One of the greatest-ever photographic records of human survival is revealed in a remarkable exhibition created by Sarner for the Royal Geographical Society. The display brings to life the incredible story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1917. At the heart of the exhibition are more than 90 high-resolution images, taken by Shackleton’s official expedition photographer Frank Hurley, and saved by him under the most extreme circumstances to provide a lasting record of the men of the Endurance and their story. Newly digitised images reveal previously unseen details of the crew’s epic struggle for survival, both before and after their ship was destroyed. Following its highly successful show at the Royal Geographical Society, the exhibition is touring the UK.

Location
London and UK Tour
Services
Branding - Concept Design & Visualisation - Scheme & Detailed Design - Project Engineering & Technical Design - Lighting, Audio, Video - Set Design - Media Production - Graphics - Lighting - Audiovisual - Art Direction - Installation Supervision - Construction & Installation - Support & Maintenance - Upgrades and Extensions - Tour production and Management
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Client's brief

The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) holds one of the finest collections of original glass plate and celluloid negatives created by Frank Hurley, the official photographer and cinematographer on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The RGS had digitised a number of images directly from originals taken by Hurley. To honour the crew’s epic struggle for survival, the RGS wanted to create a new exhibition that would open to the public exactly 100 years to the day after their crushed ship Endurance sank and they found themselves stranded on the vast ice floes. Meredith Hooper, the Antarctic historian, writer and broadcaster, researched, wrote and curated the exhibition, delivering a fantastic narrative that allowed Sarner to create a moving immersive experience of the drama and emotional journey of the crew, while bringing Hurley’s stunning imagery to the forefront, in addition to some incredibly rare artefacts that were carried through every stage of the crew’s journey.

Features

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Exhibition Begins

Cut out figures of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley invite the visitors into a simplified scenic reconstruction of Shackleton's office, where the planning of the 1914 expedition was done. The journey starts here.
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Endurance Sails to the South Pole

The RGS’ foyer temporarily becomes an exhibition space. Photos of the Endurance at the start of its mission take over most available surfaces. The ship travels south, to the furthermost edge of South America and beyond, into uncharted seas. The crew’s optimism is challenged by the perils of Antarctica as the sea turns into a hard shield of ice and the ship is beset. A dotted path on the floor guides visitors along, like a line drawn on a nautical map.
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Life on the Ice

Shackleton and his men are forced to live on the ship for the entire winter. Exhibited photos are hung on timber structures, echoing the adaptation of the ship into a temporary home. Life on Endurance is documented through the oppressive darkness of winter, followed eventually by the returning spring sun. The exhibition design responds to this change of season with a lighter, open approach to the space. Huge prints render the might of a landscape to which all hopes are tied. The men step out of winter hoping that the ship might break free from the ice. Various audiovisuals showcasing original footage from the expedition accompany the visitors and offer added realism to the experience.
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Escape and Rescue

The final act of the story is where acute drama and hope unfold. The crew abandon the ship and most of their belongings to land on the inhospitable Elephant Island. The world is oblivious to their whereabouts and a small party led by Shackleton ventures into the most dangerous seas to find help. The exhibition reaches a peak of tension through dark back-lit graphics and an oppressive spatial approach. Despair turns into elation when Shackleton returns to save his men. The exhibition ends with a powerful display of artifacts that made it back from the expedition, the highlight of which is the King George’s flag, lent by the Royal Collections for the occasion. Another 'precious survivor' is the Bible from the Society’s collections, originally presented to Shackleton by Queen Alexandra on visiting the Endurance on 16 July 1914 and inscribed by her.
'Thank you to the Sarner team for your commitment and hard work which enabled us to deliver the exhibition so successfully. It has been a great pleasure to work with you all. We originally briefed for an exhibition which would provide visitors with a ‘wow’ factor and the response confirms that you have succeeded big time.'
Alasdair Macleod Head of Enterprise and Resources, Royal Geographical Society
'I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a responsive and understanding group of people. The exhibition is pleasing – and informing – its visitors. And – they are coming, in large numbers. That, of course is what it’s all about.'
Meredith Hooper Exhibition Curator; Writer and Historian