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Disasters at Sea

Disasters at Sea

  • Premiered: 
    January 13, 2019
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: Smithsonian
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
    2nd series in DISASTERS franchise, following Air Disasters 
  • Subject Matter:
  • Tags: disaster, ship/boat

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Plot Synopsis

Using interviews, documentary footage and dramatic re-enactments, DISASTERS AT SEA is a one-hour documentary series that takes viewers aboard ship to witness the human drama of disasters, and then follows the investigation to piece together the causes of some of the most significant maritime incidents of the last 50 years. When men and women lose their lives on ships at sea, what little evidence remains must be examined carefully to explain what went wrong and why.

In the season opener, "Trapped in Typhoon Alley," the Derbyshire is en route from Canada to Japan carrying nearly 160,000 tons of iron ore when it hits Typhoon Orchid. The ship's last radio call to shore reports they are going to wait out the storm, but it's the last time anyone hears from the crew. When they fail to reach their destination, a massive search operation is launched but turns up no debris from the ship and no sign of any survivors. The first report suggests the crew is to blame for the shipwreck, but the families of the dead refuse to believe it and launch an intensive quest for answers. What the investigation uncovers not only clears the crew of blame, it also reveals a shocking problem that continues to put other lives at risk.

Subsequent episodes feature stories about: the SS Marine Electric, which sank in a storm off the coast of Virginia in February 1983, only 30 miles off shore; the largest rock discharge carrier in the world, MV Rocknes, capsizes off the coast of Norway in January 2004; the MV Explorer, which sank in Antarctica in February 2007, stranding 144 passengers and crew in inflatable rafts to face the sub-arctic temperatures of the South Pole; the Alaska Ranger flooded in March 2008, forcing the crew to abandon ship into the frigid waters off the coast of Alaska; and the MSC Napoli, which had a violent crack tear her apart in January 2017, leaving the crew stranded in the English Channel.

Production & Distribution

  • Produced by Exploration Production