back to article Gaze in awe at the first ever movie of a solar eclipse from recording long thought lost forever

The first ever film of a solar eclipse, created in 1900 and once thought lost forever, has been found and restored by the British Film Institute and the UK's Royal Astronomical Society. Julius Berkowski was the first man to take a decent picture of a total eclipse in 1851 at the Royal Observatory in Königsberg, Prussia – an …

  1. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
    Coat

    Wow, the world really was in black and white back in the old days!!!

    Mine's the one with the large telescope in it.

    1. Semtex451 Silver badge

      Yes the modern full colour eclipse videos are superior

      1. Julz Bronze badge

        Whoosh...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. FuzzyWuzzys
      Happy

      Oooerr missus!

  2. Sandtitz Silver badge
    Coat

    cool stuff...

    I think adding some Richard Strauss probably could enhanced the experience.

    1. HoggertyHog
      Meh

      Re: cool stuff...

      Maybe "Also sprach Zarathustra" (Portsmouth Sinfonia edition). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpJ6anurfuw

  3. Twanky
    Pint

    Really great stuff

    It's a bit late to buy Maskelyne a beer but we can certainly raise a few in his honour.

    I'd raise a couple of points about the article though:

    - I was surprised to find so many Nevil Maskelynes listed in Wikipedia and indeed to find more than one magician among them. It would have been good to give his dates in the article. Most of them seem to have been based in the British Isles.

    - Comparing 'an expedition to North Carolina' with 'Maskelyne travelled all the way India' from the British Isles suggests a rather USAian focus. Central NC is about 6,600 km from London and central India is about 7,700 km (77 M linguine) according to gmaps. Both significantly long journeys for the late 19th century - but regular routes for the majority of the distance.

    A really interesting article which caused me to start a little digging - I shall enjoy finding out more.

    As it's Friday perhaps raise a few more -> in honour of the guys who restored the film and the author.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "Central NC is about 6,600 km from London and central India is about 7,700 km"

      Direct route? There were no planes in 1900 - getting to India required a far longer ship journey around Africa, or quite a hard and dangerous road travel.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: "Central NC is about 6,600 km from London and central India is about 7,700 km"

        There were no planes in 1900 - getting to India required a far longer ship journey around Africa,

        A man, a plan, a canal: Suez.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: "Central NC is about 6,600 km from London and central India is about 7,700 km"

          It's still a longer ship journey around Africa... shorter than the Cape route, but still longer than crossing the Atlantic. A quick measurement put it a 11-12.000km anyway. Then it depended on what liner companies offered as their standard routes - and at what prices.

          Also traveling inside India in 1900 could have been more difficult than in North Carolina - depending on the specific place to reach.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: "Central NC is about 6,600 km from London and central India is about 7,700 km"

            It's still a longer ship journey around Africa...

            But you'd not be going 'around Africa' at all. While crossing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden you'd have Africa to the West, and the Arabian Peninsula, which is part of Asia, to the East.

            BTW, here is a map showing travel times from the UK to Somewhere Else, in 1914. Most parts of India could be reached in less than 20 days; the eastern half of the US would take 5 to 10 days. At that time the Germans were involved in building a railroad from Turkey to Baghdad and the Iraqi sea port of Basra, which would have significantly shortened their travel time to what is now Tanzania; the Suez canal was not an option being under British control. WW1 put a stop to that, and the railroad was only finished, with British, French and some US involvement in the 1930's. Regular airline routes to India and beyond were getting established at that time but you'd still need the best part of a week to get there, with lots of intermediate stops; for instance Calcutta would take five days.

            1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: "At that time the Germans were involved in building a railroad from Turkey to Baghdad [..]"

              Ah yes, of course, looking for the Holy Grail.

              I remember that documentary.

              1. Jim Mitchell

                Re: "At that time the Germans were involved in building a railroad from Turkey to Baghdad [..]"

                Wait, is that actually the background for the movie? It would explain some things, maybe I should watch it more closely next time.

      2. Twanky

        Re: "Central NC is about 6,600 km from London and central India is about 7,700 km"

        I'm not trying to suggest a direct route - and as Stoneshop has pointed out Suez was a thing by the time of Maskelyne's India adventure - but a comparison to show that we're not talking about an order of magnitude difference in distance.

        What I was trying to suggest was that the introductory phrase 'all the way [to]...' might be followed by 'North Carolina' just as much as 'India' for a Brit at the time we're talking about. Both being quite a long schlep.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "Central NC is about 6,600 km from London and central India is about 7,700 km"

        "Direct route? There were no planes in 1900 - getting to India required a far longer ship journey around Africa, or quite a hard and dangerous road travel."

        He actually said "regular routes" and by that he meant there where more or less regularly schedules ships and trains for most of the distance travelled and had been for some years.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Really great stuff

      >I was surprised to find so many Nevil Maskelynes listed in Wikipedia and indeed to find more than one magician among them.

      That would explain how he did the vanishing trick

  4. jake Silver badge

    Nice!

    Far better than anything that has come out of Hollywood these last several decades.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      1. jake Silver badge

        Not jaded.

        Observant.

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Fascinating

    I wonder how many other gems like this are hidden away moldering in some dusty archive.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Fascinating

      Was about to say fascinating, but you beat me to the post. Baaaaaah.

      :p

      But I digress.

      Quite fascinating, to see that they had the means to capture a solar eclipse back then. Must've been no mean feat what with all the equipment etc required, and the long journey involved.

      My inquiring mind now want to know when was the first-ever porn movie made? Should be interesting, maybe one of El Reg's staff can have a look at it? Or even @alidabbs, seeing he did a column on sex quite recently (today).

      As for the question :

      I wonder how many other gems like this are hidden away moldering in some dusty archive.

      Sadly, we will never know.

      1. keith_w

        Re: Fascinating

        The earliest surviving one is from 1896, so you can be sure that there were earlier ones.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Fascinating

      "I wonder how many other gems like this are hidden away moldering in some dusty archive"

      I expect you'll find them several layers below the Doctor Who Marco Polo episodes.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Fascinating

      Not a function of how many are hidden away but how many of the hidden ones are still "readable". The old films unless properly stored deteriorated pretty quickly unless they were stored properly.

      1. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

        Re: Fascinating

        Their's always hope, as things once thought useless or deteriorated are now valuable in new ways.

        For example people from a hundred of years ago never thought 21st century scientists would be excavating their privies for "artifacts".

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      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Request from Mrs Tim Foil-Hat

        It's fake, the moon doesn't really exist that's why they had to fake the landings in a studio.

        For this shot the Victorians had to launch a giant disk into space to block the sun

        1. toxicdragon

          Re: Request from Mrs Tim Foil-Hat

          Well, it is true that it was filmed in a studio, just it was the one on mars.

  7. Dunstan Vavasour

    ND Filter

    I'm guessing that he was using a heavy filter to attenuate the sunlight before and after totality, and we see the discontinuity where he removed this during totality, where we get to see the corona. Excellent stuff!

  8. myhandler

    Great . but if they've restored it and retimed it, they may as well stabilise it too.

    1. usbac

      I was going to post the same thing.

      I see you were down-voted. What would be the crime in using some software IS to make it less jumpy?

      I guess the down-voter thinks the camera shake makes it look authentic? Like the fake camera shake crap that is cool now. They must have been a big Blair Witch fan?

  9. Tikimon Silver badge
    IT Angle

    If you EVER have the chance...

    If you will ever be within 200 miles of a total eclipse of the sun, GO SEE IT! Stay overnight if you must. Pictures don't express it, descriptions fall short. I finally saw one two years ago and I'll never miss another one on this continent. Our group were all wonder-filled geeks with good imaginations, and we were still blown away.

    "So it gets dark and the sun turns black, so what?" It's NOTHING like dusk (dim light from sideways and often red-shifted) or a cloudy day (gray diffuse light). It's really weird. The light has the same spectrum, it still comes from above casting sharp shadows, the sky is still clear... but the light steadily fails. We all kept swiping at our eyes, it felt like something was wrong with them. It was blazing hot and blinding bright, but now we're standing in the open, cool and comfy without sunglasses.

    Then the Shadow swept across the world. We saw it coming as distant clouds went dark, and the light dropped to its lowest. We lowered our sun shields and gazed in wonder at the black hole with wild white hair where our star used to be. It was like standing on an alien world, everyone felt that way. Far away past the edge of the shadow, we saw the world brightly lit by the sun. It's not just the occluded sun that makes an eclipse awesome. It's the total experience of the world turning very strange, birds going quiet, crickets starting to sing, and so on.

    All too soon it was over. I looked down for some reason and saw a pattern of thin lines go racing across the ground. WTF? It was gone before I could get anyone else to look, but I heard from others who saw that phenomenon.

    I hope I've inspired someone to make the effort one day. If you do, one word of advice. Take a quick picture or two to document the occasion, and STOP. You can download awesome shots from NASA later, better than you can take. You can't watch something so incredible through a stupid viewfinder. Watch and enjoy, don't play with cameras.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: If you EVER have the chance...

      Now that....was VERY well written. Thank you.

    2. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: If you EVER have the chance...

      Cannot upvote enough.

      You are right, it is one of the most amazing experiences.

    3. MrBanana

      Re: If you EVER have the chance...

      I wholeheartedly agree, a solar eclipse is a must see event. The eerie light, and the silencing of nature - very spooky.

    4. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Re: If you EVER have the chance...

      Everything he said about darkness during a bright, sunny day, plus shadows are shaped oddly due to the sun turning into a crescent. The whole experience is surreal.

  10. Matthew Taylor

    Though this footage doesn't have a Brian Cox voice over, so that's a plus

  11. John Savard Silver badge

    Typewriter

    Nevil Maskelyne, the magician, was also behind the manufacture and sale of a typewriter that, like IBM's Executive typewriter, had proportional spacing. I've found pictures of the typewriter on the Web, but never any pictures of anything typed on it, so I could judge how good a job it did. I presume that's not something as thoroughly lost as his eclipse movie, though, even if I couldn't find it.

  12. Kane Silver badge
    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Ringu

      I fail to see what a small claymation animated penguin has to do with this, but whatever.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Ringu

        About as much as a daft Japanese short.

  13. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    "...Oh my god, it's full of Uranus"

    1. Lotaresco

      "...Oh my god, it's full of Uranus"

      Obligatory Goatse astronomy reference.

  14. Stig

    One time chance

    Amazing, especially considering that it's the sort of shot that you can't easily practice for, such as getting the exposure right etc.

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