ANTARCTIC The Alfred Saunders Photographic Archive, 1924-1939
Lot 226
The Alfred Saunders Photographic Archive, 1924-1939
Sold for £ 13,200 (US$ 18,398) inc. premium

Lot Details
ANTARCTIC The Alfred Saunders Photographic Archive, 1924-1939 ANTARCTIC The Alfred Saunders Photographic Archive, 1924-1939 ANTARCTIC The Alfred Saunders Photographic Archive, 1924-1939
The Alfred Saunders Photographic Archive, 1924-1939
29 framed gelatin silver prints, 6 wooden boxes containing approximately 300 glass slides, 9 wooden boxes containing approximately 450 glass negatives, additional small box of glass negatives from 1925-1928, 267 loose photographs, a copy of A Camera in Antarctica (signed by the author), album titled Birds of South Georgia, comprising 24 images mounted, captioned in ink below images, 2 boxes containing photographs, glass slides and clippings relating to the rescue of Ellsworth and Kenyon, and Tristan da Cunha
framed images mostly 500 x 585mm., glass slides 110 x 95mm.


  • Alfred Saunders, FRPS, FRGS, FIBP (1899 – 1982), official photographer and scientist for Discovery investigations 1924-1939, author of A Camera in Antarctica and recipient of the Polar Medal, was one of a small party who searched 600 miles of pack ice to rescue the lost Antarctic aviators Lincoln Ellsworth and Hollick Kenyon in 1935.

    Saunders initially planned to enter the medical profession, joining the National Institute for Medical Research where he helped develop an anti-toxin to prevent diphtheria. While there, he responded to an advertisement in Nature for members of scientific staff for an Antarctic expedition and made a successful application. The object on his first expedition was to study the habits of whales: "We made something like 21 measurements of every whale that was brought in in order to build up an analysis of what was happening to the whale… During the seven years I personally dissected and examined approximately 5,000. The only ones I missed were during the times I went out sealing, or out on whale-catchers." He also devoted himself to photographing birds and sea-elephants: "I took lots of photographs of birds going over the mountains by myself. I had no other interested companions, so I had to depend on my own ability to survive. But I did a lot of ski-ing, and used to race against the Norwegians in winter."

    After seven years on the whaling stations, Saunders joined the Royal Research Ship Discovery II collecting samples and taking soundings. "The temperature of the water was very often minus 2 degrees centigrade…instant death if you went overboard. I remember one poor fellow went over in his sea-boots; of course they filled up with water and he went straight to the bottom."

    Describing his darkroom Saunders, wrote: "The photographs I took had to be developed on board, down in the bowels of the ship in about a six foot square darkroom. I was shut in there, and there was a funnel over my head, which, although covered with iced-up canvas, would give way in stormy weather when seas swept over the deck, and an awful lot of frozen water would cascade over me while I was developing."

    Loose photographs comprising: storm in the Antarctic, ship's deck after a blizzard, whales, penguins, sea-elephants, Nordenskjold glacier, Clarence Island, female sea-elephants and pups, Sugar Top Mountain, Shackleton’s Cairn, Grytviken harbour, Tongariro National Park (New Zealand), dismembering a blue whale, Scott’s Discovery I in Grytviken (1926), Discovery II, a sea-plane, flensing a whale, the south coast of Coronation Island, albatrosses, skiing silhouettes (South Georgia), seal with killer whale marks, South Georgia seen from the summit of Mount Duse, Mount Paget, a sea-leopard, Magellan Straits, the rescue of Ellsworth and Kenyon (Alfred Saunders), 6 glossy photos (duplicates) of an albino penguin, and three photographs, not by Saunders, of the ship and crew of an earlier expedition (Scott’s Discovery?).

    Ellsworth and Kenyon Archive (1 box) comprising: photograph signed by Ellsworth and Kenyon, 2 half-plate glass negs (including the group at "Little America", Ellsworth and Kenyon in centre, Saunders on extreme left), newspaper cuttings, 11 glass lantern slides (mostly on board ship, one of man emerging from snow; many images replicated in the photographs indicated above).

    Tristan da Cunha Archive (1 box) comprising: 17 quarter-plate glass negatives of the world's most remote inhabited island (16 taken on 16/11/33 – approaching the island, islanders in canvas boats, loading stores from Discovery II, the settlement, one neg taken on 18/11/33 of Nightingale Island in the Tristan group), photo of Inaccessible Island, 4 glass lantern slides, 1 half-plate glass neg of woman in the church at Tristan da Cunha, newspaper cuttings from the Illustrated London News (31/3/34) and the Cape Times (4/8/34).

    Birds of South Georgia album comprising: Gentoo penguins, Ring penguins, mollymawks, albatrosses, shoe-makers, a white stinker and Rocky penguins.

    Provenance: Alfred Saunders, and by descent.
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