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.

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Shackleton South Georgia BirdsShackleton South Georgia Birds

192013 minsSilent

Wildlife in the remote South Atlantic, captured during the ill-fated Shackleton-Rowett Expedition

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The Conquest of EverestThe Conquest of Everest

Documentary195378 mins

Colour film (narrated by Meredith Edwards) telling the story of the ‘Mount Everest Expedition 1953’, which saw the first successful ascent of the mountain.

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Jenny's Dog Team JourneyJenny's Dog Team Journey

Documentary197525 mins

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.

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Southward on the "Quest"Southward on the "Quest"

Documentary192268 minsSilent

Potent record of the 1921 Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic expedition, marked by the death of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

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Preparing for an ExpeditionPreparing for an Expedition

Travelogue19598 minsSilent

Scenes from a documentary or educational programme filmed in South America on the subject of how to prepare for an expedition.

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Cape to CairoCape to Cairo

Travelogue19261 mins

The Court Treatt expedition arrives in Luxor in this fragment from the film record of their journey across Africa.

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Under Sail in the Frozen NorthUnder Sail in the Frozen North

192640 mins

Compelling travel feature edited from footage of the 1925-26 Worsley Algarsson Arctic expedition.

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Nation's Tribute to Captain Scott Nation's Tribute to Captain Scott

Non-Fiction19251 mins Location: Plymouth

Captain Scott's memorial at Plymouth, attended by Kathleen Scott and Peter Scott.

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Dogs for the AntarcticDogs for the Antarctic

Non-Fiction19141 minsSilent Location: Beddington

Ernest Shackleton's sledge-dogs pause to promote 'Spratt's Dog Cakes', en route to the South Pole.

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Across BoliviaAcross Bolivia

193062 mins

Unreleased footage of an expedition in Bolivia, filmed by British explorer and naturalist JC Bee-Mason.

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Arctic: Haig ThomasArctic: Haig Thomas

Documentary193718 minsSilent

A fascinating glimpse into the world of the Ellesmere Island Inuit. Footage from the Haig-Thomas Arctic Expedition 1937-1938

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Antarctic Venture Norwegian, British, Swedish ExpeditionAntarctic Venture Norwegian, British, Swedish Expedition

Documentary194926 mins

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.

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Exercise Musk-oxExercise Musk-ox

Documentary194657 mins

A military film from 1946 “Chronicling a journey of exploration by the Canadian Army through the interior of Northern Canada in midwinter.”

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Savage GoldSavage Gold

193372 minsSilent

Re-enactment of an expedition undertaken by George M. Dyott, which explored the jungles of Brazil and Ecuador in search of Colonel Percy Fawcett.

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Cambridge West Greenland Expedition 1938Cambridge West Greenland Expedition 1938

Documentary193836 minsSilent

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.

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Mischief in GreenlandMischief in Greenland

39 minsSilent

Colour film entitled ‘Mischief in Greenland: the story of H.W. Tilman’s expedition to East Greenland 1964’. Filmed by Roger Coward.

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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.

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Arctic Expedition : 1937Arctic Expedition : 1937

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.

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Greenland Expedition with Sea BreezeGreenland Expedition with Sea Breeze

197152 minsSilent

Colour film documenting one of H.W. Tilman’s expeditions on board ‘Sea Breeze’ to Greenland.

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Greenland Rymill 1933Greenland Rymill 1933

Documentary19337 minsSilent

Film directed by John R. Rymill showing team members with their dog sledges during the 'East Greenland Expedition 1932-33'.

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Lymington to GreenlandLymington to Greenland

22 minsSilent

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'.

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Climbing Mt EverestClimbing Mt Everest

Non-Fiction192283 minsSilent

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.

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Climbing Mount EverestClimbing Mount Everest

Non-Fiction193332 minsSilent

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.

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Everest - ShebbeareEverest - Shebbeare

Amateur film193311 minsSilent

Unedited amateur footage of the scenery and wildlife of the Tibetan plateau, taken during the Mount Everest Expedition 1933.

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Wings Over EverestWings Over Everest

Documentary193442 mins

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

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Ilford Everest 1933Ilford Everest 1933

Non-Fiction193328 minsSilent

Unedited amateur footage of the Mount Everest Expedition of 1933, which was led by Hugh Ruttledge.

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Fourth Everest ExpeditionFourth Everest Expedition

Non-Fiction193376 minsSilent

Percy Wyn-Harris' filmic record of the 1933 expedition, led by Hugh Ruttledge.

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P.R. Oliver Everest ExpeditionP.R. Oliver Everest Expedition

Amateur film193859 minsSilent

Amateur footage directed by Peter Oliver documenting the ‘Mount Everest Expedition 1938’, which was led by Bill Tilman.

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Everest Flight, BlackerEverest Flight, Blacker

Amateur film19331 minsSilent

Amateur film taken during the first flight over Everest, showing stunning aerial views of the mountain

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Everest 1936 - RuttledgeEverest 1936 - Ruttledge

193619 minsSilent

Footage from the ‘Mount Everest Expedition 1936’, which was led by Hugh Ruttledge.

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Kangchenjunga 1955Kangchenjunga 1955

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.

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195513 minsSilent

Extracts from a BBC documentary of footage from the British expedition to Kangchenjunga in 1955, led by Charles Evans.

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Climbing the JungfrauClimbing the Jungfrau

Documentary191514 minsSilent

Spectacular shots of a three-man team climbing the Jungfrau from base to summit.

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Dr. Ward - Bhutan FilmDr. Ward - Bhutan Film

Amateur film195322 minsSilent

Amateur colour footage dating from c. 1950 of people and mountain scenery in Bhutan. Filmed during a visit by Michael Ward.

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Shaksgam, Auden 1937Shaksgam, Auden 1937

Amateur film19377 minsSilent

Amateur film from the Shaksgam Expedition of 1937, detailing the unexplored country around the Shaksgam river.

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East NepalEast Nepal

196172 minsSilent

Film taken by Tom Spring Smyth during the British Museum (Natural History) Expedition to East Nepal 1961-1962.

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Musandam Expedition 1971-1972Musandam Expedition 1971-1972

Amateur film197141 minsSilent

Scientific endeavours along the ancient shoreline of the Musandam peninsula in the straits of Hormuz, Oman 1971-72

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Garhwal Himalayas Expedition 1939Garhwal Himalayas Expedition 1939

Amateur film193952 minsSilent

Film directed by Peter Oliver of his expedition to Garhwal, or the ‘Valley of the Flowers’ with Frank Smythe, in 1937.

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S.E. Tibet - Sherriff & Ludlow, 1934S.E. Tibet - Sherriff & Ludlow, 1934

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.

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Travelogue193218 minsSilent

Documenting a journey by camel across the desolate wasteland of the Kharga Oasis in 1932.

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Abominable SnowmanAbominable Snowman

Non-Fiction19511 mins

News Bulletin reviewing evidence (and possible existence) of the Abominable Snowman, or Yeti, from the Eric Shipton-led Everest expedition of 1951

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River ExpeditionRiver Expedition

7 minsSilent

Silent 1930s black & white amateur film of a European party travelling by riverboat to view the Murchison Falls on the White Nile in Uganda.

Royal Geographical Society

An extraordinary collection of globe-spanning films.

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