Into the White: 100 Years of Polar Exploration on Screen

Documentaries, newsreels and dramatisations of the ‘heroic age’ of popular imagination.

To celebrate the release of the BFI Archive’s restoration of The Great White Silence (1924), and the centenary of Captain Scott’s expedition to the South Pole, the Mediatheque presents Into the White, a new collection featuring over a century of polar exploration films.

Our earliest addition shows an American expedition to the North Pole, but it was the discoveries to be found at the South Pole that most fascinated explorers. Antarctica was the last great continent to be left unexplored by mankind – the effort to uncover the mysteries of this territory began in the 19th century but extremely hostile conditions meant that explorers could do little more than map the edges.

The early part of the 20th century saw the ‘heroic age’ of popular imagination, during which the continent was explored, measured and mapped, and the South Pole was finally reached. The valiant efforts of men like Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton have continued to inspire filmmakers over the years, and many of the best movie and TV retellings appear in Into the White, alongside fascinating documentaries showing the subsequent work of scientists, naturalists and explorers in the polar regions.

Ten to try

A Dash to the North Pole (1909)

The SS America braves the pack ice during the Ziegler North Pole expedition.

Dogs for the Antarctic (1914)

The ‘lucky’ dogs who will accompany Shackleton await their adventures in quarantine.

Lieutenant Pimple’s Dash for the Pole (1914)

Fred Evans’ clownish boob heads for the Arctic.

South – Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Glorious Epic of the Antarctic (1919)

Stunning record of Shackleton’s ill-fated but heroic expedition.

Aerial Antarctic Discoveries (1930)

Austrian explorer Hubert Wilkins films Antarctica from above – and discovers five new islands in the process.

90º South (1933)

Re-edited sound version of The Great White Silence, with commentary from director Herbert Ponting.

Scott of the Antarctic (1948)

Lavish recreation of Captain Scott’s doomed expedition to the South Pole, starring John Mills.

Foothold on Antarctica (1956)

The Trans-Antarctic Commonwealth Expedition sets up base camp in Derek Williams’ Oscar-nominated documentary.

Life in the Freezer (1993)

David Attenborough visits Scott’s abandoned hut while filming his polar nature series.

Shackleton (2002)

BAFTA and Emmy-award-winning drama showing Shackleton’s incredible Antarctic adventures.

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