What you’re about to witness is pretty special. No, it isn’t this absolute thunderbolt by Clarence Seedorf, and nope, it isn’t this compilation of bloopers and howlers made by British newsreaders. It is, in fact, the first ever footage recorded of a solar eclipse, and it has been ushered into the world by the BFI and the Royal Astronomical Society.
A press release heralding the arrival of this oddly moving clip shot in 1900 informs us that “the original film fragment held in The Royal Astronomical Society’s archive has been painstakingly scanned and restored in 4K by conservation experts at the BFI National Archive, who have reassembled and retimed the film frame by frame.”
It has been released as part of BFI’s collection of films from the late-Victorian era, all of which are available to view on their utterly indispensable BFI Player online archive. The footage forms part of the 500 or so films shot during the period, all of which can be viewed for free right now.
Shot by “British magician turned pioneering filmmaker” Nevil Maskelyne while he was on an expedition to North Carolina in May 1990, it shows Nevil’s second attempt at catching the event on camera. Two years before he’d made the trek to India to film a solar eclipse but sadly the footage he got that day was stolen on his journey back.
We would, by the way, happily watch a film about that, so if any budding screenwriters have recently found themselves without a solid idea, you can have that one on us. And Nevil, obviously.
Nevil’s second successful attempt has been described, by Dr Joshua Nall, the chair of the Royal Astronomical Society no less, as “perhaps the oldest surviving astronomical film,” which absolutely makes it worth a minute of your time.