Books taken to the Antarctic 100 years ago

When Sir Ernest Shackleton set off for Antarctica on his ship Endurance, he made sure he had plenty of reading material. But details of precisely what books he took have remained hidden in this photograph – until now.

(By Paul Kerley, BBC News Magazine) The image from the ill-fated South Pole expedition – taken in early March 1915 by Australian photographer Frank Hurley – has been digitised by the Royal Geographical Society in London.

It is now known that the explorer carried with him dictionaries, encyclopedias and books chronicling other dangerous polar expeditions.

He took established works by Dostoyevsky and Shelley – but also, explains Alasdair MacLeod from the RGS, “newly published fiction by popular authors of the time”.

“The cabin wall on the left also shows a framed print of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’, which Shackleton carried with him on to the ice floe when the ship sank.”

In January 1915, Endurance and her 28-man crew became trapped in ice in the Weddell Sea. Shackleton and his men would remain there for 10 months – until the ship sank and they moved on to the ice. In April 1916, in three small boats taken off Endurance, the crew left the ice and began an arduous voyage to uninhabited Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton took a small group with him to South Georgia – 750 miles away – where they finally got help.

All members of Endurance’s crew survived.

Scroll down to see the full list of books identified by experts at the RGS – and see more stark images of Shackleton’s struggle for survival.

Books on Shackleton’s bookshelf:

Encyclopedia Britannica

Seven short plays by Lady Gregory

Perch of the devil by Getrude Atherton

Pip by Ian Hey

Plays: pleasant and unpleasant, Vol 2 Pleasant by G B Shaw

Almayer’s folly by Joseph Conrad

Dr Brewer’s readers handbook

The Brassbounder by David Bone

The case of Miss Elliott by Emmuska Orczy

Raffles by EW Hornung

The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett

Pros and cons: a newspaper reader’s and debater’s guide to the leading controversies of the day by JB Askew

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Woman’s view by Herbert Flowerdew

Thou Fool by JJ Bell

The Message of Fate by Louis Tracy

The Barrier by Rex Beach

Manual of English Grammar and Composition by Nesfield

A book of light verse

Oddsfish by Robert Hugh Benson

Poetical works of Shelley

Monsieur de Rochefort by H De Vere Stacpoole

Voyage of the Vega by Nordenskjold

The threshold of the unknown region by Clements Markham

Cassell’s book of quotations by W Gurney Benham

The concise Oxford dictionary

Chambers biographical dictionary

Cassell’s new German-English English-German dictionary

Chambers 20th Century dictionary

The northwest passage by Roald Amundsen

The voyage of the Fox in Arctic seas by McClintock

Whitaker’s almanac

World’s end by Amelie Rives

Potash and perlmutter by Montague Glass

Round the horn before the mast by A Basil Lubbock

The witness for the defence by AEW Mason

Five years of my life by Alfred Dreyfuss

The morals of Marcus Ordeyne by William J Locke

The rescue of Greely by Commander Winfield Scott Schley

United States Grinnell Expedition by Dr Kane

Three years of Arctic service by Greely

Voyage to the Polar Sea by Nares

Journal of HMS Enterprise by Collinson

Photo digitisation process completed with help from Picturae.

Enduring Eye: The Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley