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H7267 Ship model (unfinished), of 1901 Antarctic research ship HMS 'Discovery', with model penguins (3) and display case, wood / glass / lead / paint, made by Frank Hurley, New South Wales, Australia. Click to enlarge.

Ship model HMS Discovery made by Frank Hurley

Made by Hurley, Frank

This is a model of the barque-rigged Antarctic research ship "Discovery". The full-size vessel was built in Dundee, Scotland, and launched in 1901, the first in Britain specifically designed for scientific research in Antarctica. The model was made by the famous Australian photographer, James Francis (Frank) Hurley (1885-1962), who had the position of official photographer on several Antarctic expeditions. As well as being an extremely capable professional photographer, Hurley was also a cinemat...


Object No.


Object Statement

Ship model (unfinished), of 1901 Antarctic research ship HMS 'Discovery', with model penguins (3) and display case, wood / glass / lead / paint, made by Frank Hurley, New South Wales, Australia

Physical Description

Timber and copper construction, three masts with yards, no rigging, deckhouse and bridge midships, no lifeboats, single funnel. Engine house and funnel of copper; the bow is also reinforced with copper. The rest of the model and the deck superstructure are made of timber. Steering gear at the stern is only partially completed; manual control of rudder, knurled screw to hold propeller, propeller missing. Model sitting on wooden base in glass case. 3 painted enamel penguins on floor of glass case alongside ship.



485 mm


260 mm


810 mm



The model was made by Captain Frank Hurley, date unknown.




The Museum purchased the model from Frank Hurley's widow in 1963.

The Royal Research Ship RRS Discovery was built at Dundee by the Dundee Shipbuilder's Company. Launched 21st March 1901, it was the first ship in the UK to be specifically designed for scientific research. The "Discovery" was also one of the last three masted wooden sailing ships to be built in the UK and the only example of its type to survive to this day. She was strongly built, to a design based on a previous "Discovery", a whaler that had accompanied the 1875 expedition to the North Pole. She had a massively built hull of oak and elm designed to withstand being frozen in the icepack. The propeller and rudder could be lifted to prevent ice damage, and the bow was reinforced with iron and severely raked so that when ramming the ice the bow would ride up over the ice and crush it with deadweight.

The "Discovery" had coal -fired auxiliary triple expansion steam engines but had to rely primarily on sail because the coal bunkers did not have sufficient capacity to take the ship on prolonged voyages. Barque rigged, she was slow, being under-canvassed. Without bilge keels, she rolled badly in heavy seas, as much as 50 degrees.

On 31st July 1901, the "Discovery" set out on the first British National Antarctic Expedition under the command of Robert Falcon Scott with a crew of 38 including Earnest Shackleton as one of the ship's officers and 5 scientists. It arrived at the Antarctic coast 8th January 1902. The ship remained locked in by ice at McMurdo Sound for the next two winters, eventually being freed 16th February 1904. The expedition managed to determine that the Antarctic was indeed a continent, and Scott, Shackleton and Edward Wilson were able to achieve a furthest South journey to 82 degrees 18 minutes. RRS Discovery finally arrived home to Spithead 10th September 1904.

The British National Antarctic Expedition was now in serious financial difficulties. The "Discovery" was sold to the Hudson's Bay Company, which used her as a cargo vessel trading between London and Hudson Bay. 1915-16 she was chartered to the French Government to carry munitions to Russia. In 1916, she was lent to the British Government to rescue Shackleton's party marooned on Elephant Island, but they were rescued before she arrived. In 1917, she carried supplies to the White Russians during the Russian Civil War. At the end of the 1914-18 war, "Discovery" was chartered by several companies for work in the Atlantic but was outclassed by more modern vessels so was laid up until 1923, being used as the headquarters of the 16th Stepney Sea Scouts.

In 1923, the ship, now renamed HMS Discovery,was purchased by the Falklands Islands Government for research work studying the migration patterns of whales in the whaling grounds around South Georgia, South Orkney and Deception Island.

The research role of the "Discovery" continued 1929-31 when she was lent to BANZARE, the British Australian and New Zealand Research Expedition, led by Sir Douglas Mawson, to chart the coastline of the Antarctic continent. Returning to Britain, she was laid up until 1936, when she was presented to the Boy Scouts Association as a stationary training ship for sea scouts in London. The maintenance of the ship proved too costly for the Association, so she was transferred to the Admiralty in 1955 for use as a drill ship for the Royal Navy Reserve, and eventually to the Maritime Trust for exhibition at her berth on the Embankment. In 1992, the "Discovery", now back to its original designation RRS Discovery, was moved to a custom built dock in Dundee, and is now the centrepiece of Dundee's Discovery Point Antarctic Museum.

This model was made by James Francis Hurley, himself one of the central figures associated with the Antarctic. In 1911, aged 23, Hurley was invited by Sir Douglas Mawson to be the official photographer on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. From December 1911 to March 1913, he took both still photographs and movie film of the expedition. Returned to Sydney, he assembled his movie footage into a film "Home of the Blizzard". After a brief filming trip to Java, he joined another expedition to the Antarctic to relieve the stranded Mawson. In October 1914, he joined Sir Earnest Shackleton in his famous expedition, and during this period he produced his most famous still photographs, of the "Endurance" being gradually destroyed by pack-ice and the heroic struggle for survival of Shackleton's men. Returning November 1916 to London, he assembled the film and photographs, including the colour plates. Early in 1917, he briefly visited South Georgia to secure additional scenes to complete his film "In the Grip of Polar Ice".

In August 1917, Hurley joined the Australian Imperial Force as official photographer, with the honorary rank of captain, filming war scenes including Passchendaele and Ypres. He ran great risks to film exploding shells and clashed with Charles Bean, the official historian, over his desire to merge several negatives into one impressive picture. To Bean, such composite pictures were "little short of fake". Hurley resigned, but was sent to the the Middle East, where he filmed extensively, including photographing the Light Horse during the Battle of Jericho.

Having learned to fly, in December 1919 he was invited to join Sir Ross Smith on the final leg of his historic flight from England to Australia. In the 1920s, Hurley filmed extensively in the Torres Straits, Papua and Dutch New Guinea, and produced several books and films including "Pearls and Savages", "Jungle Woman" and "Hound of the Deep". After spending 1927 as pictorial editor for the "Sun " in Sydey, Hurley set off on an abortive attempt to fly from Australia to England.

In 1929, Hurley joined the BANZARE expition under the command of Sir Douglas Mawson, which he documented in two films, "Southward Ho" and "Siege of the South". In WW11, Hurley was again an official photographer with the AIF in the Middle East. After WW11, he concentrated on still photography and published several books of photographs of Australian landscapes and city portraits. He died 16th January 1962 aged 77. For three decades, he inspired Australian film makers and photographers and was the most powerful force to shape Australian documentary films before WW11.


Credit Line

Purchased 1963

Acquisition Date

13 June 1963

Cite this Object


Ship model HMS Discovery made by Frank Hurley 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 February 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Ship model HMS Discovery made by Frank Hurley |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 February 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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