More than a hundred years ago history was made – humanity’s first moments were captured on film. The oldest surviving film in existence dates back to 1888, and in the 131 years since, film making has made incredible strides.
Nowadays, it seems like people film absolutely every second of their lives on their phones. From cats falling off furniture to time-lapses of a cake being baked, footage of nearly anything and everything can be found online, uploaded by the millions of people who own smart phones all over the world.
However, when filming was still in its infancy and a lot more difficult to do, a lot of history’s amazing events were recalled through memory and writings alone, with no footage available. Fortunately, there have always been film enthusiasts who were on hand with a camera and managed to capture some truly momentous occasions for us to witness many years later. Here are five of those moments:
1. Hindenburg Explosion
On 6th May 1937, the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed whilst attempting to dock at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey. There were 36 fatalities, but remarkably most of those onboard managed to escape the flames and run to safety as the vessel settled to the ground. Eyewitness statements disagree as to where the fire initially broke out, and there have been different hypothesis proposed as to the cause of ignition, from a static spark, lightening, engine failure and even sabotage.
The disaster destroyed the public’s confidence in passenger-carrying airships and brought an end to the airship era.
To date, there are several newsreels of the fire, including four news sources, one of unknown origin and one amateur film from a spectator. The event was well documented due to the news crews being on site at the time of the explosion. Truly a remarkable case of someone happening to be filming at the right moment.
2. Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
So, this one isn’t so much an accidental filming, but rather the complete opposite. Regardless, we’ve included it in this list because it was the first British coronation to be televised; television cameras had not been allowed inside the abbey during the previous coronation of King George VI in 1937.
Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2nd June 1953 at Westminster Abbey at the age of 25. Still reigning to this day, the Queen became the longest reigning monarch in British history on the 9th September 2015 when she surpassed the reign of Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years and 216 days.
Her coronation is considered the world’s first major international event to be broadcast on television. It was watched by millions in Britain, and to ensure the Canadians could watch it on the same day, RAF Canberras flew BBC recordings of the ceremony across the Atlantic Ocean to be broadcast. The film was also sent to Australia aboard a Quantas airliner, which arrived in Sydney in a record time of 53 hours and 28 minutes.
It’s incredible to think how far we’ve come. When Prince William wed Kate back in 2011, it was watched live across the world by tens of millions.
3. “Bigfoot” Sighting
A controversial claim to say the least, this grainy footage from 1967 was shot by a man called Roger Patterson and claims to be footage of the real-life Big Foot.
The footage starts out shaky due to Patterson running towards the alleged creature, before he steadies the camera to show 12 seconds of remarkable footage. Until this footage emerged, no photos of the supposed sasquatch had been as clear as what this footage shows. Of course, many speculate that it is merely a man in a monkey suit and that it was all part of an elaborate hoax.
Patterson maintained the claim that the creature in the footage was real until his dying day.
4. JFK Assassination
A rather gruesome inclusion to this list was captured in Dallas, Texas in 1963 by a clothing manufacturer named Abraham Zapruder. Hoping for a close-up shot of the President’s motorcade as it came around the corner to where he was spectating, what Zapruder unintentionally caught on film was the assassination of John F Kennedy as he was fatally shot from the window of a book depository by Lee Harvey Oswald.
The shocking footage actually shows the moment JFK was shot in the head, and the efforts of his wife, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, to crawl out of the car as it speeds away. The footage became an important part of the investigation and is one of the most studied pieces of film in history.
5. The Moon Landing
In 1969, history was made as humanity took its first steps on the surface of the moon. Across the globe, people sat and watched television history as live coverage of the Apollo 11 mission was broadcast.
Neil Armstrong was the first man aboard Apollo 11 to set foot on the moon, and it was filmed by a camera installed on the MESA (Modularised Equipment Stowage Assembly) at the side of the Apollo Lunar Module. Due to the limitations, the video signal was transmitted in a monochrome SSTV format at 10 frames per second. Its format was incompatible with broadcast television standards and needed to be converted before it could be shown. The live conversion was crude, it was essentially done using a video camera pointing at a high-quality 10-inch TV monitor.
Even still, this grainy footage shows one of mankind’s greatest ever accomplishes.