A team from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust have made a fascinating discovery. Whilst conserving an Antarctic exploration hut, the team stumbled across a small box of undeveloped negatives, which have been frozen in a block of ice for almost 100 years. Ironically photographers historically stored film in a freezer to help keep them fresh and although the Antarctic’s temperatures seem a little extreme, it would appear this harsh environment has helped preserve the negatives even after exposure.
It is thought that the film was left by the Ross Sea Party of Sir Ernest Shackleton between 1914 and 1917. Although the negatives have suffered some damage, a conservator from New Zealand has been able to process and preserve some of them.
Executive director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, Nigel Watson, expressed their excitement about the find saying: “It’s the first example that I’m aware of, of undeveloped negatives from a century ago from the Antarctic heroic era. There’s a paucity of images from that expedition.”
The photographs allow you an insight in to the historic expedition, showing that Antarctic was just as inhospitable then as it is now and the explorers back then didn’t have anything like the specialist kit that is available to our explorers today.
The hut where the negatives were found was used as a supply depot by Robert Falcon, who sadly died on the Terre Nova Expedition after suffering from starvation and extreme cold on the return journey from the South Pole. After Falcon’s expedition, Shackleton used the hut. His team of explorers were rescued from their expedition but sadly three members of the team died, including the assumed photographer Arnold Patrick Spencer-Smith, who we can be grateful to for capturing such wonderful images.
[Images via Imaging Resource]