“Hurley is a warrior with his camera and would go anywhere or do anything to get a picture.”
- Lionel Greenstreet
First believed to be a photograph of Shackleton’s return to Elephant Island, the photograph below was later determined to be the James Caird leaving Elephant Island. This image was doctored by the legendary Australian photographer Frank Hurley, who controversially scratched out the James Caird from its rightful place in history.
Below you can see the same moment in history corrected by Seb Coulthard - the rowing boat to the left is the Stancomb-Wills, often mistaken to be the James Caird. This image was 'photoshoped' by inserting a distant photographic outline of the Alexandra Shackleton taken in February 2013 during Shackleton Epic Expedition. If you ever wondered what that moment truly looked like in 1916, you can't get any closer than this!
Why did Frank Hurley alter the original photo negative?
The most controversial image of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition is the above scene, photographed on Elephant Island at exactly 12:30 pm on 24th April 1916. Shackleton's men can be seen standing with their backs to the camera, hands aloft, cheering, as the lifeboat supposedly from the Yelcho heaves into view. Frank Hurley called it ‘The Rescue’. Worsley used the same image in his 1931 book 'The Endurance' but entitled it: ‘The departure of the James Caird from Elephant Island’.
The original Kodak Model 3A negative (122 film) shows that the James Caird has been scratched out leaving the Stancomb-Wills alone at sea and the ‘marooned’ crew on the beach. The only explanation for this is that Hurley needed a climatic photo to end his lecture tour as ordered by Shackleton, sadly he altered the original negative instead of a duplicate.
Success and failure lay in the balance with the departure of the James Caird.
The bravery of those left behind, their hands raised boldly in a courageous farewell was captured for eternity, but then destroyed by Hurley’s manipulation.
Frank Hurley would become renown for his 'photographic tinkering'.