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Australia 1885 – 1962

Interior of an ice cavern, Whetter stands near the mouth of the cave c.1913 Description: W 153
Materials & Technique: photographs, carbon photograph

Dimensions: printed image 43.0 h x 58.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1992
Accession No: NGA 92.1386
  • Mawson’s lecture notes dubbed this picture: ‘A grotto of mysteries. A cavern carved out in the base of the coastal ice cliffs’. He also spoke of the perils involved: It ‘was a risky procedure. Hurley and his companion [assistant medical officer, New Zealander, Leslie A. Whetter] were lowered down outside on a rope and entered on the unstable sea ice’. Not only did Hurley face the dangers of getting around, but photographing itself was far from easy: ‘My camera is my bugbear’, he wrote, ‘and using it a nightmare. Every time I have to set the shutter I have to take a number of tiny screws from the front and bend the mechanism into shape, and with frostbitten fingers!’ Both Hurley and Ponting used the silhouetted figure against the white of the snow to great pictorial and dramatic effect – though this was also somewhat through necessity, as properly exposed snow meant features were dark.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra