In 1931, a Chinese steamship and the British submarine HMS Poseidon collided off the coast of northern China. It was a turbulent time in the region and just months before Japan invaded Manchuria.
The Poseidon was hailed as the best of its kind, not unlike the Titanic. A new documentary, The Poseidon Project, so brilliantly uncovers the story behind this tragic wreck.
As the Poseidon sank (it took four minutes), about half of its crew swam to safety. The others were trapped inside. Three hours later, six men surfaced–alive–from the site of the wreck. It was the first time people had escaped a submarine using scuba equipment.
Fast-forward 70 years. Scuba expert and writer Steven Schwankert learned of this shipwreck and sets out to dive it. But when he investigated further, he realized he had more on his hands than an underwater excursion.
Schwankert first lived in China in the mid-1980s and a decade or so later returned for good. Fluent in Mandarin and in the workings of mainland China, he understood what a huge undertaking this project would be. Yet he carried on and followed every lead, both in China and in the UK.
One of the most fascinating parts of the film was how he connected with family of the survivors and victims of the wreck: sons and daughters, but also grandchildren and nieces and nephews. Schwankert arranged for a reunion with these family members in China so they could visit the site of the collision and try to locate the former graveyard where some of the Poseidon crew was buried.
The story also took an unexpected turn during the Cultural Revolution, which put a wrench in Schwankert’s investigation of these later events.
I thought the filmmakers (directors Arthur Jones and Luther Jones) did a great job presenting the material and holding the viewers’ attention. The cinematography is also brilliant.
Upcoming screenings include the following:
Monday 23rd September, 2013 – 3pm Screening
Mupal Theatre, Oaxaca, Mexico
Friday Harbour Film Festival – San Juan Islands, Washington State, USA
Friday 11th October – 2pm Screening
Saturday 12th – 10am Screening
Friday Harbor House
You can learn more about The Poseidon Project at their website here. Steven Schwankert is also writing a book about this, which I can’t wait to read!