A hundred years ago the British Antarctic Expedition led by Captain Scott set out on its ill-fated race to the South Pole. Joining Scott on board the Terra Nova was official photographer and cinematographer Herbert Ponting, and the images that he captured have fired imaginations ever since. Ponting filmed almost every aspect of the expedition: the scientific work, life in camp and the local wildlife – including the characterful Adélie penguins. Those things he was unable to film he boldly recreated back home. Most importantly, Ponting recorded the preparations for the assault on the Pole – from the trials of the caterpillar-track sledges to clothing and cooking equipment – giving us a real sense of the challenges faced by the expedition. Ponting used his footage in various forms over the years and in 1924 he re-edited it into this remarkable feature, complete with vivid tinting and toning. The BFI National Archive – custodian of the expedition negatives – has restored the film using the latest photochemical and digital techniques and reintroduced the film’s sophisticated use of colour. The alien beauty of the landscape is brought dramatically to life and shows the world of the expedition in brilliant detail. A happy scene of Scott and his team in a tent demonstrating how they would cook and sleep on their race to the Pole – the same tent that would be their tomb – is particularly poignant. —Bryony Dixon and Robin Baker, BFI National Archive
Herbert George Ponting, FRGS (21 Mar 1870–1935) was a professional photographer. He is best known as the expedition photographer and cinematographer for Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition to the Ross Sea and South Pole (1910–1913). In this role, he captured some of the most enduring images of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
Ponting was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire in the south of England, on 21 March 1870. His father was a successful banker, Francis Ponting, and his mother was Mary Sydenham. From the age of eighteeen Herbert was employed at a local bank branch in Liverpool, where he stayed for four years. That time was long enough to convince him that he did not wish to follow in the profession of his father, and attracted to stories of the American West, he moved to California where he worked in mining and then bought a fruit ranch in the 1890s. In 1895 he married a California woman, Mary Biddle Elliott; their daughter Mildred, was born in Auburn, California… read more