Frozen 100-Year-Old Negatives Discovered In A Block Of Ice in Antarctica

Conservators of the New Zealand Antartic Heritage Trust were restoring one of the exploration huts in Antarctica when they discovered a box that held a remarkable treasure.

Contained in the box were 100-year-old cellulose nitrate negatives documenting the life of Antarctic explorers a century ago. These never-before-seen negatives were preserved in a block of ice.

The restoration process proved to be a tedious task. After being frozen for a century, the negatives were clumped together and had to be first gently separated from one another. Next came the cleaning and the removing of mold before consolidating the cellulose image layers.

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Examining the negatives. After such a painstaking process, the negatives were finally produced into digital positives, allowing us to take a historic look on the heroic era of Antarctic exploration (1895 – 1917).


According to the Trust, “The photographs are from Ernest Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party (1914-1917), which spent time living in Scott’s hut after being stranded on Ross Island when their ship blew out to sea. Their role was to lay vital depots for Shackleton’s expedition, which was to cross the continent from the Weddell Sea.”

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Chief scientist and geologist Alexander Stevens on Aurora deck.

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Iceberg in Ross Island

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Alexander Stevens on the Aurora.

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Big Razorback Island, McMurdo Sound

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Snowy landscape, McMurdo Sound


Sea and glacier, McMurdo Sound


Sea ice afloat in the sea, McMurdo Sound


Tent Island, McMurdo Sound


White Island, McMurdo Ice Shelf


Looking south along Hut Point Peninsula

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Sea, sky, and landscape


Mt Erebus, Ross Island from the West


The identity of the photographer remains unknown, but is thought to be the expedition photographer Arnold Spencer-Smith.

Credit: Antartic Heritage Trust