It usually takes about a year, sometimes longer. It begins with an idea-Mike will say, “I’ve heard about this wreck, was it ever discovered?” or I will tell about a colleague’s project…or Clive will simply say, “Let’s go find this wreck.” Then we begin the detailed research. That can take some time, especially if we have to search for a wreck. It is not that easy-you need to have some idea of where a ship sank, and in some cases, even having a position, from a ship’s log, or a survivor’s account, does not mean that “X marks the spot.” When the team searched for Carpathia, there were several positions on a chart-where Carpathia‘s radio operator reported she was sinking, where the German U-Boat that torpedoed her said she sank, and where the ship that rescued Carpathia‘s survivors said she sank. It turned out Carpathia was not near any of those points. But these different positions did help us define a search area on the ocean to start looking.
We’re also looking for the people stories, the connections to real life that make these wrecks such a compelling dive. Because this is for television, we also need to find images, historical photos, plans, portraits of the people, or for more modern stories, footage.
Then we have to plan the logistics of the survey, the dives, and of course just getting there, which can be difficult when you are going to a remote place like Disko Bay, where we dived on the lost Arctic ship Fox. You’re not just flying people in. We travel with sidescan sonar, with heavy dive gear, film equipment, and in some cases to spots where we have to go through difficult customs clearances. Then try planning a trip to a remote island (like we did last season in Panama) where you have no electricity, and no place to live except the deck of an open boat or a tent on an insect-infested beach.
Then we go…and those trips can take some time to just get there. We work hard, sometimes around the clock. When our team finally arrives home, there are a few months of preparation to make a completed episode…and I have archaeological reports to write!