Item #134254 'A Snow Cornice' [with Xavier Mertz]. Australasian Antarctic Expedition, Frank HURLEY.
[Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914]. HURLEY, Frank

'A Snow Cornice' [with Xavier Mertz]

A very large sepia-toned gelatin silver photograph, flush-cut on the original thick card mount, recently mounted and matted using archival materials (visible image size 417 × 589 mm, external mat size 602 × 757 mm), ready for framing (or long-term storage in its custom-made Mylar sleeve).

Minimal conservation to trifling surface blemishes in the top left-hand corner, and a touch of pale silvering-out aound the edges; in excellent condition.

Significantly, this dramatic image of an expeditioner on skis, silhouetted against gigantic ice cliffs, features Xavier Mertz, one of the two men to lose their lives on the expedition. This photograph is reproduced in 'The Home of the Blizzard' with the caption 'Adelie Land. The cliffs at Land's End, Cape Denison, on the brow of the cliff in front of the figure (Mertz), is a good example of a snow cornice' (Volume 1, opposite page 178). Mertz was one of the ill-fated Far Eastern Party, the three-man sledging team which set out from Cape Denison in November 1912. After the death of Lieutenant Belgrave Edward Ninnis, Mertz and Mawson turned back, but Mertz sickened and died on the return journey, with Mawson left to carry on alone.

This vintage print comes from the original 1915 London exhibition of Hurley photographs. The label of the Fine Art Society, New Bond Street, London is on the verso of this print, with the title (as above) and the catalogue reference number 97 added in ink.

Provenance: Sir Douglas Mawson; purchased from him in 1939 by Harold Fletcher, the zoologist on Mawson's BANZARE voyages, 1929-31; by descent. Harold Oswald Fletcher (1903-1996) 'started work at the Australian Museum in 1918 at the age of 15, and went on to become Curator of Fossils in 1941 and Deputy Director in 1957. After 48 years at the Museum, he retired on 26th February, 1967.... He participated in the following major field trips: 1929-31 - British-Australian-New Zealand Antarctic Expedition: This expedition was led by Sir Douglas Mawson, and Harold considered it one of the highlights of his working life. For his efforts he was awarded a King's Polar Medal and Bar. At age 91 he recalled the terrible storms at sea on the journey to Antarctica, when their vessel, the "Discovery" "would plough through waves that swept the ship's entire length". Harold had enormous respect for Mawson, of whom he observed: "he was always prepared to do the work that he asked us to do".... 1939 - Simpson Desert: This expedition, led by Dr C.T. Madigan from the University of Adelaide, was another of Harold's career highlights. Unfortunately the party encountered unusually heavy rain, and had to give up at Marree due to the flooding' (Prue Walker, on the Australian Museum website).

When the expedition was abandoned, Fletcher returned home to Sydney via Adelaide, arriving there on 11 August 1939. He recorded the acquisition of these photographs in his unpublished diaries: 'During my brief stay in Adelaide, I visited Sir Douglas Mawson at the Adelaide University. He was pleased to advise that the scientific reports of his Antarctic expedition, 1929-1931 (BANZARE), were well advanced and that my paper, on the marine fossils that I collected on Kerguelen Island, were in press.

Before leaving, he showed me a number of framed pictures returned from an exhibition in London of Frank Hurley's photographs taken during the 1911-1914 expedition. To my surprise, he said I could have one or two so I readily selected two beautiful scenic views of the Antarctic continent. With a smile on his face, Sir Douglas then said he could not give them to me, he would have to charge me seven shillings and sixpence (75 cents) each. I was now faced with the difficulty of getting them, together with my suitcase, to Sydney. Frowned on by the conductors on the train who were against me taking the pictures on board, I finally arrived in Sydney'.

Item #134254

Price (AUD): $15,000.00