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The Ellsworth Antarctic Expedition

Identifier: Film Collection no. 186

Scope and Contents

Filmed during two Ellsworth Antarctic expeditions, 1933 and 1934. Lincoln Ellsworth, AMNH trustee, made two unsuccessful attempts to cross Antarctica by plane in 1933 and 1934 before succeeding finally in 1935. This footage, which unfortunately documents only his first two attempts, is nonetheless valuable for its views of the Antarctic landscape and the expedition itself, including Ellsworth's ship, the Wyatt Earp, and his plane, the Polar Star. On November 9, 1933, Ellsworth's expedition left from Dunedin, New Zealand, for the Bay of Whales. His plane was to fly the 1,700 mile expanse from the Ross Sea to the Weddell Sea. This attempt was aborted shortly after their arrival at the Bay of Whales when the Polar Star was damaged as a result of a five-mile ice break-up. The second attempt, in September 1934, was to be made in the opposite direction, from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. The expedition team waited on Deception Island for the weather to clear, but when this did not occur they sailed south along the Antarctic Archipelago (now the Palmer Archipelago) in search of a better take-off field. After a 44-day search Snow Hill Island was selected, where they also found the abandoned cabin of Dr. Otto Nordenskjold, the famed geographer and Antarctic explorer. However, the weather on Snow Hill Island proved too variable and the flight was postposed for yet another year. The staff of the expedition included Ellsworth; Sir Hubert Wilkins, Australian aviator and explorer; Bernt Balchen, airplane pilot; Chris Braathen, engine mechanic; Lanz, radio operator; and a number of Norwegian sailors. Ellsworth's wife, Mary Louise Ulmer Ellsworth, also appears at the beginning of the film.


  • 1933-1934

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

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


1 Film Reel (93 minutes) : silent, black and white ; 35 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (93 minutes)) : silent, black and white ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

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


Original format: 35 mm. print; incomplete.


The Ellsworth Antarctic Expedition, 1933-1934
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
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