Guide to the Papers of Frank Hurley


MS 883

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2003

Collection Summary

Hurley, Frank, 1885-1962
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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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).

My diary, with Bage and Webb, to the south magnetic pole, 1912-1913 (Item 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autograph manuscript. n.p.

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

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.

Diary no B, Frank Hurley's diary, 1921 (Item 8)

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.

Diary D. My diary, 1921 (Item 9)

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

Diary No. 1. My second expedition to Papua, 1922 (Item 10)

Autograph manuscript, bound vol., 165pp

Second expedition to New Guinea. Diary No. 2, 1922 (Item 11)

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

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

Autograph manuscript signed. 23cm. 142pp.

Diary No. 4, 1923 (Item 13)

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

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

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.

Diary. Commenced London, 1929 (Item 15)

In Capetown. Autograph manuscript. 71pp.

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 (Item 16)

Includes photographs. 52pp.

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

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

Diary, August - September 1940 (Item 18)

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

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

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

War diary No. 2 by Frank Hurley (Item 20)

Autograph manuscript. n.p.

Frank Hurley. War diary No. 3, 1941 (Item 21)

Autograph manuscript. n.p.

Frank Hurley. War diary No. 4 (Item 22)

Autograph manuscript. n.p.

Diary No. 5. Autograph manuscript, 1941 (Item 23)

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

Autograph manuscript. 226pp.

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

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

'Campaign before Tobruk' (Item 26)

Typescript. 10pp.

Around Australia tour. Book 1 (Item 27)

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

General observations around Australia tour. Book 2, 1961 (Item 28)

Autograph manuscript. n.p.

Series 2. Press cuttings

Press cuttings and journal articles (Item 29-36)

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).

Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia (Item 37)

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

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

Typescript. [1], 6 p.

Typescript in three parts with pen and pencil corrections (Item 39)

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'.

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

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

'An inkwell launched me into adventure' (Item 41)

Typescript with several manuscript notes. 6pp.

'Snowdrift and shellfire' (Item 42)

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

'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' (Item 43)

(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.

'The vision of a nation' (Item 44)

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

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

Typescript with several manuscript corrections. 34pp.

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

Typescript. 2pp.

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

Typescript. 3pp. See also Item 79.

'Cairo - city of mosques' (Item 48)

Typescript. 5pp.

'Cairo - city of mosques' (Item 49)

Revised article. Typescript. 4pp.

'Palestine impressions' (Item 50)

Manuscript draft signed. 16pp.

'Palestine impressions' (Item 51)

Typescript with manusript alterations. 7pp.

'The Holy Land' (Item 52)

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

'200,000 miles through the Middle East' (Item 53)

Typescript with a few manuscript corrections. 6pp.

'In Bedouin lands beyond the Jordan' (Item 54)

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

'Transjordan' (Item 55)

Typescript, revised version of the above. 5pp.

'With the Arab Legion' (Item 56)

Typescript with manuscript alterations. 9pp.

'The Holy City' (Item 57)

Typescript. 22pp.

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

Typescript with manuscript corrections. 5pp.

Notes on Middle East nationalism (Item 59)

Manuscript. 3pp.

Unnamed filmscript (Item 60)

Manuscript. 2pp.

Printed map of Palestine with manuscript markings on it (Item 61)

Series 4. Personal papers, 1920-1947

Passport and visa (Item 62)

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

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

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

British forces identification card, 1946 (Item 65)

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

Press ticket (Item 67)

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

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

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

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

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

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

'The Lost Tribe' (Item 71a)

American magazines, an album of cuttings (elephant folio)

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

Index to Tasmanian negatives, 1939 (Item 71c)

Various (Item 71d)

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.

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

Maps (Item 71f)

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

Cradle of creation (folio) (Item 73)

Diary 'C' on Papua New Guinea (Item 74)

See also Series 1, Item 8.

Typescripts of 'Fruitgrowing in Tasmania' (Item 75)

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

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

Handwritten note on the Great Barrier Reef (Item 75b)

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 76)

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

'The oldest Christian church in the world' (Item 78)

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).

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

Manuscript notebook containing an index to negatives (Item 80)

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

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

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