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This documentary, filmed entirely by military photographers, recounts the U.S. Navy's 1946-47 expedition to Antarctica, known as Operation High Jump. The expedition was under the overall command of Admiral Richard E. Byrd, no stranger to the Antarctic. This was a large undertaking involving 13 ships and over 4000 thousand men. The fleet departed from Norfolk, Virginia traveling through the Panama canal and then southward to their final destination. The trip through the ice pack was fraught with danger and forced the submarine that was part of the fleet to withdraw. The trip was a success meeting all of its scientific goals. The film is narrated by three Hollywood stars, all of whom served in the US Navy: Robert Taylor, Robert Montgomery and Van Heflin (I)'. Written by
The Center of the Great Unknown... A Land of Everlasting Mysteries
In the summer of 1946 Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal approved the largest naval task force, 13 ships and 4,700 men, since the end of the Second World War to sail from Norfolk Virginia to the cold and ice capped seas of the Antarctic to map that unknown and frozen continent as well as monitor the vast and untapped natural resources hidden under it's frozen surface.
The film "The Secret Land" is a documentary narrated by actors Robert Montgomery Robert Taylor and Van Haflin about that fabled expedition call Operation Highjump and the men who were on it. Who suffered through it's deadly cold winds ice flows and the dreaded coming of the Antarctic winter that may well have spelled doom to all of those sailors and merchant marines on that perilous expedition.
Led by Admiral Richard E. Byrd and Rear Admiral Richard H. Cruzen Operation Highjump did what it set out to do, by mapping some 1.3 million square miles of the unknown Antarctic continent. There also was a number casualties among the ships and men on that voyage. The most noted was the USS Sennet a submarine that was crushed in the ice off the US base Little America.
Leaving from the US port in Norfolk to the southern most part of the Pacific Ocean to Scotts Island and Little America on the Antarctic land mass. Aircraft carrier USS Philipine Sea the flag ship of task force 63, Operation Highjump, had on it's deck six giant RD4 supply planes who, with Admiral Byrd aboard, flew over the frozen wastes of that continent and photograph it.
In the end the expedition was considered to be a major success but over the years it has all but been forgotten by the American public but It's good to see that the movie "The Secret Land" is still around and is being broadcast periodically on TCM to rekindle interest in that major post WWII event.
Even though Operation Highjump was conducted over fifty years ago many of the photographs and documents on that expedition are still classified and there's the strange explanation of Admiral Byrd's missing three hours, when he flew over the South Pole in February 1947. Having the American public told that Byrd's RD4 had to jettison most of it's equipment to avoid losing altitude and slamming into the dangerously high Antarctic mountain ranges, that in some places are as high as 20,000 feet, that had communications cut off between him and the US base on frozen Antarctic coast. That explanation didn't wash with a lot of the people who listened to the Admirals radio broadcast as he flew over the pole.
The broadcast by Admiral Byrd suddenly went dead for a number of minutes and there are those who think that it was done on purpose, by the US Navy, to keep the American public from knowing just what he saw there.
There was one fantastic discovery by the Byrd task force that didn't escape the attention of the American media and public as well as the lens of the movie camera. That was the discovery, off the Shacklenton Ice Shelf in Wilkes land, of a place later named the Bunger Oasis.
Flying over the ice and snow US Navy Let. Commander David E. Bunger spotted filmed and landed on this 300 square mile patch of land with tricolor fresh water lakes that were totally ice-free right in the middle of the blistering cold and freezing Antarctic! The lakes in the Bunger Oasis were the colors, red blue & green, of the vast amount of colored algae in them and even now, over a half century after the Bunger Oasis' discovery, nothing in the world of science has been able to explain it.
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