#22 The Great White Silence (1924)

Herbert G. Ponting was able to grasp what the true meaning of a documentary without even meaning to. What makes this film a documentary to you? This documentary is about the Terra Nova Expedition that took place from 1910-1913. 


This was never meant to be a documentary film. Ponting was sent to be the photographer for the expedition crew so that Captain Robert Falcon Scott could bring the footage back with him for his lecture series. Unfortunately, Scott and his crew died from the harsh winter and did not return home. Ponting decided to honor this expedition and turn his footage into a film. I like how this film doesn’t really stage anything. Sure, Ponting wasn’t allowed to go on the actual expedition but what he wasn’t there for in person, he used other footage. He showed pictures of the beautiful snowy white scenery, pictures of the team, how the men pitch camp, cook their food, and even used animation to show their route. Just seeing how snow takes over the entire setting gave me chills myself.


While this film was originally a silent film, it was re-mastered into adding a helpful and informative narration as well as changing the title to “90 Degrees South.” Which title do you like better? As strange as this sounds, I felt like I was watching an old-fashioned Disney film as if Walt Disney was giving the narration. Write in if you felt the same way. You would think that a documentary about an ill-fated expedition would be in a depressing tone but it wasn’t because this was about glorifying this team for daring to reach the unknown- the South Pole. My favorite parts were with the animals as we were shown the feelings, behaviors, activities, and characteristics of the everyday lives of penguins, walruses, seals, and hardworking dogs whose most fun is moving equipment and guiding the team. Think of this almost like an early National Geographic or “March of the Penguins.” What did you learn from this film?

Watch this educational documentary and write in what stood out to you the most:



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