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VIDEO: An Arctic blast from the past

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.



Arctic Blast

Pim Van Hemmen takes an icy ride with the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue in cold and sometimes dangerous waters north of the Arctic Circle.