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Royal Mail celebrates Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition

The Endurance in Antarctica Photo: Frank Hurley (State Library of NSW)

In collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society and the Scott Polar Research Institute, the Royal Mail in the UK has launched a set of special stamps to mark 100 years since the remarkable story of survival of Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance. Shackleton’s heroism and resourcefulness have made him one of the most celebrated sailors and leaders of all time.

(c) Royal Mail

The eight-stamp set uses images of the actual voyage which were recorded by Shackleton’s official expedition photographer, Frank Hurley, on large format glass negatives. Hurley's photography is regarded as ground-breaking, and the stamp issue uses these to tell the chronological story of the voyage, survival and rescue. Stephen Agar of the Royal Mail believes the challenges endured by the 28-man crew of the endurance deserve to be recognised. “Their bravery and determination have been an inspiration to generations, and are rightly honoured with a set of Special Stamps,” he said.

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s granddaughter, Alexandra Shackleton, said: “These beautiful stamps show the images of Frank Hurley, photographer to Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, which set forth a century ago. Royal Mail is to be congratulated – I think my grandfather would have been pleased.”


The Endurance Expedition

Described by Sir Edmund Hillary as ‘the greatest survival story of all time’, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which took place from 1914 to 1917, began as a voyage of exploration and became an outstanding story of survival in the world’s most hostile environment.

The ambition of Shackleton’s expedition was to make the first coast-to-coast crossing of Antarctica, a perilous journey of 1,800 miles involving two ships and more than 50 men, which produced an epic saga of hardship, tragedy and endurance. To read more about Shackleton’s epic journey of survival, click here.


Endurance Exhibitions

The Royal Geographical Society and Scott Polar Research Institute are currently running concurrent exhibitions to celebrate the legacy of Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition.

The RGS-IBG is currently running The Enduring Eye exhibition, which opened to the public on Saturday 21 November, exactly 100 years to the day that the crushed Endurance sank beneath the sea ice of the Weddell Sea. The free exhibition runs until 28 February 2016 and includes more than ninety high resolution images, taken by Frank Hurley, and saved by him under the most extreme circumstances, to provide a lasting record of the men of the Endurance and their story.

“Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition is not just an incredible story of leadership and survival; it is a key part of the UK’s history of scientific exploration’” says Dr Rita Gardner CBE, Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). “We are delighted that the Royal Mail has chosen to mark the centenary of the expedition by issuing this set of stamps, featuring a number of the incredible Hurley images held in our Collections and currently on display in our Enduring Eye exhibition. These stamps and the exhibition will engage everyone with the UK’s Antarctic heritage.”

The Scott Polar Research Institute exhibition, By Endurance We Conquer, runs until 18 June. The exhibition features objects and archival material from the Institute, as well as artefacts from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and other collections. These include navigation instruments used on the James Caird on the voyage to South Georgia, the cooking pot used by the men on the overland crossing of South Georgia, and Shackleton's cup marked with his initials. Archival material includes letters, diaries, and a map drawn by a crew member showing the route taken during the South Georgia crossing.

The Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney is also running an exhibition about the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, called Shackleton: Escape from Antarctica. The exhibition includes photographs by Frank Hurley, traditional dioramas and actual equipment, clothing and specimens from the expedition. The exhibition runs until 28 March 2016.

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