Paddling film from the thirties
British Pathé, an impressive archive of historical films, have some interesting material from the British polar expeditions during the last hundred years.
One film clip in particular, intrigued me: Greenland´s Icy Mountains No. 4 from 1932. Capt. Bartlett (who sailed with Peary) reach the Greenland coast with the schooner Morrisey and meet the hardy Eskimos.
The film is just over 2 minutes and the part that caught my interest starts at 47 secs – a group of Greenland hunters paddle past the camera in their kayaks. Look at their paddling technique: the high cadenza and the flowing organic movement that indicates high efficiency and minimal effort. A technique whittled down to a necessary minimum. No splash and almost no wake, they look like they could go on forever.
One might suspect that the high frequency could be somewhat exaggerated – the frame rate is not always accurate from old cameras. But those speeded-up old movies were often from hand cranked cameras and before standardization. The Pathés from the thirties were motor driven (a clockwork) and the frame rate was standardized – and looking at other parts: the people running along the cliff, the little boy jumping on board etc, indicates no frame rate shift.
So what I see is an impressive flow in the strokes, that I have seldom seen elsewhere. Looking closely at the movement of the blades I get the same feeling as watching an Olympic 500-meter final – the same combination of beautiful flow and micropaus/acceleration in the same dynamic stroke motion, but here used for effortless endurance instead of short term explosive power. Impressive and inspiring...