To the Ends of the Earth
Journey across the planet’s most challenging terrain in this ode to exploration and endurance on film.
On 5 January 1922 the ‘heroic age’ of Antarctic exploration drew to a symbolic close with the death of Anglo-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Marking this centenary and that of Britain’s first attempt to summit Mount Everest, this collection tells a connected story about human endurance, our relationship with and impact on the natural world. The birth of film collided with exploration’s heyday as a competitive sport, source of national pride and beacon of scientific discovery. The work of pioneer filmmakers in the remotest corners of our planet has fuelled a century of genre-spanning cinema and furthered our understanding of the ravages of climate change.
This selection includes early film records of expeditions to Everest and the Arctic and beyond to remote regions of South America and South Asia. Many of the films are part of the extraordinary Royal Geographical Society collection, preserved by the BFI National Archive. You can explore the full collection via the link at the bottom of the page.
Colour film (narrated by Meredith Edwards) telling the story of the ‘Mount Everest Expedition 1953’, which saw the first successful ascent of the mountain.
Travels with my camera: inspirational seventy-something Scottish film-maker Jenny Gilbertson travels through Northern Canada by dog sled, with four adults and a baby.
Potent record of the 1921 Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic expedition, marked by the death of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Scenes from a documentary or educational programme filmed in South America on the subject of how to prepare for an expedition.
Non-Fiction19251 mins Location: Plymouth
Captain Scott's memorial at Plymouth, attended by Kathleen Scott and Peter Scott.
Non-Fiction19141 minsSilent Location: Beddington
Ernest Shackleton's sledge-dogs pause to promote 'Spratt's Dog Cakes', en route to the South Pole.
A fascinating glimpse into the world of the Ellesmere Island Inuit. Footage from the Haig-Thomas Arctic Expedition 1937-1938
Antarctic Venture Norwegian, British, Swedish ExpeditionAntarctic Venture Norwegian, British, Swedish Expedition
Colour film of the very first international science expedition to Antarctica, outlining its aims, and recording the outbound journey of the ‘Norwegian-British-Swedish Expedition 1949-52’ team.
A military film from 1946 “Chronicling a journey of exploration by the Canadian Army through the interior of Northern Canada in midwinter.”
Amateur film showing this University-led expedition to study the geography, geology and botany – as well as cultural contacts between the Inuit peoples – of Greenland.
Colour film entitled ‘Mischief in Greenland: the story of H.W. Tilman’s expedition to East Greenland 1964’. Filmed by Roger Coward.
Spitzbergen: Oxford University Arctic Expedition 1924 Spitzbergen: Oxford University Arctic Expedition 1924
Amateur film1924202 minsSilent
An ambitious second expedition to the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago led by George Binney, student, artic explorer and seaplane pioneer, 7 July – 5 September 1924.
Amateur film193756 minsSilent
Join James Wordie on his 1937 Arctic expedition venturing the frozen seas of Baffin Bay encountering native Greenlandic Inuit along the way.
Film directed by John R. Rymill showing team members with their dog sledges during the 'East Greenland Expedition 1932-33'.
Silent colour rushes of English mountaineer and explorer Bill Tilman bound for Greenland in 1961-62 in search of new mountain challenges on his boat 'Mischief'.
The first film of Tibet, by Captain John Noel from the 1922 British expedition to Mount Everest, which was led by Brigadier General Charles Bruce.
A fascinating glimpse into life at high altitude for the party of the Mount Everest Expedition 1933 which intended, but ultimately failed to summit Everest.
Amateur film193311 minsSilent
Unedited amateur footage of the scenery and wildlife of the Tibetan plateau, taken during the Mount Everest Expedition 1933.
Released by British-Gaumont in 1934, this film documents The ‘Houston Mount Everest Expedition’ organized by Major L V Stewart Blacker, to fly over Mount Everest
Amateur film193859 minsSilent
Amateur footage directed by Peter Oliver documenting the ‘Mount Everest Expedition 1938’, which was led by Bill Tilman.
Amateur film1955107 minsSilent
Amateur footage of the British expedition to Kangchenjunga in 1955. Led by Charles Evans, this expedition saw the first ascent of the mountain.
Amateur film195322 minsSilent
Amateur colour footage dating from c. 1950 of people and mountain scenery in Bhutan. Filmed during a visit by Michael Ward.
Amateur film197141 minsSilent
Scientific endeavours along the ancient shoreline of the Musandam peninsula in the straits of Hormuz, Oman 1971-72
Amateur film193952 minsSilent
Film directed by Peter Oliver of his expedition to Garhwal, or the ‘Valley of the Flowers’ with Frank Smythe, in 1937.
Amateur film193454 minsSilent
During the 1930s Sherriff and Ludlow carried out a series of plant and bird collecting expeditions working eastward along the main Himalayan ranges.
News Bulletin reviewing evidence (and possible existence) of the Abominable Snowman, or Yeti, from the Eric Shipton-led Everest expedition of 1951