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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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

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

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


Item 2. My diary, 5 November 1914 to 31 December 1915

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


Item 3. My diary, Shackleton Expedition, 1 January 1916 - 4 September 1916

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


Item 4. My diary, Shackleton Expedition, 5 September 1916 - 25 April 1917

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


Item 5. My diary, official War Photographer Commonwealth Military Forces, 21 August 1917 - 31 August 1918

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


Item 6. Frank Hurley's diary, when on tour with the Shackleton Picture, 21 November 1919 - 20 January 1920

Autograph manuscript. n.p.


Item 7. A private diary, Capt. Frank Hurley. c/-Kodak. Australasia

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.


Item 8. Diary no B, Frank Hurley's diary, 1 February 1921 - 30 April 1921

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.


Item 9. Diary D. My diary, 7 July 1921 - 27 August 1921

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


Item 10. Diary No. 1. My second expedition to Papua, 29 August 1922 - 28 October 1922

Autograph manuscript, bound vol., 165pp


Item 11. Second expedition to New Guinea. Diary No. 2, 31 October 1922 - 4 December 1922

Concerning the passage up the Fly to our meeting with the natives of Lake Murray. Autograph manuscript signed, bound vol., 143pp.


Item 12. Diary No. 3, 4 December 1922 - 12 January 1923

Autograph manuscript signed. 23cm. 142pp.


Item 13. Diary No. 4, 12 January - 26 January 1923

Contains an amount of official correspondence to and from Frank Hurley. Autograph manuscript signed. 45pp.


Item 14. Account by Ross Macpherson Smith of his 1919 flight entitled 'My first aerial voyage from London to Australia'

Autograph manuscript. 34pp, n.d. Contained in a notebook, together with notes for lecture-film evenings (written by Hurley), and 'Adventure films and the psychology of the audience', n.p.


Item 15. Diary. Commenced London, 3 August 1929 - 5 October 1929

In Capetown. Autograph manuscript. 71pp.


Item 16. Autograph rewritten from part of the diary kept on the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Expedition 1929 on which Frank Hurley was official photographer

Includes photographs. 52pp.


Item 17. The second voyage of the Discovery to Antarctica, 1930-1931

Contains photographs. 486pp. (16 November 1930 - 19 March 1931) . Autograph manuscript signed. Filmed on G 10, 285


Item 18. Diary, August - September 1940

7 August 1940 - 14 August 1940, 81pp. 8 September 1940 - 15 September 1940, 51pp. Autograph manuscript.


Item 19. Diary No. 1, 13 January 1941 - [?]

Commencing with campaign before Tobruk. Autograph manuscript with many alterations and corrections. n.p.


Item 20. War diary No. 2 by Frank Hurley

Autograph manuscript. n.p.


Item 21. Frank Hurley. War diary No. 3, 1 April 1941 - 30 May 1941

Autograph manuscript. n.p.


Item 22. Frank Hurley. War diary No. 4

Autograph manuscript. n.p.


Item 23. Diary No. 5. Autograph manuscript, 13 August 1941 - 31 December 1941


Item 24. Along the Aid Russian Route, 11 February - [23] May 1944

Autograph manuscript. 226pp.


Item 25. My Diary, official war photographer, Commonwealth Military Forces, 7 August 1944 - [?]

From 7 August 1940. Palestine - Egypt. Typescript. 40pp. Please note: pages 21-27 are missing.


Item 26. 'Campaign before Tobruk'

Typescript. 10pp.


Item 27. Around Australia tour. Book 1

Autograph manuscript. 10 August - 7 September 1961. n.p.


Item 28. General observations around Australia tour. Book 2, 9 September 1961 - 14 September 1961

Autograph manuscript. n.p.


Series 2. Press cuttings

Item 29-36. Press cuttings and journal articles

Relate to Frank Hurley's expeditions in the Antarctic and New Guinea, war photography, an attempted plane flight from Australia to London in 1928, and reviews, advertisements and articles on his motion pictures, mainly "Pearls and savages" and "The jungle woman". Item 29 comprises press cuttings on the attempted flight in twelve days from Australia to London, commenced in October 1928 and item 33 contains cuttings on Sir Ross Smith.

Series 3. Typescripts of publications, radio talks and film scripts, 1927-1940

Further typescripts are located in Series 4 (including Items 71e, 73, 75 and 79).

Item 37. Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia

Commonwealth of Australia. Minutes of evidence, 2 June 1927 - 16 February 1928. pp. 167-179. Xerox copy. (Frank Hurley gave evidence at this Commission).

Item 38. Hurley, Frank. 'Opalus. The stone of Cupid'

Typescript. [1], 6 p.

Item 39. Typescript in three parts with pen and pencil corrections

27pp. Pt. 1. 'Whale hunting with bomb and wireless: a story of whales, their habits and modern whaling'; Pt. 2. 'Hunting whales with bomb and wireless: the chase and capture'; Pt. 3. 'Whaling with bomb and wireless: hunting humpbacks from shore stations'.

Item 40. 'Whaling with bomb and wireless: the adventure of modern whale hunting among the ice packs of Australian Antarctica', 15 February 1940

Final copy, with receipt ticket of the ABC Talks Department, dated 15 February 1940. 14pp.

Item 41. 'An inkwell launched me into adventure'

Typescript with several manuscript notes. 6pp.

Item 42. 'Snowdrift and shellfire'

For The man behind the camera. A much altered version of the above. Signed typescript with manuscript corrections. 4pp.

Item 43. 'Oasis, a tour into the heart of Australia in which is described, in lighter vein, problems, the face of the country, and some of the people spoken to'

(or 'Red sand and bronze men : a tour through the wide spaces of Central Australia to a valley of palms beyond'). With receipt ticket of the ABC Talks department, dated 4 January 1940. Typescript with many manuscript alterations and corrections. 16pp.

Item 44. 'The vision of a nation'

Film script for A nation is built for the sequicentenary of Australia. Typescript with several manuscript corrections. 7pp.

Item 45. 'Shackleton's Argonauts : a saga of the Antarctic icepacks'

Typescript with several manuscript corrections. 34pp.

Item 46. (F. Hurley?) 'The Nullabor Plain'

Typescript. 2pp.

Item 47. 'Petra, the rose red city half as old as time'

Typescript. 3pp. See also Item 79.

Item 48. 'Cairo - city of mosques'

Typescript. 5pp.

Item 49. 'Cairo - city of mosques'

Revised article. Typescript. 4pp.

Item 50. 'Palestine impressions'

Manuscript draft signed. 16pp.

Item 51. 'Palestine impressions'

Typescript with manusript alterations. 7pp.

Item 52. 'The Holy Land'

Processed with manuscript alterations. 10pp. For 'Cradle of creation' see Item 73 (folio).

Item 53. '200,000 miles through the Middle East'

Typescript with a few manuscript corrections. 6pp.

Item 54. 'In Bedouin lands beyond the Jordan'

With notes, signed. Typescript with manuscript alterations and corrections. 9pp.

Item 55. 'Transjordan'

Typescript, revised version of the above. 5pp.

Item 56. 'With the Arab Legion'

Typescript with manuscript alterations. 9pp.

Item 57. 'The Holy City'

Typescript. 22pp.

Item 58. Interview with Sultan Mohed Bahr El Din of Dar Masalit

Typescript with manuscript corrections. 5pp.

Item 59. Notes on Middle East nationalism

Manuscript. 3pp.

Item 60. Unnamed filmscript

Manuscript. 2pp.

Item 61. Printed map of Palestine with manuscript markings on it

Series 4. Personal papers, 1920-1947

Item 62. Passport and visa

(i) issued 3 September 1940 (ii) issued 16 August 1920

Item 63. Identification card, Army, Film and Photographic Unit, 17 May 1945

Item 64. Identification card (civilian), British forces in Egypt, 1947

Item 65. British forces identification card, 1946

Item 66. Press card for the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations, 1946

Item 67. Press ticket

Press ticket to the military ceremony at Handing over of Cita del Barracks, 4 July 1946

Item 68. British Information Services, 'To whom it may concern'

24 August 1946. A reference for Frank Hurley to allow him to carry out his work.

Item 69. Certificate of pilgrimage to the church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 1 October 1945

Item 70. Manuscript letter (draft) from Hurley to Charles R. Martin (1 July 1944) and letter from Hurley to C. Martin concerning Martin and Hurley

Item 71. Two letters to F. Hurley and one concerning him

Item 71a. 'The Lost Tribe'

American magazines, an album of cuttings (elephant folio)

Item 71b. Negative index: State Electricity Commission of Victoria, taken at Yallourn and Kiewa, 1947

Item 71c. Index to Tasmanian negatives, 1939

Item 71d. Various

The tombs of Sakkara, by Mrs Quibell, 2nd revised edition (1925); A trip through Upper Galilee, by Dorothy Kahn Bar-Adon (n.d.) containing a letter from J.B Glubb to Hurley; The sites of the crucifixion and the resurrection, by Ernest Tatham Richmond (1934); Notes on the ancient cities of Cyrenaica, by J.B. Ward Perkins 2nd ed. (n.d.); The great pyramids, by Alec C. Cury (n.d.) and Handbook of Cyrenaica, parts 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11.

Item 71e. 'The Holy City: commentary for the film strip', by Frank Hurley (n.d.)

Item 71f. Maps

Item 72. Exercise book containing revisions for the 4th printing of Australia

Item 73. Cradle of creation (folio)

Item 74. Diary 'C' on Papua New Guinea

See also Series 1, Item 8.


Item 75. Typescripts of 'Fruitgrowing in Tasmania'

Prepared by the Horticultural Division, Agricultural Dept. and 'Notes on the history of the hop industry in Tasmania', by Henry W. Shoobridge.

Item 75a. Letter to Hurley from Director, Tasmanian Government Tourist and Immigration Department, 1947

Item 75b. Handwritten note on the Great Barrier Reef

Item 76. Unveiling of the Cook statue at Hyde Park, Sydney, order of procession and program of proceedings, 1879, copy of the Thomson diary (part missing), 1854, miscellaneous letters and other papers

Item 77. Three typed pages of Greek phrases translated into English and with biblical references

Item 78. 'The oldest Christian church in the world'

Three typescript pages relating to Hurley's negatives of Palestine in World War II and his book The Holy City: a camera study of the Holy City and its borderlands (1949).

Item 79. Handwritten draft and typescripts for 'Petra: story of the rose red city half as old as time, by Frank Hurley CBE'

Item 80. Manuscript notebook containing an index to negatives

Item 81-82. Two manuscript notebooks containing an index to photographs taken in South Australia

Item 83. Manuscript notebook containing an index to photographs taken in Western Australia

Container List

Series Item Box
1 1-5 1
1 6-13 2
1 14-18 3
1 19-24 4
1 25-28 5
2 29 5
2 30 Folio Box 1
2 31 5
2 32 Folio Box 2
2 33 Folio Box 3
2 34-35 Folio Box 1
2 36 [missing]
3 37-61 6
4 62-71 6
4 71a Folio Box 4
4 71b-71c 6
4 71d-72 7
4 73 Folio Box 5
4 74-75 7
4 76-83 8