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This exhibition presents photographs from two of the greatest Antarctic journeys ever undertaken: Robert F. Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1910–13 and Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914–16.

Scott set out to be the first person to reach the South Pole. Although he was beaten in this aim by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, Scott finally reached the Pole on 17 January 1912 with four of his colleagues. On the return journey, however, Scott and his men all died.

Shackleton, on board the Endurance, was trying to make the first crossing of the Antarctic continent via the South Pole. In 1915 the ship became trapped in the ice floes and it was eventually completely crushed, leaving the men stuck on the drifting ice. Shackleton decided in April 1916 to move the men to Elephant Island. From there, he and a small crew sailed to South Georgia on the James Caird to get help. All the men were eventually rescued by Shackleton on 30 August 1916 without any loss of life.

Both the expeditions had official photographers. Herbert Ponting, who travelled with Scott, was the first professional photographer to accompany an expedition to the Antarctic. Ponting saw himself as a ‘camera artist’ and worked hard to produce beautifully composed images. In contrast, Frank Hurley, who accompanied Shackleton, saw himself more as a documentary photographer, and created a complete visual narrative of the expedition.

Ponting presented a set of his photographs to King George V in 1914. Shackleton presented the King with a deluxe album of Hurley’s work in 1917.


The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.