This film is part of Free

The Sea Trial of N.B. 503 Japonica

The Sea Trial of N.B. 503 Japonica

A Tyneside engineer is captivated by the rhythm of the industrial River Tyne as he travels on a shakedown cruise with the trawler Japonica.

Amateur film 1961 8 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


If anything, the muck-in-lens and amateur flaws of this film add to the charm and intimacy of a Tyneside engineer's journey on the new fishing trawler, Japonica. On board officially to represent his company, Decca Radar, the incidental, industrial Tyne hooks filmmaker Ken Christie with its river poetry – a well-worn slipway at T Mitchison’s Friars Goose yard, the colossal floating architecture of the Titan II crane, smoky tugs and foyboats working to the river’s rhythm.

A marine engineer at the time, it is no surprise that Ken Christie’s camera proudly lingers on the technology tested on board the Japonica, including the ‘orange peel’ scanner registering the Tyne piers amidst all the wave clutter. In contrast to the Tyne of today, this film is also steeped in a still vibrant industrial culture on the busy river, with cranes at the Neptune, Walker and Swan Hunters shipyards, and large whaling factory ships under repair at Middle Docks, South Shields. The Japonica was built and fitted out at T Mitchison’s Friars Goose slipway on the south shore of the Tyne, which closed in 1964, the site partly covered today by Gateshead International Stadium.