On Sunday, 10th February 2013, it will have been 100 years since Robert Falcon Scott and his colleagues Henry Bowers and Edward Wilson were discovered dead in their tent in the Antarctic, having failed to reach the South Pole nearly a year before. There’s some really interesting footage in the archive of Scott and the expedition, but much of it is contained within longer retrospectives. Here’s a brief summary of the material to help you locate it:
Film of the Terra Nova, the ship which took Scott to the Antarctic and returned without him, was some of the earliest footage that British Pathé released in cinemas. There is a clip of the ship leaving for the Antarctic in 1910 and one of it returning to Cardiff in 1913.
The classic series Time To Remember, produced by British Pathé in the late 1950s and early 1960s, contains some additional footage that can’t be found elsewhere in the archive. The material appears at the end of Reel 1 and the beginning of Reel 2. You can view the relevant portions of those reels here. Included is a nice close up of Scott himself and some remarkable film of the expedition.
“Here’s to the Memory” also has footage apparently filmed in the Antarctic. It features the men huddled on the ground for dinner and trekking through the barren landscape towards their goal. It appears towards the beginning of this section of the documentary.
The expedition material was shot by Herbert Ponting, who accompanied Scott to the Antarctic with his camera. He survived and later produced the 1924 documentary, The Great White Silence.
There’s plenty in the British Pathé archive for those not so interested in history and British politics. For those more intrigued by science and technology, British inventions both good and bad got a great deal of coverage from the Pathé cinemagazines. More specifically, there are some fascinating clips concerning underwater exploration to be found within the Pathé collection as well as some more general underwater footage. Here are some highlights from our Underwater Adventures.
This is just a small selection of the types of clips on offer within the archive. More footage of undersea technology, wreck dives, marine biology and archaeology, and a great deal of fun can be found on our website.
Visit British Pathé’s collection of Underwater Adventures by clicking here.
British Pathé has an extensive Space Exploration collection which often goes unmined. In this post, as part of our promotion of “Alternative Pathé“, we briefly summarise the contents of the collection and provide some links that might help you to begin your journey into the depths of the space-related archive.
Man long dreamed of setting foot on the moon. It formed the basis of a great deal of science fiction, such as in the work of H. G. Wells. But in the 1940s and 1950s, the possibility that space could be conquered increased, and with the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, the “Space Race” began.
Some early thinkers appear in the British Pathé archive. One film, “First Moon Men” sees Pathé meet with two scientists who have designed their own rocket and space suits in the hope that they might get to land on the moon themselves one day. The film dates from 1947. But more serious testing and design throughout the 1950s is also documented.
Project Mercury was designed to achieve manned American orbits of the Earth. Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and L Gordon Cooper were the lucky pioneers of this programme. But they were beaten by Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human in space in April 1961 aboard the Soviet space craft Vostok 1. In response, the Americans upped their game and President Kennedy announced that NASA “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”.
Project Gemini was the next step – testing the technology and gaining the skills required to get man to the moon. This included the first American spacewalk by astronaut Ed White. The excellent footage can be seen here.
The Apollo missions which led on from these were the final stage in the Space Race – landing a man on the moon. It was not an auspicious start. The crew of Apollo 1, during a routine test on the launch pad, perished when a fire started and the trapped crew could not escape. A newsreelannounces the loss of the crew. But their deaths were not in vain and NASA continued its efforts to send mankind into space. There were some unmanned tests before Apollo 7became the first manned flight of the Apollo rocket and Pathé covered the launch, the mission itself, and the recovery of the crew from the ocean. Apollo 10 also features.
There’s a wealth of Apollo 11 footage within the archive, both in colour and black and white. It covers the preparations, the lift off, the journey to the moon, the landing, moon exploration, and the return to Earth. The celebrations around the world also get a great deal of coverage. For instance, in one film, the three astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, arrive in the United Kingdom for a tour and to meet the Queen: Astronauts Visit London (1969)
There were a further six Apollo missions. Apollos 15 and 16 do not seems to feature in any of the footage within the archive, but Apollo 12 does, and there is some silent Apollo 13 material.
There also appears to be a film from 1972 of an Apollo rocket on the launch pad. If this date is correct, then the footage is presumably of Apollo 16 or Apollo 17, the final manned mission to the moon.
This is where Pathé’s coverage of space exploration ceases. There is, sadly, nothing of Skylab, Hubble, or the International Space Station. There is, however, an episode of A Day That Shook The World, a BBC/British Pathé co-production, which documents the Challenger disaster, meaning that the British Pathé website does at least contain some brief material on the Space Shuttle programme.
But there is other material in the archive of interest not related to manned space flight. Some coverage of the interplanatary probes launched by both sides during the Space Race offers some early, pioneering views of our nearest neighbours. Unmanned missions are also documented, including, for example, the launch of Britain’s first satellite. The trips of other species into space also feature, including NASA’s “space monkeys” and the Soviet “space dogs”.
These space exploration clips are a real forgotten gem of the British Pathé archive. They provide a window into one of mankind’s greatest (and most expensive) achievements – a reminder of what we can accomplish when we really put our minds to it and set our hearts on it. What will be the next such effort?
A selection of British Pathé’s material on space exploration can be found by clicking here.