Long lost photos of the Antarctic and Mount St. Helens discovered

Robert Capa’s Mexican Suitcase (previously on dva) surprised the photography world when it was discovered a few years ago. This week, announcement comes of the discovery of a set of undeveloped negatives from the Ross Sea Party of Sir Ernest Shackleton‘s 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was found frozen in a block of ice in a supply hut established by the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott Terra Nova Expedition. Conservators from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust found the box of photos (pdf) while restoring the supply depot, and have worked to restore the photos. You can see the collection of 22 photos at the Trust’s website.

Closer to the present, and a bit less interesting, comes the discovery of a lost roll of film taken The Columbian newspaper (of Vancouver, Wash.) photographer Reid Blackburn before the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. The film sat in a box in the back of a studio room at the newspaper for more than 30 years. Blackburn died in the volcano’s eruption a few weeks after the photos were taken. Blackburn’s camera was discovered about a week after his body was found following the blast. This roll of film, comprising mostly aerials of the mountain spewing ash, was recently found by the newspaper’s photo assistant. What interests me most about this case is that I don’t know whether something like this could happen with digital photography. It was a major news event and Blackburn’s photos were being taken for the local paper, National Geographic, and the US Geological Survey. A digital take from such a large event would be immediately distributed and backed-up by each entity and wire services. If, on the other hand, some digital photos were accidentally misplaced and forgotten for 30 years, changing formats, bit rot, and damage to drives, would likely make the photos unreadable.

(links via /r/photography)

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