One of the world's most amazing collections of photographs, housed in Canberra, has had a new spotlight shone on it.
The discovery of the wreck of Endurance three kilometres deep in the waters of Antarctica has ramped up interest in a collection of stunning images in the National Library.
The 250 photographic prints, negatives and lantern slides were taken by the great Australian photographer Frank Hurley, who was on the vessel before it sank in 1915.
How Hurley rescued his work is a story of extreme heroism and physical endurance. His pictures are stunningly beautiful as pure art - showing the sheer wonder of the austere Antarctic landscape. But they are also a moving testimony to heroism and determination.
In 1914, Hurley joined the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. The aim was to cross the continent on foot for the first time, starting at the Weddell Sea (at the southern end of the Atlantic) to the Ross Sea (south of New Zealand) - all via the South Pole.
But by February in 1915, the expedition's ship Endurance was trapped in the ice. By October, as winter set in, the ship began to be crushed.
After 281 days, the pressure on the vessel became unendurable. The ship broke, with the decks cracking upwards like matchsticks. The keel was ripped away. The water poured in and Shackleton ordered the abandonment of the ship.
On October 27, Hurley wrote in his diary: "Awful calamity that has overtaken our ship that has been our home for over 12 months. We are homeless & adrift on the sea ice."
The crew survived on the drifting ice for five months. The linen of their five tents was so thin the moon could be seen through the material, and in temperatures down to 30 degrees below freezing.
And then the sea ice began to break. The 28 men with their remaining gear and supplies - including the photographic negatives and prints - got into three open lifeboats and set out, using the sun and stars for navigation.
After seven days, they reached Elephant Island, 1000km or so south of the tip of South America. Hurley wrote in his diary: "Conceive our joy on setting foot on solid earth after 170 days of life on a drifting ice floe. Many suffered from temporary aberration, walking aimlessly about, others shivering as with palsy."
From there, Shackleton and four other men set off in one of the three open lifeboats on the 1125km stretch to South Georgia, navigating from one pinpoint of rock to the next.
They spent 16 days of what Shackleton later called "supreme strife amid heaving waters" before reaching the island deep in the South Atlantic.
From there, a Chilean trawler was sent to rescue the 22 men, including Hurley, marooned on Elephant Island during the Antarctic winter. The photographic treasures were saved.
The first officer on the Endurance, Lionel Greenstreet, called Hurley a "warrior with his camera" because he "would go anywhere or do anything to get a picture".
Hurley would go on to be an official war photographer in both world wars but the Antarctica expedition tested his determination to the extreme.
Cameras, remember, were heavy, and Hurley not only transported them but also glass plates which were a precursor to film. He had a dark room on the Endurance where temperatures dropped way below freezing.
And he never stopped taking pictures, even, as he records in his diary, "the whole time there was an incessant cracking and groaning of timbers as the ice began cracking the stout timbers in".
Many of those pictures survived, and they are treasures of the National Library.
For Hurley, it was about beauty: "Endless scope is presented in Polar photography by the abundance of seal and bird life, the illimitable and exquisite beauty of formations of the great inland ice sheet itself, the barrier and icebergs, sea ice and the 1001 details of the explorer's own life."
He would alter images, superimposing a dramatic cloud from one image, for example, onto another image. They remained truthful but stark.
"He was very much a story-teller," said Dr Guy Hansen, the director of exhibitions at the National Library of Australia.
"He would compose photographs so they are quite dramatic. He would manipulate images, putting a different cloudscape in to make a more dramatic print."
The National Library's collection contains about 1000 prints and albums, plus 10,000 negatives and colour transparencies. They include the Antarctica pictures but also striking images of the battlefields of Flanders in World War I.
They were purchased from the photographer's wife in the 1960s and in 1975. The library also bought one of his diaries from a Sydney bookseller in 1978.
The work of Hurley is a testament to Australian artistic creativity - and to heroism and determination.
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