WHITE THUNDER to THE VIKING-largest Loss of Life in Movie Film History!

A movie that I can only say needs watching. It’s as Historical Correct on Sealing as you’ll ever see and the dangers are extreme. This Movie really hit a feeling in me. It’s Haunting…very haunting.

And such a sad Tragedy! In Real Life! Sad, truly sad. One thing that really shocked me was their being on Ice, broken ice, as the Ocean Waves were reaching 20′ High. Seeing that one monster wave under the Ice was shocking to see as it rolled the Ice sheet. And then on the Broken Ice! Are Seals worth that amount of Risk of Life?

Here’s a good look at Sealing.


But this Movie turned Tragic in its making-

It remains the incident with the largest loss of life in film history.[1]

Here’s an actual Newspaper Report of the 1931 SS VIKING disaster-


Famous People Died! See the Camera Person? A.E. PENROD!

Set on the coast of Newfoundland, a rivalry develops between Jed Nelson (Arthur Vinton), a seal hunter, and Luke Oarum (Charles Starrett), a local man considered a jinx. Worried that his rival may try to steal his girlfriend Mary Joe (Louise Huntington), calling him a coward, the seal hunter goads Luke into accompanying him on an Arctic sealing expedition on Viking, commanded by Capt. Barker (Robert Bartlett).. They both end up in a hunting party on the ice floes and eventually find themselves stranded. Jed tries to kill Luke, but the snow blinds him and his gunshot misses.

Despite the attempt on his life, Luke helps walk the blinded Jed[clarification needed] across the ice floes back to Newfoundland after they are unable to return to the ship. On recovering his sight at home, Jed gains new respect for his rival and vows that he will beat senseless any man who derides the character of his new friend.


The Viking (FrenchCeux du Viking), also known as White Thunder and Vikings of the Ice Field, is a 1931 Newfoundland/American adventure film about sealing directed by George MelfordThe Viking was the first film to record sound and dialogue on location with the use of magnetic wire recording.[1] 

It is best known for the explosion aboard the ship SS Viking (an actual sealing ship) during filming, in which many members of the crew, including producer Varick Frissell, were killed. It remains the incident with the largest loss of life in film history.[1]

The Viking
Still from the film
Directed byGeorge Melford
Varick Frissell
Written byGarnett Weston (scenario and dialogue)
Story byGarnett Weston
Produced byVarick Frissell
StarringLouise Huntington
Charles Starrett
Arthur Vinton
Robert Bartlett
Narrated bySir Wilfred Grenfell
CinematographyAlfred Gandolfi
Maurice Kellerman
Alexander G. Penrod
Edited byH. P. Carver
J.D. Williams
Newfoundland-Labrador Film Company
Distributed byJ.D. Williams
Release dateMarch 5, 1931 (Newfoundland)June 21, 1931 (United States)
Running time70 min.
United States

American-born producer Varick Frissell’s previous short filmsThe Lure of Labrador and The Swilin’ Racket (also known as The Great Arctic Seal Hunt), prompted him to make a full-length feature entitled Vikings of the Ice FieldParamount Pictures put up $100,000 to finance the production, while insisting that Hollywood personnel be used. Frissell hired director George Melford, who had attended McGill University in Montreal and had experience in filming Canadian subjects previously.[3]

By 1930, Frissell had completed most of the principal photography on location in Quidi Vidi. For realistic footage, Frissell then took his crew to the Grand Banks and Labrador to film action sequences. The film was privately shown at the Nickel Theatre at St. John’s on March 5, 1931. After this screening, Frissell decided that his film needed more real scenes from the Labrador ice floes. Within days, Frissell and his crew had joined the SS Viking for its annual seal hunt. The ship got trapped in ice near the Horse Islands.[4]

On March 15, 1931, while trying to film an iceberg, Frissell, Alexander Penrod, 25 crew members and a stowaway were killed in an explosion.[1][3][5] Some of the survivors made the over-ice trek to the Horse Islands, while others were rescued by vessels dispatched to the area.[6]

Despite the fatal accident, the film was completed and released in June 1931. The title was changed from White Thunder to The Viking. A French-language version Ceux du Viking was released in 1932.[7]