100-Year-Old Box of Negatives Discovered by Conservators in Antarctica


Almost one hundred years after a group of explorers set out across the frozen landscape of Antarctica to set up supply depots for famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, a box of 22 never-before-seen exposed but unprocessed negatives taken by the group’s photographer has been unearthed in one of those shacks, preserved in a block of ice.

This incredible discovery was made by the Conservators of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust who are working to restore an old exploration hut. The 22 cellulose nitrate negatives were, the Trust believes, left there by Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, which became stranded on Ross Island when their ship blew out to sea during a blizzard.

As you can imagine, the negatives weren’t in the best of shape when they were found, but a Wellington photography conservator took the time to painstakingly process and restore them until they revealed their secrets.

Here are a few more of those photos (you can see them all on the Trust’s website here):





According to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the identity of the photographer is not known, although the expedition’s photographer was Arnold Patrick Spencer-Smith, so it’s likely they were his. Regardless of who took them, however, the discovery is still remarkable.

“It’s the first example that I’m aware of, of undeveloped negatives from a century ago from the Antarctic heroic era,” said AHT Executive Director Nigel Watson. “There’s a paucity of images from that expedition.”

The Ross Sea Party was eventually rescued, but only after three of their party (including Spencer-Smith) had died. These photographs are the legacy those men left behind, a glimpse back at a long-lost age exploration.

If you’d like to read the full story behind the photographs, or browse through a full gallery, head over to the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s website by clicking here.

(via Imaging Resource)

Image credits: Photographs courtesy of the Antarctic Heritage Trust New Zealand

  • junyo

    “As you can imagine, the negatives weren’t in the best of shape when they were found…”

    Completely intentional. I heard Shackleton had a Kickstarter going for his Icetagram project.

  • SpaceMan

    Trying very hard to be funny is not funny

  • darioqqo948

    My Uncle Zachary
    recently got a 9 month old Mercedes-Benz CL-Class CL63 AMG only from working
    off a home pc… go now B­u­z­z­3­1­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Matias Gonua

    That ol’ Uncle Zachary, that’s typical him!

  • junyo

    Good thing I don’t try very hard. Must be why I’m hilarious.

  • bellinR

    Emulsion separated from the acetate, creating the black splotches. amazed the radon didn’t kill the negatives.

  • Maay

    When we find memory cards in ice a 100 years from now, will we be able to restore the pictures in them ?

  • Jake

    Depends: What do you think has more staying power, film chemicals or Photoshop’s CC plan?

  • gammacurve

    Assuming of course that there is ice 100 years from now…

  • Sarpent

    I followed the link to the Antarctic Heritage Trust site, where it’s unfortunate that they’ve chosen to only display tiny versions of the images. The images here are much larger. Perhaps it’s a bandwidth cost issue (of course forgivable, it that is the issue), but the gallery there has far less impact than it could have.

  • Ole Tjugen

    What radon? There is very little radon inside a block of ice. While radon is continuously formed by decay of uranium in the bedrock below, ice is a pretty good diffusion barrier. Cosmic radiation would have had a greater effect on these negatives.

  • Ole Tjugen

    I see from the trust’s site that the negatives were developed, and the “processing” done was to separate and preserve them.
    Rather different from processing undeveloped negatives.

  • Mako

    They didn’t discover negatives. They discovered unprocessed exposed film. Only after processing were they negatives

  • Kevin

    Yeah it’s confusing – the AHT site says nothing about them being undeveloped. They have a picture of the negs clumped together, and I would assume that taking this picture would have exposed them to light, rendering them useless.

  • Mako

    Hmmmm … seeing THAT photo it does look like negatives. But THIS article says: “a box of 22 never-before-seen exposed but unprocessed negatives.” Negatives are unprocessed “film” before being developed.

  • reichsfuhrer


  • nimitta


  • tawnyarey

    Or just droll.

  • Lucifer999

    Cool. Pictures of ghosts, since these people are all long gone.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Can we get a double check to see if they were undeveloped? From the image of negatives I see on their website, it looks like there were developed.

    Perhaps the “processing” that was done was the process to separate the negs and restore them?

  • Benicio Murray

    only 2 interesting images too, they could have showcased them better on the site.

  • mark

    #nomakeup #nofilter

  • LiberalGilt

    the antarctic from 100 years ago actually looks like today
    goodbye global warming

  • LiberalGilt

    there will be lots of ice idiot

  • LoneWolfiNTj

    Really? I doubt it. Most of the arctic ice is already gone, and the antarctic ice is following. We’re in the middle of global warming, or haven’t you heard?

  • LoneWolfiNTj

    I noticed that. And worse, you can’t right-click/save-as because their display uses Flash. And still worse, I can’t find any link to the original photos, or at least larger versions than the tiny thumbnails they’re displaying.

    Anyone know where larger, sharper copies can be found? Obviously PetaPixel was able to get large, sharp images for 5 of the 22 images; too bad they didn’t also do so for the other 17. Where did these larger copies come from?

  • LiberalGilt

    Who cares what you think? Your opinion is uneducated.

    It’s summer in the arctic and guess what genius? The ice has been consistently growing. September ice volume was about 1600 km larger than in September of 2012 and within 500 km of the 2010 September ice volume. While ice volume at the maximum during April was on par with the previous two years, reduction in ice volume during the summer months was less than in previous years. September ice volume showed increases since 2008.

    Nothing worse than facts to you warming nuts.

  • stewgc wow

    your an Idiot!

  • LiberalGilt

    The correct word would be “you’re.”
    So guess we cleared up who the idiot is.

  • Imbai

    Negatives are processed film before being printed.

  • Imbai

    It’s midwinter in the Arctic, midsummer in the Antarctic.

  • johnnie boy

    I wonder where you will hide when the frenzied mobs are burning alive all the DUMBASSES that are denying global warming in the face of overwhelming evidence (that only ARROGANT DUMBASSES cannot understand), like that we are seeing events that have not occured in over ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS? DUMBASS!

  • LiberalGilt


  • LiberalGilt

    Wow another crazy militant tree humper. You whack packers are always one step away from violence.

    The point that it DID happen a hundred thousand years ago would prove to the non-zombified that it’s all about nature and not men.

    Go back to your bunker. It hasn’t warmed in 15 years and the ice is growing steadily. But of course in your crazy bubble that’s just further proof and that’s why you and your kind are clowns.

  • Uncle Scratchie

    That is why a group of Global Warming “scientists” are stuck on their ship blocked in by ice, because it is all melting? You are a genius.

  • bb333

    looks like much less ice than now…….don’t tell Algore and the liberal sheeple

  • saikaku

    Also assuming that there are electronic devices…

  • ripley

    Except we stopped referring to it as global warming about a decade ago.

  • ripley

    So are you a climate scientist?

  • LiberalGilt

    Are you?

  • LoneWolfiNTj

    I’m not sure what “we” you are referring to. Who are the members of your “we”?

  • Catherine

    Always with the name calling. Do you hope to intimidate commenters into submission?

  • LiberalGilt

    Sounds like you’re a bottom in search of a top.
    I did not call lonewolf a name.
    I was called an idiot by stewgc and merely proved who the actual idiot was.

    So your comment is an brow raiser in that is suggests you are looking to be some one’s sub. If you were hot, one might have consideration, however I suspect the contrary to hotness is closer to the truth.

  • ripley

    Everyone in the Environmental Studies dept at uni.

  • ripley

    Close. I studied the environment.

  • LiberalGilt

    Looking out your window — especially from your basement apartment — doesn’t qualify as ‘studying.”

  • ripley

    No but my undergrad and postgrad qualifications do.

  • Corey

    “…a group of explorers set out across the frozen landscape of Antarctica to set up supply depots for famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton…”
    This group should get more credit than the ‘famed explorer’. Whose supply depots did they use?

  • conor

    this is amazing