Australian Screen

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Round About Townsville (1926)

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Magnetic Island education content clip 1, 2

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

An intertitle describing Magnetic Island – only six miles from Townsville – introduces sepia-tinted images of passengers on board the daily service from Townsville. Another title card explaining Magnetic Island’s beaches and picturesque thatched roofed bungalows precedes a green-tinted and toned sequence of the beach, thatched bungalows and tropical plants.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows footage of Magnetic Island near Townsville in northern Queensland in 1926. It opens with a long intertitle and includes sepia footage of tourists on board a ferry to the Island. Both green- and sepia-coloured footage of Magnetic Island follows another intertitle and shows the attractions of the Island for visitors. A third intertitle, even longer than the others, introduces the Island’s thatched bungalow accommodation.

Educational value points

  • The focus of this clip is Magnetic Island, a 52 square km mountainous island, 8 km off the coast of mainland Australia that was once joined to the mainland before the sea level rose about 10,000 years ago. The traditional owners of the Island, known as Yunbenun, are the Wulgurukakaba people. The island was named Magnetic Island by James Cook in 1770 because he believed it affected the magnetic compass on his ship, Endeavour.
  • Tourism, as illustrated here, has long been a mainstay of Magnetic Island. Since British colonisation of the area and the establishment of the port of Townsville in 1864, Magnetic Island has also been used for agriculture (pineapples), logging (Hoop pines) and rock and coral mining for mainland construction. Its great natural beauty, however, has always been recognised and it quickly became a picnic spot for settlers, and from the early 1900s, a tourist destination.
  • The tourists shown here were probably travelling from Townsville to the Island for a day trip. One striking feature of these tourists is the way they are dressed. The men are shown wearing suits with high-collared shirts and bow ties and felt hats, while the women wear fashionable short-sleeved, waistless dresses and cloche hats. The idea of owning and wearing casual clothes outside the home was not widespread in the 1920s. A day trip was an 'occasion’ to dress for.
  • Part of the footage shows tourists exploring a ship wrecked on the beach. The wreck is possibly the small German three-masted barque Moltke, which was wrecked in 1913. It now lies in 8 m of water 100 m off the shore in Geoffrey Bay, one of many bays on the Island. There are numerous shipwrecks located around the coastline of Magnetic Island, indicative of the dangerous reefs in the area.
  • The clip illustrates the difficulty facing the filmmaker in shooting a promotional film and trying to portray magnificent scenery using black-and-white, silent film. The green tinting or toning was an attempt to re-create the Island’s tropical environment. The intertitles, particularly one that is 36 words long, used words to help paint the picture.
  • As well as using close-ups to focus attention on the tourists and slow pans from above to show the Island’s attractions, the cinematographer has used the technique of iris in or iris out to punctuate the shots. This technique involves opening and closing a diaphragm in front of the lens. When opened (iris in) it begins a shot. When closed (iris out) it ends the shot.
  • The clip contains three intertitles, which were a device used in silent films to tell the audience what was to follow. When 'talkies’ (films with sound) were introduced, the use of intertitles was replaced by the voice of a narrator. The intertitles remain on screen for what appears to be a long time today but was normal in the 1920s. The length of time the intertitles would appear on screen was based on the filmmaker’s judgement of how long it would take the audience to read the words.
  • Round about Townsville is a nine-minute documentary produced by the Commonwealth Government’s Cinema and Photographic Branch. The Branch’s function from 1911 onwards was to advertise Australia overseas, but in 1923 it received government permission to spend part of its budget for non-migration purposes, and from 1925 to 1930 one reel a week was put on public release. This film was probably used in the series 'Know your own country’.

Intertitle reads, ‘A daily service runs to Magnetic Island – so named by Captain Cook during his famous voyage in the ‘Endeavour’ in 1770 – which is only six miles from townsville.’

We see sepia and, green and yellow footage of a people arriving by boat, then we are on the boat surrounded by people.

Intertitle reads, ‘The island is one of the gems of the Pacific. Fishing, rowing and surfing can be enjoyed under ideal conditions.’

We see footage of the island landscape followed by several shots, a shipwrecked on a beach, buildings around the island near the see and people on a beach followed by a man walking up a rocky hillside. These shots are all transitioned with a circle.

Intertitle reads, ‘Although only six miles away, magnetic Island supplies a strong contraxt to the mainland… Picturesque thatched bungalows are hidden in a tangle of luxuriant tropical growth, in which the cocoanut palms, papaws and mangoes are conspicuous.’

We see footage in a green and yellow tint of a man and a woman entering a house, then the houses with thatched rooves as the shot pans a quiet village.

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  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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