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James Francis Hurley 1885 - 1962


A Timeline

on the Life of Frank Hurley

Largely based on information from two books by David Millar and Frank Legg** with additions as information identified


October 15. Birth of James Francis (Frank) Hurley, at 63 Derwent Street Glebe, Sydney, son of Edward H. Hurley (English born typographer SMH and later Govt printer) and Margaret A. Bouffier (daughter wine growers from Alsace Lorraine) Frank eldest of two girls and three boys).


According to Hurley, he runs away from home. Commences work at R.W. Sandford’s Esk Bank Ironworks, Lithgow.


purchases first camera, Kodak box camera


First photographic assignment, Edison Phonograph Company
borrowed 1/1 Plate camera, R R Beck lens


Commences work with Cave & Co., Dalley Street, Sydney, postcard manufacturers.


Partnership of Cave & Hurley established.


First exhibition with other photographers, Kodak Galleries, Sydney (Legg). (Millar says solo)
Father dies suddenly.
Henry Cave suffered serious illness and forced to retire.
Bottom falls out of postcard business.


Member of the New South Wales Photographic Society Exhibition Committee.
Meets Mawson on train, Central Railway to Moss Vale (88miles away)
Photographer for Dr Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition at £300 a year.
 First visit to Antarctica 1911 — 13.
2nd December, 1911, 4pm, Aurora with supply vessel, Toroa, depart Hobart for Macquarie Island.
11th December landfall Macquarie Island.
13th to 17th December, Hurley and Harrison trek over island to retrieve lens.
25th December, forced to leave due to storm.
29th December, first iceberg sighted.


8th January, first land sighted.
Winter camp
10th November 1912, Hurley, Bage, Webb set out for south magnetic pole.
21st December 1912, abandon trek, 50 miles from destination, and begin return journey.


18th January 1913, all sledging parties (5) except Mawson's returned.
7th February, Aurora departs to pick up Wild and party. (14days later)
15th March, Aurora reaches Hobart.
August 1913, Film Home of the Blizzard premiered in Sydney.
Photographic assignment for the Royal Dutch Packet Company in Java.
Hurley’s second journey to Antarctica.
19th November 1913, Aurora on relief journey to Antarctica to rescue Mawson
13th December 1913, Aurora enters Commonwealth Bay
25th December, departed and cruised for three weeks mapping coast and carrying out oceanographical research. Hurley photographed coast and icebergs etc.


26th February 1914, Aurora docked Adelaide
14th April 1914, Photographer with Francis Birtles in Northern Territory and Queensland for Australasian Films Ltd. Left from Agricultural Showground, Easter Show. 9,000 miles journey.
???August??  return Martin Place Sydney.
8th August, 1914, Endurance leaves Plymouth.
October 1914, Hurley joins Shackleton in Buenos Aires as Photographer with Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Hurley’s third visit to Antarctica.
Late October 1914, Endurance leaves Buenos Aires (10 days to South Georgia)
5th December, Endurance leaves Grytviken (met pack ice in three days)


10th January 1915, land sighted.
22nd February 1915, prepared for winter on ice. (8 months of imprisonment in ice pack)
August 1915, Hurley takes flash photo of Endurance.
18th October 1915, ship 30 degree list.
24th October, Shackleton ordered unloading.
27th October, boat crushed.
fortnight later, ship slid beneath ice.
6 months on the drifting pack-ice.
?? 1915, Exhibition of Mawson’s expedition photographs, Fine Art Society, London. Film Into Australia’s Unknown on the Birtles expedition released in Sydney at the Crystal Palace.


8th April, crack in ice allows for boats to put in water -
9th April 1.00pm, boats launched
6 days and nights in boats to travel 66 miles to Elephant Island.
24th April, Easter Monday, Shackleton and 5 other set out in James Caird for South Georgia. (22 remain)
30th August. Wild and Hurley sight rescue ship, Yelcho.
3 days to return to Punta Arenas, Chile
Hurley in London, 15th November 1916 (to be kept awake by air raid).
Shackleton expedition photographs appear in The Sphere and the Daily Chronicle, London.


15th February 1917, set to visit to South Georgia on the Pentaur. Fourth visit to Antarctica.
25th March 1917, Leith Harbour, South Georgia.
5 weeks later leaves on board Albuera for Buenos Aires, then
June 1917 arrives London.
Release of Shackleton expedition film, In the Grip of the Polar Pack Ice, in London.
July? Official war photographer to A.I.F. during the Third Battle of Ypres and later with the Australian Light Horse in Palestine.
October, Passchendale battles, Hurley and Wilkins pictures selected for exhibition of war photographs in London.
11th November1917, Bean picks up Hurley as he leaves for Cairo.


Palestine, Flights with Ross Smith
March 1918, Cairo
Meets Antoinette Thierault.
Marriage to Antoinette Thierault in Cairo.
Marries and 10day honeymoon, Luxor.
Hurley leaves for England.
Exhibited in Australian Official War Pictures and Photographs, Grafton Galleries, London.
Obtains Australian distributing rights to the British war film The Storming of Zeebrugge.
11th July, resigns commission and sails for Cairo.
Month more honeymoon, then embarked for Australia.
11th November 1918, Armistice Day, Returns to Sydney (33 years old).
Publication of Impressions of the Visit of the French
Mission to New South Wales (N.S.W. Government Printer).
?? Release of film, With the Australians in Palestine, later retitled With Allenby in Palestine, in Sydney at the Lyceum Theatre.
Millions Club talks to gain wild-life sanctuary status for Elephant Island.


Release of Shackleton film, In the Grip of the Polar Pack Ice, in Sydney, and commencement of tour of eastern states. Later titles Endurance.
March 1919, Exhibition of War photographs. Charity exhibition for the Red Cross at the Kodak Galleries, Sydney.
Twin daughters, Antoinette and Adelie, born in Sydney.
Starts to allow use of 'Captain' Frank Hurley
Invested with the Polar Medal and clasp.
Joins Ross and Keith Smith’s Viekers Vimy in Queensland for the final leg of the first flight from London to Sydney.


Release of film, The Ross Smith Flight, in Sydney’s Town Hall. A William Taylor Production.
Exhibition of outback photographs in Sydney.
The First Aeroplane Voyage from England to Australia (Angus & Robertson, Sydney).
2nd December 1920, left for filming in Torres Strait Islands and in Papua—New Guinea for the Anglican Board of Missions. First journey to Papua—New Guinea. Resulting in 1,200 still photographs and 22,000 feet of film.


25th June 1921, Third daughter, Yvonne, born in Sydney.
Exhibition of Papua—New Guinea photographs in Sydney’s Kodak Salon.
November 1921, return to Sydney.


Release of first New Guinea film, Pearls and Savages, in Sydney at the Globe Theatre.
Jenolan Caves Exhibition at Sydney’s Kodak Salon.
August 1922, left for filming in western Papua on the Fly River and at Lake Murray. Second journey to Papua—New Guinea.


January 1923, return to Sydney
24th May 1923, son, Frank, born in Sydney.
Release of film, With the Headhunters of Unknown Papua, Sydney. (Hurley hand-coloured entire film)
August 1923, left for USA.
Film renamed The Lost Tribe during tour of the U.S.A. in the same year.
Article on Hurley appeared in The Graphic, London, in December.
Lecture tour (for a year) of USA


Publication of Pearls and Savages (Putnam, New York). Reprinted 1941.
England Tour - renamed Pearls and Savages
October 1924 Stoll Film Company presented, Hurley lecturer, Royal Opera house, Covent Garden. - highly successful season moving to Polytechnic Theatre, breaking box-office records with 200 consecutive performances.
Tour of Pearls and Savages in South East England.
Articles on Hurley appeared in New Statesman (October); Times Literary Supplement (October); The Sketch (November); The London Illustrated News (October). Also The New York Times, The New York Journal and Hearst newspapers.
Starts plans for own films - wrote two scenarios: Hound of the Deep and The Jungle Woman.
Convinces Stoll Film Company (Sir Oswald Stoll) to finance his films.


August 1925,Returns to Sydney.(absent for two years)
Leaves for Thursday Island to makes his films.


Release of feature films, The Jungle Woman at Lyceum Theatre - 'first film written, produced and photographed by Captain Frank Hurley"
November 1926, release of Hound of the Deep, in Sydney.
Publication of Argonauts of the South (Putnam, New York).
Commences regular broadcasts with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Continues
until 1939.
Frank is 41, photographer, traveller, explorer, journalist, film-producer and author.


Home with family!!
Pictorial editor of The Sun, Sydney.
With Hurley, the Sun pioneered field of aerial photography
Blue Mountains photographs, floral display photographs,
Appears before the Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia.
Photographs on Papua—New Guinea published in National Geographic, January.


Organises flight from Sydney to London but Spirit of Australia crashes in Athens.


February 1929 arrives London.
Bushby, 13 miles outside London,
Works for British Tone Films as a cameraman on the feature, In the Shadow of the Guillotine.
Studies sound recording techniques in film-making in England.
May 1929, Leaves London for Australia, announcing Hurley as official photographer with the first Banzare expedition to Antarctica. To be Hurley's fifth journey to Antarctica.
September 1929, Discovery leaves London (with Hurley) for Cape Town to pick up Mawson and 7 other members from Australia.
20th October 1929, Discovery leaves Cape Town, Crozet Islands, French Kerguelen Island, Heard Island, Antarctic continent, discovered MacRobertson Island, Kerguelen Island and Adelaide.


Adelaide, 31st March 1930, return to Adelaide aboard Discovery.
Hurley returns to Sydney (absence of 18 months) with a thousand still negatives and fifteen thousand feet of film.
August 1930, Release of film, Southward Ho with Mawson, in Sydney.
22 November 1930, Hobart, 2nd BANZARE, Sixth journey to Antarctica. Macquarie Island, Antarctic, Adelie Land, MacRobertson island, traversing whole Australian Quadrant then Hobart.


February 1931, Discovery returns to Hobart.
April, back in Sydney
October 1931, Siege of The South premiere in Sydney, Hurley provided commentary (note: now beginnings of the talking pictures - Hurley persuaded not for world market)
Chief cameraman with Cinesound Productions Ltd.  Hurley persuaded by Stuart Doyle (friend, managing director Cinesound, godfather to Frank Jnr, and by Ken Hall, friend and Cinesound director of productions.


Jewel of the Pacific, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley.
(following success of Siege and Jewels, manager of Capitol Theatre writes to CineSound requesting his theatre be given first release of all future Frank Hurley productions)
Fire Guardians, a Cinesound production, written, directed and filmed by Captain Frank Hurley.
Symphony of Steel, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley.


Cameraman for The Squatter’s Daughter, directed by K.G. Hall.
Lassetter’s Gold, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley.


Cameraman for The Silence of Dean Maitland, a Cinesound production.
Cameraman for Cinesound Varieties, a Cinesound production.
Cameraman with George Heath for Strike me Lucky, a Cinesound production.


Cameraman with George Heath for Grandad Rudd, a Cinesound production.
Returns to documentary filming
Pageant of Power, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley. Documentary for the Victorian State Electricity Commission in collaboration with the Victorian Government Education Department.
A Daily Diet of Danger, produced and filmed by Hurley [date needs confirmation].
From Brown Coal to Briquettes, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley. Documentary for the Victorian State Electricity Commission.


Oasis and Here is Paradise, Cinesound productions, directed and filmed by Hurley for the South Australian Government Centenary.
(Documentaries very successful, general release throughout the Commonwealth, UK and NZ.)
Director of Industrial Film Department, Cinesound Productions Ltd. - to make films for various public and private organisations.
Filming takes him to Broken Hill, Port Pirie, and New Zealand.


Silver City, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley for North Broken Hill Ltd, Broken Hill South Ltd and Zinc Corporation Ltd. Vulcan’s Crucible, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley for the Broken Hill Association and Smelters Pty Ltd.
Keeper of the Trees, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley for New Zealand Perpetual Forest Pty Ltd in New Zealand during 1936. Treasures of Katoomba, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley for Leura and Katoomba Councils.
Treasures of Katoomba
Tall Timbers, a Cinesound production, directed by Ken Hall, script by Hurley.
Cameraman for stills and back projection sequences in Lovers and Luggers, a Cinesound production.
Only Exhibition of Landscape Photography; printed stills gathered from many parts of Australia. (Legge) LOCATION UNKNOWN


A Nation is Built, a Cinesound production, a Commonwealth Government commission. Documentary for the 150th anniversary of arrival of Europeans at Sydney Cove, produced and filmed by Hurley. Six months, 12,000 miles, including: life-savers on beaches, skiers on Kosciusko, kangaroos, koalas, wheat plains, caves at Yarrangobilly, woolsheds, irrigation areas, mountains, mines, rivers and reptiles.
October 1938, A Nation is Built released and is box-office winner, applause every session, only film shown by Royal Command for the King and Queen.


Scenes that are Brightest, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley. Isle of Many Waters, a Cinesound production, directed and filmed by Hurley.
Outside photographer with others, for Forty Thousand Horsemen, directed by Charles Chauvel (Famous Feature Films).
Two films made for Tasmanian Government and Tourist Bureau.
Twenty Five Years of Photography. One man show, David Jones Gallery, Sydney. 300 photographs covering Antarctica, World War, New Guinea, Central Australia, industrial and landscapes.
Continued ABC broadcasting (since 1926???)
Reported in The golden Age of The Argonauts, page 23, Hurley joins the children’s program for about a year in 1939, till he left for overseas and WWII. Example given is of being popular, brought in bells “used on his favourite husky, Shakespeare. When asked, “ what happened to Shakespeare”? -  Hurley replies “We ate him”.


April 1940, appointed reporter-interviewer for ABC unit, to operate among Australian troops in the Middle East.
June 1940, left Sydney; disembarked at Fremantle and stayed till September.
Following death of Sir Henry Gullett, Sir Keith Murdoch agrees to Hurley’s appointment.
(Millar) Subsequently appointed head of Department of Information’s Cinematographic and Photographic Unit, operating in Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Greece and Crete. (other question “head’ status)
Ten days Hurley travels via Melbourne and Sydney to equip, then boards flying boat at Rose Bay. (4 assorted movie cameras, a galvanometer-type recording camera, attendant tripods, motors, batteries, spools of film, sound equipment, amplifiers, microphones and booms; ten still cameras, range of lenses 1
12th September 1940, landed Lake Tiberias, Palestine, met by Parer.
Department of Information’s Cinematographic and Photographic Unit produces: 
Rt Hon. Anthony Eden with Commanders-in-Chief Egypt; Pay Day in Camp, Middle East; Despatch Rider Section of the 6th Australian Division Cavalry; Oil Fire at Haifa; Cradle of Creation; Bren Gun Carriers on Manoeuvers; Camera Club A IF. in Cairo.


Awarded 0BE. (Military Division). Department of Information’s Cinematographic and Photographic Unit produces:
Menzies Tour, Middle East and Palestine; Libyan Panorama; Crusade; Siege of Tobruk; Christmas Story; Turkish Frontier; Syria: Lebanese welcome to Australian Troops; Syria. Field Workshops; Syria. Silk Industry; Syria: Salvage Carp: Syria: Churches; Syria: Casualty Clearing Station, Syria: Church Parade;. Cedars, Valleys, Roman Bridge; Syria: Ruins of Baalbek; Syria: Damascus; Syria: Free French Review; Syria: Camp Concert; Syria: Marching and Last Post; Gaza Cross Country Race; Recruiting Talks; Bedouin Fair; Snow Patrol, Syria; Middle East Mail; Advance in Libya; Battle of Tobruk; A Letter from Libya; Gas Alarm; Spring in Scenic Palestine; Messages from the Mid-East; Australia will be there; On very active service; Railway Rhythm; With the A IF. in Syria; Crusade; Not so quiet on the Western Front; Advance into Syria.


Following Japanese entry to war, 7th division sent to Australia, Parer and Anderson return to Australia, several weeks, also Williams and Silk.
Department of Information’s Cinematographic and Photographic Unit produces:
 The Drive on Beirut; Desert Victory; Song of the Waterwheels; Leaves from my Diary; Desert Hospital; Turkish Patrol; Gold on the Battlefield [date not known]; Christmas under fire; Sermon on the Sand Hill; A .1 F. in Syria; Haifa-Tripoli Railway; Battle of Egypt; RAAF in Battle of Egypt; Blood Transfusion; All Quiet on the Hill of Jesus; Salvage under Shellfire.


Department of Information’s Cinematographic and Photographic Unit produces:
 Cavalcade of Victory; Red Shield in Battle; Conquerers of the Desert; Father Christmas under shellfire [date not known]; In the Wake of Rommel.
Hurley age 57
Appointed Director of British Army Features and Propaganda Films, the British Ministry of Information. Extensive travel around middle east: Arabia, Persia, Iraq, Transjordan, Russia. “This new office is the documentary film-maker’s dream”.
A Day in the Life of a King; Teheran, City of Arabian Nights; With the Arab Legion; The Holy Land; Petra; Sister Greatheart; Salvage in Saving; Famine takes Wings; Dawn over Cyrenaica; Road to Russia; Garden of Eden.


30th September 1946, Hurley returns to Australia. (away six years)
All children married, grandchildren. (62 years old)


The Garden of Tasmania. Pamphlet published by the Tasmanian Government and Information Department.
Middle East photographs published in National Geographic, December issue.
Plans 40,000 mile photographic tour of Australia.
Working on photographic book of Sydney.
Rewriting adventures with Shackleton as children’s book.


Shackleton’s Argonauts (Angus & Robertson, Sydney). Wins Australian Book Society Award,, children’s book competition, November. Reprinted 1949 and 1956, and in 1979 by McGraw Hill.
Sydney. A Camera Study (Angus & Robertson, Sydney). 26 colour plates, 180 monochrome. sold 14,000 – sold out in three months. Reprinted 1949, 1951, 1953, and revised edition 1958. Fresh material added over years – sales exceeded 50,000 within ten years. (Legge)


The Holy City. A Camera Study of the Holy City and its Borderlands (Angus & Robertson, Sydney).   Power from Kiewa Waters and Romance of Brown Coal. Frank Hurley productions for the Victorian State Electricity Commission.
Travels through Queensland.


October 1950: Queensland. A Camera Study (Angus &Robertson, Sydney). Revised edition 1951 and 1952.
30 separate expeditions to Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves; hundreds of photographs, selected fewer that a dozen.


(Millar)  or 52 (Legge)Tasmanian Holiday. A Camera Study (Angus & Robertson, Sydney).


Sydney from the Sky. A Camera Study (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).
The Blue Mountains & Jenolan Caves. A Camera Study (Angus & Robertson, Sydney)
Eternal Forest, directed and filmed by Hurley. (AVA Productions). Produced for Australian Paper Manufacturers.


Western Australia. A Camera Study (Angus & Robertson, Sydney). Revised edition 1962.
Tasmania. A glance at its history, beauty, resources and development. A Camera Study (Sands, Sydney).
John Sands test calendar market with 12 scenic Ektachromes. (to prove very successful)


John Sands produce 20 different Hurley calendars 
“Souvenir Book’ publication success  - leads to– eventually 14 in series covering practically whole of Australia.
Fairy Blue Mountains, special volume for the library of the Queen and Prince Phillip on the occasion of the royal visit to the Blue Mountains.


Australia. A Camera Study (Angus & Robertson, Sydney). Reprinted 1956, revised edition 1959 and 1961. (56,000 copies sold before his death)
Australian Wildflowers (Sands, Sydney).
Sydney in Natural Colour (Sands, Sydney).
Beautiful Sydney (Sands, Sydney).
Calendars – eleven calendars a year, using 154 pictures, annual sales over 200,000.
Scenic postcards and souvenir view folders – 500 images, 40 assorted folders.


Victoria. A Camera Study (Sands, Sydney).
Hobart in Natural Colour (Sands, Sydney).
Australian Wildflowers in Natural Colour (Sands, Sydney).
Australia in Natural Colour (Sands, Sydney).


The Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves in Natural Colour (Sands, Sydney).
Brisbane and the Gold Coast (Sands, Sydney).
Beautiful Sydney (pamphlet, Sands, Sydney).


South Australia in Natural Colour (no imprint or date).
Was still producing pictures for John Sands calendars and folders issued every year.
Preparing, selecting and printing pictures for new edition of Australia (Sept 1961).
Kodak Galleries planned exhibition of middle east photographs – Hurley prints all the images to correct sizes for the planned layouts. (Legge)
Planned Antarctic photographic exhibition for December 1961. to be 50th Anniversary of Mawson expedition.
Tours WA for new images for 2nd edition of WA book.


Cairns, the Tropical Wonderland (pamphlet, Sands, Sydney).
Canberra. A Camera Study (pamphlet, Sands, Sydney).
The Snowy Mountains. A Camera Study (pamphlet, Sands, Sydney).
The South Coast from Stanwell Park to Kiama, New South Wales (pamphlet, Sands, Sydney).
12 June, 1961, guest of honour Sydney Film Festival (first time all the family there) hour lecture and screening of Shackleton’s film, Endurance.
Sept 1961, Australia, 4th edition, 10,000 copies printed.
Exhibition of Shackleton’s expedition, Salon Gallery, Kodak, Sydney.


January 15. Bank of NSW assignment to photograph staff training college, old mansion at Warrawee, northern suburb of Sydney; assisted by Frank Jnr. Returns home complaining of feeling ill.
January 16. Dies at Collaroy Plateau, aged seventy-six. About lunch time, the doctor announces to the family, “Mrs Hurley, the old war-horse is dead”


Shire of Bright, Tourist Centre of N.E. Victoria (Lang’s Scenic Tours, Bright). Posthumous publication.

Circa 1965

Large prints (on card) from KODAK exhibition sold through Joeseph Lebovic to UK buyer.


Australia’s Wildflowers (A.H. & A. W. Reed, Sydney). Text by Barbara Mullens, photographs by Hurley. Reprinted 1974, 1977, 1978, 1981.


**  references for this timeline

*David P. Millar, Snowdrift to Shellfire: Capt. James Francis (Frank) Hurley 1885-1962, (Sydney, David Ell Press, 1984)

Frank Legg,  Once More on My Adventure: The Life of Frank Hurly, Ure Smith, 1966 (In Association with Antoinette Hurley)

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