The Tim Severin Collection

9 x 60 mins

In this collection of adventure documentaries Tim Severin sets out to re-trace the steps of many of the worlds most famous explorers, mariners, crusaders and warlords. Making the journeys more interesting for the viewer is that Tim also attempts to re-create the circumstances in which these people journeyed. These documentaries can be shown without or without an introduction from Tim Severin himself.

The Brendan Voyage
The Sinbad Voyage
The Jason Voyage
Crusader
In Search Of Genghis Khan
The China Voyage
The Spice Island Voyage
In Search Of Moby Dick
Seeking Robinson Crusoe

The Brendan Voyage
St. Brendan is one of the most famous of our saints and scholars, who kept alive the flame of Christian civilisation during the Dark Ages. He is better known as 'The Navigator', having according to legend, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in his bid to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In 1976, the English explorer, Tim Severin, decided to put that legend to the
test, by replicating Brendan's mythical voyage. He built a boat out of wood and oxhides, sealed it with animal fat, and set out across the Atlantic. Digitally re-mastered today, Tim Severin's 1978 film The Brendan Voyage, which documented his team's remarkable feat, was a broadcasting landmark, shown all over the world. Their tiny boat faced tempestuous seas and at one stage was holed below the waterline by an iceberg, forcing the crew to brave the icy waters to sew on a patch. On their arrival in Newfoundland, they were
met as much with incredulity as acclaim.

The Sinbad Voyage
Like a story from the 1001 Nights coming to life, Tim Severin builds a great Arab ship and sails from Oman to China to investigate the legendary adventures of the most famous mariner of all time. His sponsor is a modern day Arab prince, the Sultan of Oman and his vessel is named Sohar after the Omani town to be Sinbad's birthplace.
Not a single nail is used in the building of the remarkable vessel. Instead she is sewn together with 400 miles of coconut twine. With a crew of twenty, Arabs and Westerners, Sohar sets out to re-trace the ancient route of the silk and spice trade across the Arabian Sea to India, and then on to Sri Lanka, Sumatra and the Malacca Straits.
On the way the crew learn to handle the immense sails of their ship, catch sharks for food, gather rainwater when becalmed in the Doldrums, and must repair spars snapped by the strong winds. Heading North towards the China Sea, they come to the rescue of desperate Boat people and endure the battering of vicious line squalls swirling off the coast of Vietnam.
Finally, after seven and a half months at sea, they sail up the Pearl River to a tumultuous welcome from the Government of China.

The Jason Voyage
Legend tells us that 3300 years ago Jason and his band of Heroes set sail from Greece to search for the Golden Fleece. Their galley was the "finest of all ships that braved the sea ".
For his third experiment in maritme history, Tim Severin builds a twenty-oar replica of a Bronze Age galley on the Greek Island of Spetses , and crews her with a band of modern day Argonauts-Greeks, Turks, Irish and Americans. Together they row and sail in the wake of the legend across the Aegean Sea and through the Dardanelles until they must fight upstream against the current of the Bosphorus past the minarets of Istanbul. Suffering the same hardships as their predecessors in the Bronze Age, they win through to the Black Sea and follow the northern shore of Turkey to reach the Land of the Golden Fleece-Georgia. Their endeavour is the only long distance galley voyage in modern history and reveals to the tenacious adventurers the origins of such age-old myths as the Clashing Rocks which destroy all passing vessels, and the ordeal of Phineas the blind King who starves as his food is snatched by the Harpies.
After 1500 miles and half a million oar-strokes, the crew finally witness for themselves the true Golden Fleece.

Crusader
In his fourth adventure Tim Severin takes to the saddle. His aim-to bring to life the long march of the knights and pilgrims who walked and rode to Jerusalem on the First Crusade.
Nearly 900 years later Tim Severin and his companion Sarah Dormon set out to make the same 2500 mile trek from the green lands of Northern Europe to the burning deserts of Sinai. Their starting point is the castle in Belgium, home to hero of the Crusade, it's leader Duke Godfrey de Bouillon. With them plods the descendant of Duke Godfrey's war-horses, Carty, a one ton Ardennes heavy Horse.
Across Germany, Austria, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey the two riders and their mounts travel in the track of the footsore medieval knights and pilgrims. They learn how to feed and care for their animals on such an immense overland journey, and on the high plateau of turkey unravel the twists and turns of the Crusaders route. Here their favourite horse, Mystery dies in tragic circumstances and has to be replaced with a horse purchased in the Antioch Bazaar.
Entering Syria they reach the great Crusader castles and ancient battlefields before finally crossing the Jordan River and, after eight and a half months on horseback they arrive at the jewel in the Crusader's crown-Jerusalem.

In Search Of Genghis Khan
In 1989 Tim Severin received a unique invitation: he was asked to participate in a Mongol mounted expedition to celebrate the achievements of the greatest warlord in the history of the world, Genghis Khan. Seizing the chance to visit regions closed to all westerners for nearly a century, Tim Severin rode with the Mongols and recorded a world hitherto unknown to the west.
His Mongol colleagues take him to the Wilderness Mountain sacred to the memory of Genghis Khan. There, with Mongolia about to shake off seventy years of Soviet rule, he witnesses the beginnings of a new cult worship of Genghis khan as the Father of the Nation.
From the Gobi desert to the Altai Mountains he then uncovers eerie nostalgia for the past. He films archery contests with double curved Mongol bows that once slaughtered the armies of China and Russia, horse races won by six year old jockeys, and men who hunt with fully grown mountain eagles. Living off mares milk and mutton, he experiences Mongolia's intense contrasts-the awesome desolation of the Gobi desert, lush valleys carpeted with millions of flowers and the Altai mountains where overnight the August landscape is transformed by snow. By then he has reached the forbidden zone so isolated it is the realm of Shamaness who is the last practising witch doctor in the Mongolian Altai. Filming with a miniature camera when the Mongols reclaimed their national identity by turning again to the man who was called the Ruler of the World.

The China Voyage
Six men and one woman make maritime history as Tim Severin sails the Pacific on a bamboo raft to test the theory that Asian sailors reached America some 2000 years ago.
Using jungle vine, Vietnamese fishermen lash together 220 giant bamboo's to make the sixty foot ocean going sailing raft named "Hsu Fu" in honour of the Chinese navigator who, with a great exploring fleet set out into the great ocean on the orders of his emperor and never returned. Did he or any of the vessels reach the far side of the ocean?
Riding the "Black Tide" from Hong Kong Tim and his crew miss their first landfall as they are swept past Taiwan and must head for Japan where the visit of Hsu Fu is recorded on legend. Stocking up there with food and water they then set out on the most perilous and lengthy sector of their journey. For 105 days the raft edges eastward, contending with fog, gales, breakages to spars and rigging.
The crew takes records of the birds, fish and whales they encounter, and supplement their diet by harpooning fish. Every wave washes between the bamboo poles as they learn to live in harmony with the ocean. As the weeks pass their vessel loses buoyancy and gradually sinks lower and lower. Finally the vegetable lashings begin to disintegrate and the raft's hull starts to shed bamboo's. At that critical time Tim decides that the crew should evacuate their partially submerged vessel.
In a dramatic rescue they transfer to a passing merchant ship. They have been six months at sea and crossed 5500 miles of ocean - a modern record for raft journeys in northern, hostile waters.

The Spice Island Voyage
Aboard a traditional Indonesian sailing vessel, Tim Severin sails in quest of a brilliant and intrepid naturalist who changed the way we see the world around us. The fieldwork of Alfred Russell Wallace, a Victorian explorer provided Charles Darwin with vital clues in developing the theory of evolution by natural selection, a theory that Wallace worked out independently. Yet, the glory of the discovery went to his better known colleague.
Tim Severin sets out to restore Wallace's reputation by retracing the explorer's remarkable journeys through the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Here Wallace encountered the spectacular animals and plants, which led to his ideas on evolution. In a vessel built by descendants of the same islanders who provided a boat for Wallace,
Tim Severin and his crew sail from island to island to re-visit the places and peoples that Wallace first described. They come across the smuggling of rare birds, rainforest destruction and endangered species sold for the pot. But as they navigate through sparkling coral seas to remote shorelines, they also discover that there are forgotten corners, which still display the natural wonders that so thrilled Wallace. They find Red Birds of Paradise named in Wallace's honour and once thought to be extinct, they witness how the last flocks still gather in the deepest jungle and dance their remarkable mating rituals.

In Search Of Moby Dick
Herman Melville's famous novel "Moby Dick" immortalised the idea of a battling white whale roaming the ocean, but could such a beast exist? Tim Severin travels the islands of the Pacific to find out.
In the Philippines he encounters the dare-devil hook jumpers of Pamilacan who make their living leaping on the backs of ten ton whale sharks, and they tell him of the great white whale shark so huge that it can sink a boat. In Tonga he meets a retired Harpooner, the impressive Samson Cook who re-enacts for him the mystic ballet of a kill, transporting himself to his youth like a shaman from a forgotten age.
In Eastern Indonesia he accompanies the fishermen of Lamalera who still-hunt the sperm whale by hand from their Stone Age boats. For the first time ever, the incredible scenes of the whale hunt are captured on film. Harpooners fly through the air to fall on the backs of the giant animals, sperm whales head butt the whale boats or tow them at speed in the "Nantucket sleigh ride", boats are damaged and swamped.
Here Tim Severin finds that there is a white Leader of the Whales, intelligent aggressive and real...

Seeking Robinson Crusoe
Who was the real Robinson Crusoe? In search of the world's most famous castaway, Tim Severin travels where men were shipwrecked or abandoned in the days of the pirates and buccaneers, and lived to tell their tales of survival.
A Scotish sailor, Alexander Selkirk has long been considered the true-life inspiration for Crusoe. So Severin begins his quest on the island of Juan Fernandez, 400 miles off the coast of Chile where Selkirk was marooned for four years. There, Severin finds that the Crusoe legend has overtaken the facts of Selkirk's life and that Selkirk's experience falls well sort of the exploits of
Robinson Crusoe.
Severin then meets the descendants of Man Friday: Miskito Indians living in the swamp lands of Nicaragua where they are fiercely independent and enjoy the benefits of modern piracy-marijuana and cocaine flotsam washed up on their shores.
Travelling to a chain of small islands off the coast of Panama Severin encounters the Indian tribe-the Kuna-who rescued the English buccaneer surgeon, Lionel Wafer, left wounded in the jungle by his colleagues. Daniel Defoe, the author of Roninson Crusoe, knew Wafer's survival tale too.
Finally, a 100 year old boat carries Severin to salt Tortuga a small uninhabited island off the coast of Venezuela, and here he makes his most telling discovery: the extraordinary saga of Henry Pitman, "white slave" marooned here by pirates, is true. Every detail of the island matches Pitman's account, and in turn many of Pitman's experiences described thirty years before Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe echoes Crusoe's adventures, even the way that both Crusoe and Pitman's colleagues escape their island and come home to tell the tale. Henry Pitman proves to be the "real" Robinson Crusoe.