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Meandering in Africa

Identifier: Film Collection no. 209

Scope and Contents

Filmed during the AMNH Akeley African Expedition to the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), 1921-1922. This film was made by Carl Akeley, museum taxidermist, inventor, naturalist, and explorer. Akeley wanted to secure gorilla specimens for the museum and undertook this expedition accompanied by several friends of his: Chicago lawyer Herbert Bradley and his wife Mary; Alice, their five-year-old daughter; Alice's nanny, Priscilla Hall; and Akeley's secretary and editor of the film, Martha Miller Blivin. Akeley shot extensive footage of Victoria Falls, which lies on the Zambia-Zimbabwe (then Northern and Southern Rhodesia) border, with a camera of his own invention, which enabled him to follow the movements of the water and the mist. The expedition party is shown on the edge of these spectacular falls. In the next sequence, Batwa people, dressed in bark-cloth skirts and beaded necklaces, and their hair shaved into designs, dance animatedly. A segment follows of the Nyamlagira volcano crater, with views of lava flowing, crackling, and seething below the rim of the crater. The steamer on which the expedition party trav eled on the Lualaba River is shown, as are natives fetching water, women in calico wraps, shallow, long dugouts gliding on the river, and beehive-like dwellings on shore. A large flock of ibis perches in the trees and flies about. Close-ups of a shoebill stork follow, showing the stork eating, which seems to be an arduous task. A man wearing a pincer attached to small chains on his nose strolls in a market. The caption suggests that the pincer is a "clothespin used to keep snuff in." Men are filmed using a fire drill. The expedition party moves along with native carriers toting various bundles, including bicycles. Blivin shoots and kills an elephant, and she and Akeley examine the bullet holes. In the next section the following animals are filmed: weaver birds, kobs, waterbucks, topi, ostriches, monkeys, elephants, and baboons. Upon reaching Mount Karisimbi, the expedition party discovers gorilla nests and here, the first motion picture ever taken of wild gorillas is made. This is of more historic than scientific importance, as this footage is mostly comprised of long shots, the animals not being observed at close range. An adult male silverback gorilla retreats into the bush. Next, an adult female plays with two juveniles in a tree. A brief sequence follows in which a gorilla, killed by Akeley, is held up by the natives. Herbert Bradley shoots the 354-pound lone male of Karisimbi, and Mary Bradley and Blivin arrive to examine the "fallen giant." Akeley takes measurements of the large gorilla. The natives, in a humorous segment, mimick gorilla behavior. The film ends with panning shots of Mount Mikeno, which would eventually become the background painting for the gorilla diorama in the museum's Akeley Hall of African Mammals. It was also in this place that Akeley would die of fever, dysentery, and exhaustion in 1926.


  • 1921-1922

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Not available through interlibrary loan. Contact AMNH Library Special Collections for terms of access.


1 Film Reel (40 minutes) : silent, black and white ; 16 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (40 minutes)) : silent, black and white ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

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


Original format: 16 mm. negative.



Carl Ethan Akeley, photographer; Martha Miller Blivin, editor.

Meandering in Africa, 1921-1922
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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