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Next time you’re not sure what to do with your leftover camera film from yesteryear, remember that a box of 100-year-old negatives were discovered in Antarctica encased in a block of ice – and they survived!
It appears that the ice, ice baby managed to save the images from the elements, which would have no doubt destroyed them otherwise. Four years ago, conservators from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust stumbled on the pictures while working on restoring a former Antarctic exploration hut.
The images on the cellulose-nitrate negatives had never been seen until 2013, and are believed to be from Ernest Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, who explored the icy continent between 1914–1917.
Stranded in the hut during a tremendous blizzard after their ship blew out to sea, the adventurers were ultimately rescued, but the box of negatives remained behind.
A photography conservator out of Wellington, New Zealand was able to process the negatives, which, as if frozen in time, revealed the 100-year-old story unfolding through every frame. Though they are unsurprisingly a bit damaged, the photos offer a rarely possible glimpse into exploration of the past.
According to Antarctic Heritage Trust Executive Director Nigel Watson, ‘It’s the first example that I’m aware of, of undeveloped negatives from a century ago from the Antarctic heroic era. There’s a paucity of images from that expedition.’
The photos offer the opportunity to take a closer look into the Antarctic adventures of yore and are also a reminder of the power of nature to preserve as opposed to destroy.