The Endurance was trapped by ice in the Weddell Sea on 20 January 1915 just sixty miles short of her destination at Vahsel Bay and remained trapped, drifting slowly northwards for one thousand miles with the ice, until it was crushed on 27 October. For much of the winter, the ship became a shore station with the dogs kennelled in 'dogloos' on the surrounding ice along with a variety of stores and cargo, and to pass the time, sledging teams led by Wild, McIlroy, Hurley, Macklin, Crean and Marston went out onto the ice: 'The ice-sheet, stretching away a thousand miles to the north, was always changing...The vessel itself was the connecting link between the vast lifeless solitudes of the south and the living humanity of the north. It was a symbol to all of us, but to me it had a further interest, for, as a factor in any pictorial composition, it was invaluable...by daylight, the skies were a sublime spectacle. At times the dome of heaven was iridescent, like a lustrous shell in which the mist-veiled sun reposed like a dazzling pearl.' (F. Hurley, Shackleton's Argonauts, Sydney, 1948, pp. 45-6).
Marston, expedition artist and veteran of Shackleton's Nimrod expedition of 1907-09, lost most of his work when the Endurance went down: 'When, after eight months' drift, fast locked in the ice of the Weddell Sea, the "Endurance" was finally crushed, October 27, 1915, the whole of my work with the exception of those drawings marked by a star, went down with her. My oil colours were then commandeered to paint the seams of the boats (now our only hope), and in the final escape from the ice, six months later, we doubtless owe some small degree of our safety to those tubes of colour. I was now left with a few sheets of paper, half a dozen water colours and one pencil, which, during that six months drift and the boat journey, were the most treasured possessions.' (G. Marston in the introduction to the exhibition catalogue of his works shown at the Grosvenor Galleries in May, 1922).
For a biography of Marston and for his work on the expedition see Christie's, 10 April, 1997, lots 122-129, and 27 September 1996, lots 171-175.