Fascinating rare pictures reveal early 1900s Antarctic expeditions

Memories frozen in time: From ships coated in ice to a VERY startled penguin, rare vintage pictures of early 20th-century British and Australian Antarctic expeditions

  • The National Archives of Australia and the Australian Antarctic Division have newly digitised archival images 
  • They showcase voyages such as the Australian Antarctic Expedition, which took place from 1911 to 1914
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Explore the Antarctica of 100 years ago, courtesy of these rare vintage photographs.

The pictures are astonishing archival photographs from early 20th-century Antarctic expeditions that have been newly digitised by the National Archives of Australia and the Australian Antarctic Division.

The collection is comprised of hundreds of black-and-white photographs and glass plate negatives that document the harsh conditions, unusual wildlife and day-to-day life of epic voyages such as the Australian Antarctic Expedition and the British Antarctic Expedition, both of which took place in the 1910s.

The Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, Simon Froude, said: ‘I’m delighted this collection will be preserved within the National Archives for future generations to access. These photographs complement other national collections documenting Australia’s exploration and research in Antarctica.

‘The images provide a unique glimpse of the difficult conditions the explorers faced. There are fabulous photos of the unique wildlife, as well as photos depicting the science and technology of the time.’ 

While the Assistant Director-General for Collection Management, Steven Fox, said: ‘This collection is rare and fragile. Acquiring, conserving, digitising and preserving it means it will be accessible now and for future generations. The public can digitally access a range of records from very early Antarctic exploration through to later expeditions.’ Scroll down to embark on a trip through time…

This captivating photograph shows a royal penguin rookery at Nuggets Beach, Macquarie Island, in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It was taken during the Australian Antarctic Expedition, an expedition from 1911 to 1914 that was led by the Australian explorer Douglas Mawson

This picture from the Australian Antarctic Expedition shows the Aurora exploration vessel coated in a layer of ice. The ship was later purchased by Ernest Shackleton. It’s not certain who captured this picture, but it’s thought that it could be the work of the Australian photographer and adventurer Frank Hurley

A giant iceberg is captured in this shot, snared during the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE), which took place between 1929 and 1931 

LEFT: This picture of a bull southern elephant seal was captured during the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition. RIGHT: This close-up of an apparently startled Adelie penguin was taken during the British Antarctic Expedition, led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott between 1910 and 1913

In this picture from the British Antarctic Expedition, unidentified men can be seen sewing and cutting rope 

An unidentified man stands in a hole that had been dug into the ice. This photo was captured during the British Antarctic Expedition

The polar expedition ship Terra Nova is seen held up in pack ice in this glass plate negative from the British Antarctic Expedition of the 1910s 

LEFT: Two seals are pictured near an ice cliff in this glass plate negative from the British Antarctic Expedition. RIGHT: This photograph from the British Antarctic Expedition shows husky dogs sitting on ice

This photograph from the British Antarctic Expedition shows the English artist George Edward Marston reading a book with a candle resting on his head for light. Marston also joined Ernest Shackleton on two separate expeditions to Antarctica 

In this scene from the British Antarctic Expedition, an unidentified man is seen taking a bath 

This photograph from the British Antarctic Expedition shows an unidentified man taking Greenland husky dogs out for exercise

It’s not known which Antarctic expedition this was captured during. The identity of the man who is staring up at large icebergs in the picture is also unknown 

Group Captain Stuart Campbell (centre) is seen raising the Australian flag over the Southern Ocean’s Heard Island on December 26, 1947. Campbell was the leader of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition, which launched that same year 

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