Clive Cussler is a famed adventure novelist whose "Dirk Pitt" series has gained a large fanbase since their start in the '70's. The Pitt series got off to a rocky start in 2005 when Cussler had serious concerns about how his 1992 novel, "Sahara", was being adapted. The author eventually sued the production company and they sued him back. The case was eventually settled, but it made future adaptations of Cussler novels look rather unlikely.
While we may not see one of Cussler's heroes make another jump from the page to the screen, fans of the author can see the author himself in a series of adventures in "The Sea Hunters", which was the title of two of Cussler's books. The series has Cussler (who plays host), maritime archaeologist James Delgado and a team of divers - as well as some guests - profiling different WWII-era shipwrecks. As the back of the box notes, the program isn't about finding treasure - it is about completing the historical record for the sunken vessels.
Cussler himself has a strong interest in trying to "preserve maritime heritage through the discovery, archaeological survey and conservation of shipwreck artifacts", as that is the goal of the non-profit foundation he built - The National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), which is also the name of a government organization in some of the author's novels. After verifying underwater finds, NUMA turns the rights to the artifacts over to non-profits, universities, or government entities all over the world.
The second season episodes are all quite informative and enjoyable, but a few of the episodes are of particular interest, including "The Search for the Andrea Gail", which sees the crew of the series attempting to head out into the North Atlantic to seek out the remains of the Andrea Gail, which was the tragic shipwreck featured in "The Perfect Storm". The episode offers a fascinating look at the techniques used to direct the search, as well as interesting interviews with those who knew the fishermen from the ship and those willing to help the search.
Also remarkable is episode three, where the crew try to search for the wreck Vrouw Maria, which sank in 1771. The wreck of the ship is not only valuable as a historic artifact, but when it sank it was also loaded with magnificent treasures - which happened to belong to Russian empress Catherine the Great. The final episode, which sees the group searching for a Civil War-era wreck called the SS Alabama, is also a compelling look at both the history of the ship and the naval history (there are also two other ships discussed) of the era. These episodes (as well as others in the series) really have to make one wonder if the series could have had any sort of access to these legendary wrecks at all if it wasn't for Cussler and his non-profit agency.
The series is impressive in its detail and ability to go back-and-forth between present day and historical information. While some of the episodes end with an unsuccessful hunt for the ship in question, the journey remains the thing, as the show does provide a good deal The series does improve in some regards in this second series, as it manages to have a somewhat better blend/balance of interviews and footage.
The first season was a little dry, as it offered a lot of "talking head" interviews. While those interviews were informative, they remained somewhat long and could have been broken up underwater or historic footage. The second season episodes do still have some slow moments here-and-there, but the editing of the second season episodes is improved, and ups the urgency and pacing of the stories being told. Overall though, I was impressed with the show and its desire to document these legendary artifacts.
1 The Search for Carpathia
On April 15, 1912, the passenger liner RMS Carpathia bravely raced through ice-choked waters to save the survivors of the Titanic. Sunk by a German U-boat six years later, it might still lie somewhere off the Irish coast. The Sea Hunters aim to find its final resting place.
2 The Search for the Andrea Gail
Immortalized by the bestseller and hit movie The Perfect Storm, the swordfishing boat Andrea Gail sank somewhere in the North Atlantic in the monstrous meteorological confluence of 1991. The Sea Hunters probe the fabled ships' graveyard for the boat's remains.
3 Catherine the Great's Treasure Ship
Laden with artistic masterpieces bound for the Russian empress's collection, the Vrouw Maria sank in 1771 and now lies almost perfectly preserved on the Baltic seabed. Working with the Maritime Museum of Finland, the Sea Hunters attempt to answer key questions: Did the paintings survive? And are they salvageable?
4 Russalka: The Czar's Lost Ironclad
The flagship of Czar Nicholas II's navy, the Russalka mysteriously vanished in 1893. Apparently defying gravity and physics, it seems to have sunk vertically and now stands upright in the ice-cold waters of Estonia. The Sea Hunters explore this odd wreck, perhaps the best-preserved example of a sunken ironclad.
5 Lost at Sea: The Great U.S. Navy Airships Akron and Macon
Facing the technical challenge of finding light aluminum structures after almost 70 years underwater, the Sea Hunters search for the remains of the Akron and Macon-two dirigibles that fell into the sea a continent apart in the 1930s. They represented the Navy's last experiments in deploying flying aircraft carriers.
6 Search for the S.S. Alabama
During the American Civil War, the Confederacy commissioned ships specifically designed to beat the Union blocade of Southern ports. The Sea Hunters look for examples of this evolution in naval warfare: the Nola and Mary Celestia, blockade runners built for speed, and the Alabama, the Confederacy's deadliest raider.
VIDEO: "The Sea Hunters" is presented by Acorn Media in 1.33:1 full-frame, which appears to be the show's original aspect ratio. Image quality is satisfactory for this sort of program, and quality can vary throughout the program. Sharpness and detail are mostly okay, as the picture generally appeared slightly soft, but never hazy or blurry. Some minor grain and artifacting was occasionally seen, but no edge enhancement was noticed and the materials from the archives used on occasion throughout the series looked in surprisingly good shape. Colors looked natural and accurate, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: Crisp, clear stereo soundtrack.
EXTRAS: Deleted footage for each episode is included (generally around 2-3 fairly brief scenes per episode) and we also get a Cussler bio. All the bonus footage is on the second DVD.
Final Thoughts:"The Sea Hunters" provides an impressively detailed look into the history behind and the current status of a series of very high-profile shipwrecks. While the series does do an excellent job providing an overview of each case, the narration and overall presentation can sometimes be a little dry for those with only a passing interest in maritime history. Recommended.