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Endurance (1933)


The documentary footage taken by Frank Hurley during the Antarctic expedition led by Ernest Shackleton on a ship called Endurance in 1914-16 is bookended with a simple plot featuring a young boy who is eager to hear the dramatic story from his father, Captain Frank Worsley.

The film was originally released in Australia in 1917 as In the Grip of the Polar Ice and re-released in 1933 as Endurance. The film was first exhibited in the UK as South in 1919 with an accompanying lecture by Ernest Shackleton.

Curator’s notes

After watching Home of the Blizzard – Frank Hurley’s documentary of Mawson’s 1911-13 Antarctic expedition – Ernest Shackleton asked Hurley to film his own expedition across Antarctica with the aim of funding part of the expedition through photographic and film sales. Apart from taking still photographs, Hurley decided to make a feature film instead of a straight documentary with the belief that the dramatic effect would emphasise an already momentous story.

Hurley combines documentary photography from the expedition with dramatic music and a simple plot to heighten the drama in order to appeal to a wide audience. It is narrated by Captain Frank Worsley who was captain of the Endurance. When the film was first released in Australia, Frank Hurley provided live commentary to accompany many of the screenings similar to the commentary Shackleton provided for screenings in the UK.

In 1988 the British Film Institute restored the print using tinting and toning to match the original. The clips selected here are from the unrestored version.