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Shackleton's Endurance

The Background 

I first read about Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expeditions in the early noughties and was captivated. The Endurance Expedition of 1914 – 1916 did not end well, though no lives were lost. His ship, Endurance, sank after it was crushed in the ice, stranding Shackleton, and his crew of 27 men on an ice floe.  (more)

Presentation on the making of Shackleton’s Endurance

Anchor 1

They eventually hauled their three lifeboats to open water and rowed to Elephant Island, a tiny slip of land in the Antarctic Ocean. From there Shackleton and four of the men took one of the boats and rowed an incredible 800-miles to the island of South Georgia where they knew there was a whaling station. They landed safely, though on the opposite side of the island to where the station was.  One of the men had fallen ill on the crossing and Shackleton ordered one of the others to stay and care for him as he and the other two made their way across the snow-covered mountainous interior of the island to reach the station on the other side. They did this trek with little or no food or water, or proper equipment, and reached the station where he was able to eventually secure the rescue of all the men. It is recognised as one of the great epic journeys of human survival. 


The Work 

2016 was the centenary of this heroic rescue mission, and in celebration, I made Shackleton’s Endurance to commemorate it. The work hangs in the Shackleton Museum in Athy, Co Kildare. The Work is based on the famous night-time photograph taken by Frank Hurley. He was the official photographer on the expedition. The image is made up of thousands of very closely condensed words which are taken from extracts of Shackleton’s diary that he kept on the Endurance Expedition.  

The words are written on aluminium using oil paints. The words are combined, sometimes compressed together and sometimes lightly inscribed and spaced, to make the image. It therefore requires close attention to the texture of letters and words which serve as the building blocks.

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