Early last year, conservationists from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered unprocessed photo negatives, nearly a century old, taken by a secondary unit of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914–1917 Antarctic expedition.
The unit was the Ross Sea Party, which sailed from Australia on the steam yacht Aurora. The party was supposed to land on the opposite side of Antarctica from Shackleton’s main unit and fortify the expedition’s return path from the South Pole with food and supplies. But the Aurora blew out to sea, and 10 of the crew remained marooned on Ross Island, in McMurdo Sound, for nearly two years before being rescued. There they made use of a hut erected in 1911 by Robert Scott, the ill-fated British explorer of the Antarctic.
During work on objects already identified in the hut’s darkroom, the conservationists were surprised to find the sheets of film. The 22 negatives had sustained mold damage, but photographic processing revealed remarkable images of men and icy landscapes, including recognizable McMurdo Sound landmarks.
Scott’s hut at Cape Evans is one of four Antarctic bases that the conservationists are working to preserve, an effort scheduled for completion next year. They have spent five years securing and weatherproofing the Ross Island hut.
The Canterbury Museum in Christchurch is storing the negatives; images can be viewed at www.nzaht.org.
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