James Francis [Frank] Hurley collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914 (leader Douglas Mawson) the Imperial Tran-Antarctic Expedition [Weddell Sea Party], 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton) and correspondence to the geographer and meteorologist Hugh Robert Mill.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Francis [Frank] Hurley was born in Sydney, Australia in 1885. He left school without qualifications and worked in a steel mill before completing his education at the University of Sydney. He then worked for a firm of photographers but soon left to join the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914 (leader Douglas Mawson). He took photographs of wildlife and was also a member of the party of three that sledged to the South Magnetic Pole in 1912.

Almost immediately after the return of this expedition, he joined the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Weddell Sea Party], 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton), sailing in Endurance. After the ship was crushed in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea, he and his companions escaped in boats to Elephant Island. A party of six led by Shackleton made the epic journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia to seek help from the Stromness whaling station and in August 1916, Hurley and the remaining members of the expedition were rescued from Elephant Island.

He brought back memorable photographs of the wreck of the Endurance and scenes on Elephant Island together with the documentary film In the grip of the polar ice [This was later titled The Endurance and is now generally known as South].

During the First World War, Hurley served as an official war photographer in France and in the Middle East. Then followed filming ventures in New Guinea and central Australia as well as lecture tours in America before he returned to the Antarctic with the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition, 1929-1931 (leader Sir Douglas Mawson).

After this expedition, Hurley served as a war photographer in the Second World War. He died in Sydney on 17 January 1962.

Published work, Shackleton's Argonauts, a saga of the Antarctic ice-packs by James Francis Hurley, Angus and Robertson, Sydney (1948) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(08)[1914-1916 Shackleton], Argonauts of the south, being a narrative of voyaging and polar seas and adventures in the Antarctic with Sir Douglas Mawson and Sir Ernest Shackleton by James Francis Hurley, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York (1925) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(091)


The collection is split into three sub-fonds covering expedition material and correspondence respectively.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034 and The Polar Record (May 1962) volume 11, number 71, p210 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7)

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible.

Related Material

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library, some of which includes photographs taken by Hurley. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link