British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access


Iceberg, Rothera point, Adelaide Island, Dec 1997 (photo by P Bucktrout courtesy of British Antarctic Survey)
The British Antarctic Survey (BAS), a constituent institute of the Natural Environment Research Council, undertakes a world class programme of scientific research in the Antarctic and related regions. BAS has its origins in 1943, in a British wartime expedition in the Antarctic called Operation Tabarin, which was established on a permanent basis in 1945 as the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey. It was re-named the British Antarctic Survey in 1962. Since 1944 a number of official and semi-official films about the work of the Survey have been made, often using professional cine photographers. Staff serving in the Antarctic also made amateur films, a number of which have been donated or loaned to the Archives. Since 1990 BAS has been more systematic in keeping a visual record of its activities and infrastructure. Professional staff from the Photographic and Film Unit update footage regularly for use in educational and publicity material. BAS has also worked increasingly with television companies in making programmes. The spectacular scenery and wildlife of Antarctica, and the ground-breaking work of BAS, which is responsible for most of the UK’s research in the Antarctic area, are captured in a variety of visual and audio media.
Ships; Environment; Wildlife; Antarctica; Dogs; Falkland Islands; Huskies; Science, research; South Georgia Islands; South Sandwich Islands; Whaling
Access available. Consultation of finding aids and viewing access are by appointment only. Access to material less than 30 years old may be restricted.
Viewing of films on premises - VHS or Beta video. Duplicating available by arrangement.
Copyright is generally, but not invariably, held by the Crown or the Natural Environment Research Council. The position regarding copyright of photographs is more complex. Some assistance with copyright identification available.

Moving Image, Audio and Related Documentation Holdings

Mainly oral history recordings of former members of staff, but including some more unusual items, for instance the ‘singing’ of a hundred huskies. Some recordings of radio broadcasts.
Components: audio cassette tape, open reel tape, shellac disc.
Still Images
In excess of 26,000 images in the Archive Collection (dating from 1944), taken mainly by members of staff serving in the Antarctic, but also including those by professional photographers. Subject matter as described under video. The Photograph Library holds more than 10,000 high quality images of contemporary subject matter, many by BAS’s professional photographers.
Components: glass plate, 2.25 x 3.25 ins; 35mm, negatives, prints, contact prints, enlargements, digital images.
Video: Mainly official footage since late 1980s, unedited and complete films, and video copies of cine film held in BAS Archives. Also copies of films and TV programmes to which BAS has contributed. Covers scientific and support activities; imterviews with staff about key environmental issues; research stations, aircraft and ships maintained by BAS; living conditions and transport; scenery and wildlife; personnel. Geographical coverage: predominantly British Antarctic Territory, Antarctica; also South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands; Falkland Islands.
Video components: Beta, Beta-SP, S-VHS, hi-band U-Matic, VHS.
Film: Professionally-finished feature films and unedited, or partially edited, amateur film. Also off-cuts associated with some of the feature films. Covers similar subject matter to video but pre-dating 1980s, with much footage of husky sledge dogs and some of commercial activities, such as whaling in South Georgia.
Film components: 8mm, 16mm, positive film, negative film, 35mm film strips.


Computerised database
Depth of description varies but indexing is generally extensive. Catalogue entries are held on a PC-based database. A separate database exists for more recent official material, providing more detail. Over 90% of film and sound holdings are included. About one third of the historical photographs are catalogued.

Additional Information

Commentary scripts are available for some full-length films. For others there are sequence notes of varying detail. Shot lists exist for recent official film. Original lists of photographs exist for those historical photographs not catalogued. A few transcripts are available for sound recordings.
Conservation policy
Poor quality and repeat film and stills are destroyed following appraisal. Copying cinefilm to video for ease of access and preservation has been a priority. Curently, emphasis is on digital scanning of still photographs.

Main Contact

Ms. Joanna Rae
Job title
High Cross
Madingley Road

Alternate Contact

For contemporary official material: Bruce Tate, Assistant Information Officer

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