Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Into the ice... and back

We had a quieter Christmas than many in the past, and intentionally, one with fewer presents. One of the gifts that did make it under the tree for me this year was South with Endurance, a magnificent collection of photographs by the pioneer antarctic photographer Frank Hurley. Besides the dramatic black-and-white pictures one might expect from his era, there are also some exquisite color photos made under incredibly difficult circumstances with the then-revolutionary Paget Colour process. We photographers have it awfully easy these days!

Hurley was a member of the crew of Endurance, the ship in which Sir Ernest Shackleton mounted his 1914 attempt to cross the entire continent of Antarctica. Shackleton didn't achieve his ambitious goal, but the way he saved his men -- every one of them -- when disaster struck makes for an astounding story of determination, resourcefulness, and finally raw daring and courage. This tale, told so well in Alfred Lansing's 1959 book Endurance, deserves to be far better known than that of the grim failure of Robert Scott's ill-planned 1912 polar expedition.

If I've piqued your interest in Shackleton, one good place to start is the James Caird Society. Why "James Caird?" Go find out. You will not be disappointed.

Quintessentially Shackleton: "Never for me the lowered banner, never the last endeavour."