'Endurance' in colour

Frank Hurley's Paget plates are an early form of colour photography. His striking colour photographs of the ill-fated Endurance and expedition are some of his most famous.

As official photographer on Sir Ernest Shackleton's British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917, he worked under the most extreme of conditions. He wrote of the difficulties of working in the Antarctic in his diary:

"Dark room work rendered extremely difficult by the low temperatures, it being -13 (-25 degrees Celsius) outside. Washing plates is a most troublesome operation, as the tank must be kept warm or the plates become an enclosure in an ice block."  (Frank Hurley diary, 30 August 1915, MLMSS 389/3)

After the Endurance was trapped and crushed in the ice, Hurley managed to retrieve glass plates and film from the mushy ice water inside the shipwreck. Together, Shackleton and Hurley chose 120 glass plates to keep. They were forced to smash and leave behind about 400 glass plates on the ice, "owing to the very limited space that will be at disposal in boat transport" (Frank Hurley diary, 9 November 1915).

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> View full catalogue record for Frank Hurley's Paget plates of the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917catalogue link

> View more colour photographs of Shackleton's Endurance by Frank Hurleycatalogue link