We can now see a solar eclipse from 1900, thanks to a magician as well as the experts who made excellent efforts to restore the rare footage. It is known to be the oldest surviving footage of a solar eclipse.
Oldest Solar Eclipse Video
In 1900, British magician Nevil Maskelyne went to North Carolina to film a solar eclipse. It was already Maskelyne’s second attempt to film a solar eclipse, as he had already successfully done so in India in 1898, but the film canister was stolen upon his return home to England. At the time, filming such a phenomenon was not easy, and he had to create a special adapter for his camera just for the event.
The footage of the 1900 solar eclipse is the only known film by Maskelyne to survive, and the British Film Institute and the Royal Astronomical Society are announcing its rediscovery. The film was a part of the astrophotography collection of the Royal Astronomical Society and was scanned and restored in 4K by the leading experts at BFI National Archive.
Now, it is a part of BFI’s Victorian Film collection and can be viewed online for free.
Magic And Technology
During the Victorian era, magic and technology often mingled. As a matter of fact, many early filmmakers at the time worked in magic theaters or were even illusionists themselves. This way, they were able to use technology as new medium for their tricks during magic shows.
Maskelyne himself was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and presented himself as a scientific investigator of illusions, phenomena, and spiritualism.
"Film, like magic combines both art and science. This is a story about magic; magic and art and science and film and the blurred lines between them," said BFI silent film curator Bryony Dixon. "Maskelyne wanted a novelty to show at his magic theatre, what better than the most impressive natural phenomenon of them all."