On 28 November 1979, an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashed into Mt Erebus, Antarctica, killing all 257 people on board. It was the worst civil aviation disaster in NZ history and at the time, the fourth worst in the world. Made independently of state TV, Flight 901 was the first in-depth documentary on the accident. It surveys the novelty of Antarctic tourist flights, the search and rescue operation, and controversy over causes stirred by the Peter Mahon-led Royal Commission of Inquiry. This 15 minute excerpt was edited for NZ On Screen by director John Keir.
This 1993 documentary surveys the world’s southernmost volcano, Mount Erebus. Cameras travel to never before filmed depths, 400 metres below the sea ice. They also go 3500 metres above sea level into the erupting crater. The film charts what is able to survive in the otherworldly environment, from seals to moss. Solid Water was the third part of an acclaimed Wild South trilogy on Antarctica, which helped establish a relationship between Discovery Channel and TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ). It was awarded for Best Camera at the 1994 New Zealand TV Awards.
This film tells the story of Antarctica’s emperor penguin (the inspiration behind Happy Feet) and how they survive vicious blizzards and -50°C temperatures. It also retraces the epic “worst journey in the world” which explorer Edward Wilson made to discover these remarkable birds. Max Quinn won a best director award at the 1994 NZ Television Awards for the Antarctic Trilogy Emperors was part of. The trilogy helped establish NHNZ’s relationship with Discovery Channel. As this backgrounder explains, the scene of a penguin falling through ice (clip one) became a YouTube hit.
Each episode of Extraordinary Kiwis shines a spotlight on a particular Kiwi and the activities that make them extraordinary. In this third season pilot, Clarke Gayford spends some time in Antarctica with scientist Victoria Metcalf, who investigates how fish survive in such extreme cold and their use as bellwethers for climate change. The "very Auckland" Gayford learns to fish amongst the seals. Dealing with hooks and bait in -20°C conditions is challenging for the self-described "sook in the cold", but Gayford proves pretty handy with a rod.
Extraordinary Kiwis screened on Prime TV. Each episode showcases a New Zealander in their natural habitat and looks at what makes them extraordinary; subjects ranged from household names (Scott Dixon, Colin Meads) to unsung heroes. The third season introduced an on-screen presenter, with Clarke Gayford willingly stepping up to the plate Paper Lion-style to experience the subject's world: from trying to keep up with All Black star Dan Carter, to duck shooting with a fashion designer, fishing in Antarctica, and playing for laughs as a stand-up comedian.
In 1973 Prime Minister Norman Kirk announced that the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi would be a unifying national holiday called New Zealand Day. The inaugural 1974 day featured a royal entourage, was watched by 20,000 people and screened live for TV. Excerpts include the Aotearoa pageant (from giant moa to the Age of Aquarius, including kapa haka, settler cabaret, and Howard Morrison as Kupe), and Kirk’s iconic — and more enduring — speech. New Zealand Day was abolished by the next (National) Government, who renamed it Waitangi Day.
Pirate radio hit Kiwi airwaves on 4 December 1966 when Radio Hauraki broadcast from the Colville Channel aboard the vessel Tiri. Made by Sally Aitken, this film reunited the original pirates for the first time in 30 years to recall their battle to bring rock’n’roll to the youth of NZ. Featuring rare archive footage, the tale of radio rebels, conservative stooges, stoners, ship-wrecks and lost-at-sea DJs was originally made as a student film. It was bought by TVNZ and screened in primetime to praise: “Top of the dial, top of the class” (Greg Dixon, NZ Herald).
For this 2001 series Peter Elliott retraced Captain James Cook’s first voyage around Aotearoa. The second episode heads from Mercury Bay to Cape Reinga. Elliott diverts from Cook’s wake to Waitemata Harbour to investigate New Zealand boatbuilding history, and sail a Team New Zealand America’s Cup yacht with Tom Schnackenberg. Elliott then boards HMNZS Te Kaha to "hoon" up the coast to rejoin The Endeavour's path. In the Bay of Islands he meets Waitangi waka paddlers, crews on tall ship R Tucker Thompson, and dives to the Rainbow Warrior wreck off the Cavalli Islands.
Going further off the rails and further south, idiosyncratic TV host Marcus Lush continued his ratings-winning collaboration with Jam TV in this five-part series about the history, environment and wildlife of Antarctica. The show also investigates and celebrates New Zealand's many connections with Antarctica, from involvement in the historic quests of Scott and Amundsen, to continuing ties with Scott base on Ross Island, where Lush spends Christmas with the community of long-term residents.
Central North Island art is spotlighted in this episode of the road trip arts show. Douglas Lloyd Jenkins and Nick Ward discuss Len Lye's 'Wind Wand' and visit Michael Smither works in a Catholic church. Novelist Shonagh Koea reads in her favourite antique shop while photographer Sarah Sampson serves tea and discusses her fabric work and "chick art". Rangi and Julie Kipa reconcile traditional Maori process with modern art, performance artists Matt and Stark deconstruct the family sedan; and, in Wanganui, Ross Mitchell-Anyon is proud to call himself a potter.