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Sir George Hubert Wilkins

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Sir George Hubert Wilkins inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015

Sir George Hubert Wilkins was born in 1888 to a family of pioneer settlers and sheep farmers at Mount Bryan, 160 kilometers north of Adelaide SA. Wilkins is widely regarded as one of the most remarkable explorers in history; for no one saw with his own eyes more undiscovered land and sea. Wilkins became a celebrated newsreel cinematographer in the early 1900s, as well as a reporter, pilot, spy, war hero, scientist, and adventurer, capturing with his camera the first ever motion picture film of soldiers in battle, and shot the first moving pictures from an aircraft, he witnessed famine, cheated death repeatedly, met Kings, Queens, Presidents and Dictators, and circled the globe on a Zeppelin. Wilkins willingness to take risks made him Gaumont British News star cameraman and earned him a world-wide reputation.

Most Australians do not know of Wilkins. Along with the greats of polar exploration, including Shackleton in the Antarctic, Wilkins recognized the importance of new technologies such as the aeroplane and submarine. He helped map the Canadian Arctic and plumbed the ocean depths from the icecap. A pioneer in the truest sense of the word, he became the first man to fly across the North Pole, which won him a knighthood; the first to fly to the Antarctic and discover land there by aeroplane and the first to take a submarine under the Arctic ice. Wilkins was a visionary and a true hero, with his cameras he helped change the way we look at our world.

And to think this man’s journey started by walking into a canvas tent screening silent motion pictures in Adelaide in 1911. Wilkins there and then made the decision that his destiny lay in the motion picture film industry, particularly in being a cinematographer. He is the only combat cinematographer/photographer decorated in battle – twice, and feted in two ticker-tape parades along New York’s, Broadway for his exploits.

Wilkins had no ambition to photograph feature films, he decided he would rather use his cameras to record history. He was a distinguished and celebrated man in the USA, Britain and Europe , but oddly, was virtually unknown in his own country — Australia. Unbelievable! He died in the USA in 1958.

 

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