A box of never-before-seen negatives has been stored under a block of ice in Antarctica for the past 100 years. During an attempt to rehabilitate an ancient expedition hut, conservators from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered 22 exposed but unprocessed cellulose nitrate negatives.
The photos are thought to belong to Ernest Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, which was stranded in the hut during a snowstorm when their ship went out to sea in 1914-1917. They were recovered ultimately, but the box was hidden until today.
The negatives were meticulously repaired by a Wellington photography conservator in order to unveil the historical mysteries hidden inside each picture. Despite being partially damaged, the stunning photographs provide us with a unique peek into former expeditions. “It’s the first example that I’m aware of, of undeveloped negatives from a century ago from the Antarctic heroic age,” says AHT Executive Director Nigel Watson. There aren’t many photos from that excursion.”