Thursday Matinee: U.S. Anarctica Expedition 1939-1941

Posted By on June 24, 2010

On such a hot day, one wonders what it would be like to be in Antarctica.  Don’t have enough time to take a trip to the bottom of the world?  Take a few minutes and enjoy Antarctica as it was in 1939.

This is a color film of Admiral Byrd’s Second Antarctica Expedition taken during the years 1939 – 1941.  Interesting segments include a visit to Pitcairn Island where the descendants of the crew of the Bounty live, crew interaction with penguins, film of ice flows, and film of the day-to-day life of the expedition crew.  There is no audio but the film has narrative title cards between segments.  It’s a strangely beautiful film.

At a hearing before the House Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, it was explained that the expedition was undertaken to perfect the U.S.’s claim of title to the area known as “Little America.”  Many were disappointed that the U.S. had relinquished its claim to Greenland.  With the rise of aviation, Greenland was seen as a key area not only for staging polar expeditions but also as a staging ground for flights to the Continent.  The State Department wanted to make sure that the U.S. did not want to make the same mistake with Antarctica; thus, the rush to create indications of an intent towards permanent settlement and usage.  The cost for the entire expedition was an estimated $1 million (approximately $15.4 million today).


ANTARCTICA, 1939 – 1941 courtesy of the FedFlix archive at the Internet Archive.org.

Expedition to the Antarctic Regions: Hearings Before the H. Subcomm. of the Comm. on Appropriations, 76th Cong. (1939).

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