shackleton and the others when they crossed South Georgia, he went and did the crossing himself a year after they made it home and photographed the trip. Then when he’d done that he enlisted in the army and was a war photographer during WW1.
      I swear he must have had a death wish or something.

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      • Wow! That’s so intense. Yeah, I feel like I have to read the story because I love the Antarctic, and I love crazy adventurous trips and intense explorers. Thanks for all the good places to start with reading about it. 🙂

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    • I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read Lord of the Flies. Which I’ve just realised is a book I could read for my Book Bingo – I think there’s a square to do with a classic you should have read as a child but haven’t. So thanks for the inspiration!

      You are right though. Despite being stranded with no way of contacting the outside world, there was order and sanity as a result. I don’t think that the rescue of the men after being lost for so long would have been achieved if the leader had been any man but Shackleton. He knew how to keep morale up even if he wasn’t so hopeful himself.

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  2. It must have been exciting to see actual artifacts from the expedition. I read the book many years ago, and have read it again many times since. Shackleton and his crew’s story of survival was epic, and has fascinated me all these years. The movie they made about it was pretty good, too. Thanks for showing some pictures of your visit to the exhibit.

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    • It was pretty awesome. I wish the exhibition had been a little bigger, but it was still exciting all the same.
      I haven’t got around to watching the film yet – is that the one with Kenneth Branagh? He’d be the perfect Shackleton I think.

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