Guide to the Papers of Frank Hurley

MS 883

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Papers of Frank Hurley
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 883
1.12 metres (8 boxes)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia
Diaries kept on Antarctic expeditions, New Guinea expeditions, during World War I and II and during an Australian tour, together with typescripts of publications, scripts of radio talks and films, personal papers and newspaper cuttings covering his expeditions and career.


Scope and Contents

The papers include diaries kept on Antarctic expeditions, New Guinea expeditions, during World War I and II, and during an Australian tour; typescripts of publications, radio talks and film script; personal papers; and newspaper cuttings covering his expeditions and career. There is also an account by Ross Macpherson Smith of his 1919 flight.

Conditions Governing Access

Access conditions may apply to this collection, please refer to the collection's catalogue record for further information (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Frank Hurley, National Library of Australia, MS 883, [series and item number]'.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were presented to the Library by Mrs Hurley in 1963 together with several thousand photographs. Items 72-82 of MS 883 are papers originally located in the Pictures and Map collections and relocated in Manuscripts in 1974-2002.

A substantial collection of photographs by Hurley are held in the Library's Pictures Collection.

The diaries of Frank Hurley (Series 1 Items 2-4 and Series 1 Item 17) are available on microfilm at mfm G 10285. Further diaries of Frank Hurley (1912-1918) are held by the Mitchell Library.

Biographical Note

James Francis Hurley was born in Sydney on 15 October 1885. He was educated at the Glebe Public School and later attended lectures at the University of Sydney. He became interested in photography, worked for a postcard business and in 1910 held his first exhibition.

In 1911 Douglas Mawson invited Hurley to be the photographer on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. He took both still photographs and movie film and on his return to Sydney he produced the film Home of the blizzard. In November 1913 he returned to the Antarctic with an expedition to relieve Mawson. In 1914 he joined the Antarctic expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton and took the famous photographs of the destruction of the Endurance. He returned to England in 1916 where he assembled his photographs and produced the film In the grip of polar ice.

In 1917 Hurley joined the Australian Imperial Force as an official photographer and worked in France, Belgium and Palestine. At considerable risk, he photographed the Light Horse during the battle of Jericho. He returned to Australia in 1918 and in the following year joined Ross Smith on the final leg of his flight from England, filming Australia from the air. Between 1920 and 1923 He made two long expeditions to the Torres Strait Islands and Papua and produced both a film and a book with the title Pearls and savages. He made further films in Dutch New Guinea and the Torres Strait Islands, worked as pictorial editor for The Sun (Sydney) and in 1929 returned to the Antarctic with the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition.

In the 1930s Hurley worked with the Cinesound studio, as a cameraman and as head of its special documentary unit. During World War II he was official photographer with the AIF in the Middle East, where he remained until 1946. On his return to Australia he published several books of photographs and travelled and lectured. He died in Sydney on 16 January 1962.

Hurley married Antoinette Leighton in 1918. They had a son and two daughters.

Biographical Reference(s)

Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 9, pp 411-12

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Diaries, 1912-1961 Show allonly 1

See also Series 4, Item 74 (Papua New Guinea diary, 1921).

Item 1. My diary, with Bage and Webb, to the south magnetic pole, 1912-1913 Show all (41) Show allonly 1

Mawson Expedition. Typescript. 27cm. n.p.

Show all (41)

Item 2. My diary, 5 November 1914 to 31 December 1915 Show all (165) Show allonly 1

Pamphlet - South Georgia - Weddell Sea, Frozen in - ships drift -, wreck of Endurance. Typescript bound with pamphlet The Imperial Trans? Antarctic Expedition. 26.4cm. n.p. Filmed on G 10,285

Show all (165)

Item 3. My diary, Shackleton Expedition, 1 January 1916 - 4 September 1916 Show all (174) Show allonly 1

Drifting floe - Elephant Island - Relief. Typescript. 26.4cm. n.p. Filmed on G 10, 285

Show all (174)

Item 4. My diary, Shackleton Expedition, 5 September 1916 - 25 April 1917 Show all (126) Show allonly 1

Return home through Chile and Argentine, Brazil and Spain - London - Return South Georgia, my stay South Georgia. Typescript with manuscript corrections. 26.4cm. n.p. Filmed on G 10,285

Show all (126)

Item 5. My diary, official War Photographer Commonwealth Military Forces, 21 August 1917 - 31 August 1918 Show all (220) Show allonly 1

Flanders - France - London - Malta, Palestine - Egypt - London. Typescript with manuscript markings. 26.4cm. n.p.

Show all (220)

Item 6. Frank Hurley's diary, when on tour with the Shackleton Picture, 21 November 1919 - 20 January 1920 Show all (75) Show allonly 1

Autograph manuscript. n.p.

Show all (75)

Item 7. A private diary, Capt. Frank Hurley. c/-Kodak. Australasia Show all (144) Show allonly 1

George St. Sydney. Being account of a voyage to the Barrier Reef. The Torres Straits Islands and New Guinea. From 2 December 1920. Islands visited, Darnley, Murray, Mabuiag, Moa. Autograph manuscript with many alterations. 135pp. 2 December 1920 - 31 January 1921.

Show all (144)

Item 8. Diary no B, Frank Hurley's diary, 1 February 1921 - 30 April 1921 Show all (181) Show allonly 1

Being record of my experiences during a visit to the Torres Straits Islands and New Guinea, including an epitome of the pearling of Thursday Island. Autograph manuscript. 181pp.

N.B. For diary C, Hurley diary Papua New Guinea May - July 1921, see Series 4, Item 74.

Show all (181)

Item 9. Diary D. My diary, 7 July 1921 - 27 August 1921 Show all (98) Show allonly 1

From Kiaruka - to Ononge, and to Port Moresby. New Guinea. Autograph manuscript, bound vol., 84pp.

Show all (98)

Item 10. Diary No. 1. My second expedition to Papua, 29 August 1922 - 28 October 1922 Show all (166) Show allonly 1

Autograph manuscript, bound vol., 165pp