VIDEO: An Arctic blast from the past - Soundings Online

VIDEO: An Arctic blast from the past

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If you love the old Pathé newsreels, we've got a good one for you. Capt. Robert Bartlett, who was with Robert Peary when he “discovered” the North Pole in 1906, takes movie-goers of the 1940s on an expedition to the Arctic.

A series of newsreels trace the journey of the schooner Effie M. Morrissey from New York City to Greenland, with a stop in the skipper’s hometown of Brigus, Newfoundland. From there, it’s on to Iceland and a break to enjoy its famous hot springs before continuing to Greenland, which the captain says “must have been named by someone in the real estate business.”

It’s well worth a full viewing for the boat-crazy. There’s some wonderful footage of a storm, with the deck of the Morrissey nearly buried in the sea, as well as an up-close look at an Eskimo community.

The reels capture a frozen north and a sea that’s riotous with life — would Bartlett even recognize it now? Narwhals (“taste like chicken” — we kid you not) abound, polar bears frolic and walrus is hunted for its “juicy meat.”

The good captain also lets loose some sexist zingers — “A woman’s place is in the home, even in the Arctic” — a polar bear is roped for fun, a musk ox is brought aboard and a seal hunt for fur is hard to watch, reminding us that change sometimes is for the best.

Still, Bartlett is a charming guide to a time and place long gone. And it’s hard not to fall for his dearly loved schooner, “little Morrissey.”

“Oh boy, ain’t she a beauty?” Bartlett crows.

She is, indeed.