Antarctica of 1959 revealed in black and white

Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:01am EDT
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By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Cold, white and forbidding the images spring from the glossy pages as they once did from the window of a plane carrying a young photographer into the icy wastelands of Antarctica.

"DeepFreeze! A Photographer's Antarctic Odyssey in the Year 1959" by Robert McCabe has been published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the race to be the first to the South Pole.

Though a venture capitalist at now defunct Lehman Brothers, McCabe, then 24 and a serious amateur photographer, used his vacation when no one at New York Sunday Mirror Magazine wanted to take up an offer from the U.S. Navy to visit the southern end of the earth. McCabe's father worked for the Daily Mirror.

After an arduous journey leapfrogging the Pacific by way of Hawaii and New Zealand, his first impressions were of endless distance as they approached the U.S. base at McMurdo Sound.

"You just had images of vast, vast endless glaciers and ice," said McCabe, who is now 77. "It was an extraordinarily memorable trip at a time when you couldn't just call a cruise line and take a boat to the edge of Antarctica."

Despite the pole being reached some 50 years earlier, Antarctic exploration was still in its infancy and McCabe's 1959 pictures have become historical documents in their own right. Men in white shirts and ties wear large wrist watches and carry pens in their top pockets. They also smoke tobacco and the equipment is reminiscent of a 1950's sci-fi movie.


Male dominance of the military and scientific community of the time is obvious, with the only picture of a woman in the book being Lili of Lili's Leis in Hawaii, taken during their stopover.   Continued...