Photographer and filmmaker Frank Hurley (1885-1962) was an official photographer during both World Wars and accompanied explorers on many expeditions to Antarctica to document the journey, including Australia’s first – the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911-1914), which was led by Adelaide-based Douglas Mawson. Hurley’s visual record was critical in establishing proof of the expedition's success and in raising funds for return expeditions.

Located at the southernmost part of the globe, Antarctica, with its extreme cold climate, is a challenging destination for the human body. In 1895 this vast continent – twice the size of Australia – was declared the last undiscovered place on earth by the Royal Geographical Society. Its mapping was the subject of intense competition between nations, with over seventeen expeditions mounted in the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Hurley’s Antarctica photographs became symbolic of the inhospitable environment of the continent. His photograph, The blizzard, 1912, depicts two men battling to walk against the force of the wind, which Mawson described as ‘hurricane walking’ or ‘wind walking’, whereby in order to move forward, they would need to lean forward and ‘lie on the wind’. In contrast, A glacial fairytale, 1912, was taken by Hurley in a moment of calm. These works and his film Home of the blizzard, had an impact on the public upon Mawson’s return.

Text by Maria Zagala, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.

  • Look at images taken on Antarctica in recent times. Compare these to Hurley’s and other expedition photographers in the early 1900s. How has the terrain changed? What differences do you notice in the photographs taken today to those take by Hurley and his contemporaries?
  • Research the life of Frank Hurley. Why was his role as photographer both in Antarctica and during the World Wars important?

Using Hurley’s images as a starting point – what do you think these expeditions to Antarctica would have been like? Now find out more information about these journeys. Write a story about Hurley’s experiences. Weave the factual information you have discovered about them, their experiences and Antarctica generally into your story. Display your short story alongside a copy of your favourite photograph by Hurley.

Take a series of photographs that document a journey. It could simply be your journey from home to school or perhaps next time you go on a family holiday. Like Hurley, are you able capture a blend of calm and a chaotic moments?