These films were made during the British Arctic Air Route Expedition, 1930-1931. At the time there were plans to establish an air route linking Europe with North America via Iceland, Greenland and Baffin Island. The expedition was meant to survey the least known part of this route, the east coast and the central plateau of Greenland.
The expedition party sailed at the beginning of July in the ‘Quest’. The first stop was the Faroe Islands, where they took on the dogs which were to pull the sledges. A second stop was made in Reykjavik. The ship arrived on the 24th of July in Angmagssalik on the east coast of Greenland. A base camp was established 30 miles away. From there they undertook mapping excursions. Part of the expedition team departed to find a route to the Ice Cap, which they were marking with flags for other parties to follow. Eventually they established a station at the Ice Cap c. 150 miles inland, and small teams took turns in manning it.
Other journeys took parts of the team north along the coast in the ‘Quest’, to several native settlements and to Ivigtut on the west coast.
Frederick Spencer Chapman was charged with surveying work and also made observations of the wildlife. He had brought a film camera with him, and this is the footage he took. It shows scenes of the journey, the dogs, the camps and the activities of the expedition team. He also filmed the local people. The footage was edited into a 2-part film entitled ‘Northern Lights’. This is also the title of the book Spencer Chapman wrote about the expedition.
There was second expedition to Greenland in 1932-1933 with a smaller team of which Spencer Chapman was part again. They arrived in Angmagssalik on 2nd August 1932, but sailed northwards shortly afterwards to establish a base on Lake Fjord. During this expedition one of the team members, Gino Watkins, had an accident while out in his kayak and drowned. The end of the film shows a cross erected in his memory.
Accession Number: 2014.6.8