May 1, 2018, by Jon Henderson
Underwater archaeology documentary wins global prize
A documentary following the research of Dr Jon Henderson of the Department of Archaeology and Classics has been awarded the Gold Medal for best documentary in the History and Society section at the 2018 New York Festivals World’s Best TV and Film awards ceremony, which was held in Las Vegas this month.
The National Geographic documentary Drain the Sunken Pirate City follows Dr Henderson as he uses cutting edge digital techniques to record the remains the sunken 17th century town of Port Royal in Kingston Harbour, Jamaica.
Port Royal was the English mercantile capital of the New World, and as such, an important and wealthy centre for trade and commerce for the entire West Indies. Known as the ‘Wickedest City on Earth’, it was famous for being a haven for pirates working under letters of marque for the English crown.
Dr Henderson originally pitched the idea for the film and was the main on-screen contributor and scientific advisor for the production. He has since worked on three further documentaries for National Geographic which are due to be shown on the channel later in the year.
Dr Henderson said: “We are delighted to get this award. The idea of a sunken pirate city is obviously evocative but the production company, MSP Productions, allowed us to tell the real story of the site without reverting to the usual Hollywood stereotypes and we were able to demonstrate the digital underwater survey work we were doing which was really refreshing.
“They knew the project was grounded in hard science and research and they made sure we worked very closely with the CGI company, 422 South, to produce an accurate reconstruction of how the site would have looked in the 17th century.
“The model we produced is based on the actual survey evidence we had gathered in the field and we can now use it for teaching and outreach. It was a brave decision by the company to let the science dominate the show but it is fantastic that this faith has been rewarded. The show has done really well around the world. Last time I was on a long haul flight it was on the in-flight entertainment which was a strange experience! “