The return of the sun © Royal Geographical SocietyEndurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure

Merseyside Maritime Museum
16th July 2010 - 3rd January 2011

Reviewed by Charles McIntyre

The enthralling tale of Shackleton's desperate bid to successfully navigate across the Antarctic is brought to life in the Maritime Museum's latest exhibition.

The exhibition, which has already travelled to many museums across the world, details the events of the failed expedition through the photographs of James Francis Hurley. That Hurley jumped into icy waters to retrieve his glass plate negatives when the Endurance was abandoned makes this exhibition even more remarkable, and communicates the perilous odds the crew fought against in their quest to explore new lands.

Hurley's prints are supported by information boards and diary entries, as well as a selection of short documentary films narrated by Liam Neeson. The exhibition also includes a to scale model of the life boat James Caird, which Shackleton and others sailed in to summon rescue from the island of South Georgia. The visitor is invited to use a sextant in a simulated sea environment to gain an impression of the navigational nightmare those aboard the Caird were confronted with.

Although the exhibition centres around the miraculous survival of the crew, Hurley's photographs also portray the life aboard the Endurance before disaster struck. The sense of excitement and wonder is vividly captured in Hurley's beautiful images, and every facet of exploratory existence is documented with loving attentiveness. From the Canadian sledging dogs living harmoniously with the adoring crew, to the stoic men playing football on the ice floe – these images are in stark contrast with the desolate and treacherous environment encroaching on the doomed expedition. Tragically, the ship's 69 dogs – and the cat, Mr. Chippy – were all eventually killed over the months in which the crew were marooned in the Weddell Sea.

The exhibition owes its success to its curation, managing to take the visitor on a journey through time and through conditions, relentlessly establishing the utter hopelessness all those aboard the Endurance faced. Taking us back to a time of steadfast courage and fearless exploration into the unknown, the Endurance expedition demonstrates Shackleton's family motto to the absolute - “By endurance we conquer.”

Printer friendly page

Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by maia on 6th January, 2011 at 20:19
boring very very boring!!!!!!!!!!!! try and make it a bit more interesting, please?

Comment left by Charles on 14th February, 2011 at 12:55
Maia, your constructive criticism and sage advice is duly noted. "Make stuff up about museum exhibition so that any historical relevance, or indeed relevance to the exhibition itself, is obscured." Next time I'll throw in some toilet humour to keep your mind focused :)