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Bottom of the world

Identifier: Film Collection no. 18

Scope and Contents

Filmed during the AMNH South Georgia Island Expedition, 1912-1913. Robert Cushman Murphy, AMNH ornithologist, introduces this film; he presents a map of Antarctica and explains that he went to South Georgia in 1912 for the AMNH while a staff member of the Brooklyn Museum. In South Georgia's Cumberland Bay, a whaling station is filmed, as well as humpback whales swimming in the surrounding sea. Jolly penguins are shown and their life is described by Murphy. Also seen are Cape pigeons, sooty albatross, terns and kelp gulls, and a skua gull trying to and succeeding in stealing penguin eggs. A leopard seal's feeding habits, its liking for penguins in particular, are discussed. The courtship behavior of albatross (including a chick breaking out of his egg), shoemaker petrels, and macaroni penguins is depicted in detail. King penguins on the Bay of Isles are seen in various stages of moult, raising young, protecting territory, and fending off Johnny penguins. The harsh terrain, expedition logistics and hardships endured on such a difficult expedition are described. A woman, identified only as Captain Larsen's daughter, is introduced as the first woman to explore Antarctica. The next segment is devoted to the whaling industry. A blue whale is pursued, harpooned, inflated and towed to the whaling station. The process of butchering whales is seen. Among those brought in is a sperm whale. Murphy in his narrative raises the consciousness of his audience to the needless slaughter. The film ends with footage of sea elephants: adults lolling around and fighting, and pups being nursed, covering themselves with mud, and swimming. Murphy bought this footage from Ludwig Kohl-Larsen, a German photographer, and added sound to it. It was promoted and distributed briefly by Talking Pictures Epics, the film company that was formed by Frank Wilson and the Martin Johnson Expedition Corporation to promote the Johnsons' films.


  • 1912-1913


Language of Materials



1 Film Reel (38 minutes) : sound, black and white ; 16 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (38 minutes)) : sound, black and white ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

3/4 in., U-Matic, viewing copy


Murphy, Robert Cushman. A Desolate Island of the Antarctic. American Museum Journal, v. 13, no. 6, Oct. 1913: 243-259. Murphy, Robert Cushman. Logbook for Grace. New York: Macmillan, 1947.


Ludwig Kohl-Larsen, producer; Talking Pictures Epics, distributor; Robert Cushman Murphy, narrator.

Bottom of the world, 1912-1913
Iris Lee
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
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