Multimedia film collection

Steamer vessel pulled up to the ice
Wyatt Earp on ANARE voyage 8 February to 1 April 1948 (Photo: Laurie Le Guay)
Scores of men walk towards a biplane with a large mountain in the background

In conjunction with the photographic collection Multimedia manages the Australian Antarctic Division's film collection. The collection comprises some 1600 tapes covering close to 2000 titled segments of vision. This includes both fully edited productions and raw unedited material.

The collection began with first voyage to Heard Island in 1947, with cameraman David Eastman from the Department of Information on board the LST 3501 and with Laurie Le Guay also of the Department of Information on the Wyatt Earp.

Le Guay was one of Australia's best known commercial photographers in the late 1940s, who photographed fashion models for Vogue magazine. The first colour footage in the Division's collection is also of the Wyatt Earp in Adelaide.

The Division's first official photographer, Alan Campbell-Dury, radio operator of the first Heard Island wintering party, made the film record for the season.

The bulk of the collection is unedited raw footage, however a number of productions were made in the early years, including the well known film Blue Ice, that tells the story of the voyage of the Kista Dan to establish Mawson in 1954.

Much effort went into the production of this film, and it later won the Kodak Cup at the fourth International Festival of Films on Mountaineering and Exploration in Italy. It was used extensively in the Division's public relation lectures in the 1950s.

Projectionist Campbell-Dury recalled on one occasion when showing production in the original 16mm film format.

"Half way through the film [Blue Ice] the spool fell off the projector, rolled the length of the hall, went out the front door and down Commercial Road with me after it."

Phil Law also had to chase Blue Ice, when a tram put its brakes on suddenly and the can holding the 16mm film spool held between his feet shot off down the road.

From the 1950s to mid 1980s the 16mm films in the collection were lent out to schools and organisations that asked, and most seem to have been returned except one lot that came back after spending 10 years in Western Australia.

However with the emergence of video in the latter half of the 1980s the film collection fell into disuse and the problem of archiving film presented itself. The result was that the entire collection was transferred to Beta Tape format, with the original 16mm stock now held in archival storage by the National Australia Archive.

With the advent of the mini-cam and the low cost of tapes and DVDs compared to 16mm film stock, more and more vision is being shot by expeditioners today than ever before. The Multimedia film collection is partly shot-listed up to 1980 and has searchable database, and is an ongoing job.

The special collections have a number of historic film cameras that fortunately survived asset disposals. In particular, a Cine Kodak Special II camera that was left at Wilkes by the Americans. Repaired at Wilkes in 1968 by Brian Rieussett, most of that year's Wilkes/Casey seasons footage was shot on this camera.

Also surviving from the early years is a Swiss-made Bolex 16mm reflex camera, the sole survivor of a number the Division seems to have had.


Phil Law, The Voyage of HMAS Wyatt Earp
Kathleen Ralston, Phillip Law The Antarctic Exploration Years 1954-66
Tim Bowden,The Silence Calling