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Wreck Detectives: HMS Pomone (Channel 4 13 Mar 2003 with Jeremy Seal)

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AIRDATE: Thursday 13 March 2003

Season 1 Episode 1 (of 8)

With its illustrious seafaring tradition, the coastline of Britain is littered with fascinating, historic shipwrecks. This new, eight-part series for Channel 4 investigates some of the most intriguing of them. Using marine archaeology, oceanography, historical research and the latest technology, the Wreck Detectives piece together the extraordinary stories behind these submerged historical jewels.

In the waters off the Isle of Wight lie the remains of a 19th Century ship. Could it be the lost wreck of a famous British frigate sunk during the Napoleonic Wars? The Wreck Detectives team – historian Jeremy Seal and expert divers Miranda Krestovnikoff and Jason Gibb – set about solving a mystery that has puzzled historians for two centuries.

Nelson’s frigate HMS Pomone was known to have sunk on The Needles, one of the most treacherous spots in British waters, as she raced for home from the Mediterranean with a mysterious message for the Foreign Secretary. In recent years, divers have found many shipboard items from the Pomone at the spot on the Needles where she was wrecked, but the wreck itself was never found and was thought to have been smashed to pieces. The discovery of a huge section of ship’s bow in Alum Bay in 1991 changed all that. Although it’s a mile from where the Pomone sank, archaeologists speculate that the wreck could have been swept that far by powerful currents.

Christopher Gill, a retired clergyman from Kent who is the great grandson of a distinguished passenger on board the Pomone that night, joins the team as they dive to the wreck and scour the archives in their bid to prove the wreck is the Pomone.

The investigation also takes the team into the murky waters of Napoleonic wartime intrigue as secret papers are uncovered revealing exactly why the Pomone was in such a rush to return home…

The series continues next week with a look at the sinking of the Earl of Abergavenny, one of the largest East Indian trading ships ever built, captained by William Wordsworth’s brother John, and sunk in a storm off Weymouth in 1805. Subsequent programmes include investigations into the identity of an anonymous wreck off Scotland’s west coast, what caused the sinking of a WW2 frigate off Normandy, a Man O’ War sunk in the Great Storm of 1803 and a look at five remarkable mediaeval wrecks off Guernsey.

Producer and Director: Fred Casella
Series Producer: Peter Wiles
Exec Producer: Alison Turner
Production Company: RDF

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