Century-old photo negatives found in Antarctic explorer's hut

Story highlights

  • Negatives discovered in explorer Robert Scott's 1912 expedition hut
  • Photos taken during Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 Ross Sea Party
  • Some of Shackleton's group stayed in the hut when ship blew out to sea
  • New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust announces the find

While a Russian-flagged vessel remains stuck in Antarctic ice, recently discovered photo negatives remind us this cold continent has been stopping explorers in their tracks for a century.

New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust found the negatives in an expedition hut from Capt. Robert Falcon Scott's failed 1912 quest to become the first man to reach the South Pole.

The photos were taken during Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 Ross Sea Party, another failed exploration whose members were forced to live in Scott's hut after their ship blew out to sea.

The cellulose nitrate negatives were found clumped together in a small box in the darkroom of Herbert Ponting, Scott's expedition photographer, the trust said. The trust took the negatives to New Zealand, where they were separated to reveal 22 images.

Many images were damaged, but the trust says it was able to recognize landmarks around McMurdo Sound. It's unknown who took the photos.

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Scott was a British explorer who became famous during what historians call the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He arrived at the South Pole in January 1912 to discover his rival, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, had beaten him to the spot by an estimated 33 days.

Scott and several comrades died in March 1912 during the return journey.

    Several years later, Shackleton attempted the first land crossing of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea via the South Pole, according to the Museum Victoria website.

    Ten members of the group were stranded when their ship, the Aurora, blew out to sea and they were forced to live in Scott's hut. Three men died before they were rescued in 1916.

    Nigel Watson, Antarctic Heritage Trust's executive director, said the new photos are a historic treasure.

    "It's an exciting find and we are delighted to see them exposed after a century," Watson said.