Antarctic survival revisited: A tale of the 'Endurance' -- and endurance
New York exhibit chronicles 1914 journey of Sir Ernest
Shackleton with photos, artifacts
April 14, 1999
Web posted at: 1:53 p.m. EDT (1753 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- One of the greatest exploration sagas in
history is chillingly recalled in "Shackleton's Legendary
Antarctic Expedition," a collection of photographs and
artifacts now on view at the American Museum of Natural
History in New York.
The 1914 expedition of 28 men -- including one stowaway -- was meant to make the first crossing of Antarctica by dogsled. Instead, it became one of the world's most honored failures. The museum exhibit describes the two-year long ordeal with more than 150 photographs, diary excerpts and artifacts including the actual lifeboat used in an incredible, desperate journey.
England's Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew navigated the "Endurance" to within a day's sail of the polar continent. But the ship became trapped in sea ice. The crew lived on board for 10 months before "Endurance" was crushed by the ice.
"I think that must have been about as close to hell as you can come," says Caroline Alexander, whose "The Endurance" is a book about the journey. "But they were men of a very different caliber."
Before the ship sank, expedition photographer Frank Hurley saved his negatives, which have provided many of the dramatic pictures now exhibited. Alexander tells CNN that Hurley, "returned to the wreck of the Endurance and dove into the water and retrieved a canister of his negatives from his submerged darkroom."
'Castaways in one of the most hostile environments on
At that point, the exhibition materials say, "Shackleton and his men became castaways in one of the most hostile environments on earth.
For the next five months, they camped on drifting ice floes, until the ice gave way. Then they took three lifeboats and sailed to Elephant Island.
In 1914-'15, there was little chance of being found there, so Shackleton and five of his men boarded one of the lifeboats for a treacherous 800-mile trip to South Georgia Island. That 17-day leg of the rescue alone is now considered one of history's greatest boat journeys.
Once on the island, Shackleton and his small party trekked across the mountains of South Georgia to reach a remote whaling station where they organized a rescue team, and saved all the men they'd left behind.
Curators for the American Museum of Natural History say the Shackleton exhibit is the most extensive presentation ever mounted on the expedition. Many of the photographs are on display for the first time, as are rare color images and film footage taken by Hurley.
The show also includes a multi-media presentation on the science of ice, and a computer interactive feature on navigation.
Alexander insists, "What Shackleton is being celebrated for is that While Shackleton's attempt to cross Antarctica was a failure, thing that counts at the end of the day, human life."
"Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition" runs to October 11, 1999
at American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, New York 10024.