The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition
On view June 23, 2000 to September 10, 2000
In August 1914 Ernest Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven sailors and scientists left Britain for the Antarctic on the Endurance. The plan was to cross the Antarctic on foot. Only 80 miles from Endurance’s destination, the ship was caught in thick pack ice that splintered and sank it. The men set up camp on ice floes that drifted on a frigid sea 2,000 fathoms deep. Eventually they managed to sail lifeboats to Elephant Island, perhaps the most uninhabitable island on all of earth’s surface. Because the men were faced with sure death, Shackleton and a handful of his strongest men took the lifeboat James Caird 800 miles to South Georgia Island. The seventeen-day trip was unimaginably grueling. The men kept the boat afloat despite 60-foot waves—thousands of them each day—and sub-zero temperatures. When they reached their destination, they had to scale immense glaciers to get to help on the other side of the island. It took another three months to rescue his men. The entire ordeal lasted nearly two years.
This exhibition, which has struck a chord with Americans and critics alike, was developed and first shown at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It features 150 mesmerizing photographs taken by Frank Hurley, a member of Shackleton’s expedition, as well as other objects that accompanied the crew on their heroic mission of survival. Ms. Alexander says the photographs are the heart of the show and are complemented by moving images of a tumultuous ocean projected on the walls. Aiding in one’s imagination are the sounds of a hostile, ferocious sea.