An album of photographs in Canterbury Museum’s collection taken by Herbert Ponting holds some of the most iconic images of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
Ponting joined Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910–13 British Antarctic Expedition and was one of the first professional photographers to record the Southern Continent. The extreme conditions presented Ponting with technological challenges, but he managed to establish a small darkroom at camp and returned to England with over 1,700 glass plate negatives. These images were intended for Scott’s use in public speaking engagements, but tragically Scott died on the return journey from the South Pole.
Photographs such as the one of Ponting picking a hole in the ice and the men crossing the ice to the ship captured the day-to-day experiences of the expedition party.
Other images recorded more whimsical moments. The photo of Chris the sledge dog straining to investigate a gramophone is no doubt a play on Francis Barraud’s 1898 painting His Master’s Voice, which depicts Nipper the dog quizzically listening to a phonograph (later used as a logo for RCA and HMV).
Ponting was not permitted on long sledging journeys and only photographed the first 40 km of Scott’s trek to the South Pole. However, he taught photography to members of the expedition and one of them took the final images of the ill-fated Polar party.