Chris Hearn – Disasters At Sea

Chris Hearn – Disasters At Sea

Master Mariner Chris Hearn discusses his role in dissecting the mysteries behind Disasters At Sea, an epic new docudrama from Discovery

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With 15 years at sea and the title of Master Mariner under his belt, Newfoundland’s own Captain Christopher Hearn has been there and done it all, and is as qualified as any to comment on the power and peril, of the sea. 

As Director of the Centre for Marine Simulation at the Marine Institute, while also holding titles as Divisional Master of the Newfoundland and Labrador Division of the Company of Master Mariners of Canada, and The Deputy National Master of the Company of Master Mariners, Hearn was brought on board to consult and ultimately take part in the new Discovery docudrama, Disasters At Sea.

Unraveling mysteries

Kicked off on April 16th, the series unravels the mysteries behind some of the most devastating deep-sea disasters in modern history, from the 1980 MV Derbyshire in the South China Sea, to the MV Explorer in the Antarctica in November of 2007. 

“I’ll help them out in terms of understanding the investigative reports and describing what things are and what they mean. But also from time to time they’ll shove my mug on there as well to kind of help explain what’s going on,” shares Hearn during a media blitz for the series. 

“So an experiential point of view to help the viewer understand, because unless you’ve been in the shipping industry or you’ve been at sea or done something very close to it it’s difficult for you to understand from an experience point of view what might have been going on.”

From offshore drilling to ice breaking, seismic surveying and sub-sea cable-laying, Hearn has worn many hats throughout his nautical career, which began in 1994 upon graduating from the Marine Institute. 

Firsthand experience

His wealth of firsthand experience gives him insights into the authenticity of such a series, which he signs off on with enthusiasm. 

“What it does for me is it takes the abstract of the ship and puts a human face, that there’s people actually involved,” Hearn shares. 

“So many of us home in Newfoundland go to sea. They’re either on fishing boats or they’re working in the offshore or they’re working in shipping and we’ve been doing it for a very long time. A lot of us have faced really extreme situations or challenges and it’s not something that’s talked about or discussed. 

“To see a program like this that dives into some of this and is able to show what we had to deal with sometimes … I mean there’s no romance to it all. Here are some really tough situations that some people ended up in and you know sometimes it didn’t end up so well and other times there was an incredible story of survival. 

“So what I like to see is that these stories show what it is. A little insight into our lives. What we deal with, the things that we have to contemplate may happen or hope never happens and sometimes does happen.”

Russian Roulette

From the fatal disasters at sea to close shaves and everything in between Disasters At Sea delves into the more remarkable and unexpected marine disasters of modern times, exploring new evidence from marine experts to shed light on previously glossed over subjects.

Photo by Darren Goldstein/DSG Photo.

And for Hearn, the end result is the same. A life at sea is akin at times to Russian Roulette. You can be as prepared, well timed and skilled as any man or woman working globally, but all training goes out the window when the unthinkable should occur. 

“It’s a reality because you’re talking about working in a completely uncontrollable environment, which is the ocean,” he explains. 

“You can only control your response or your actions, you can’t really control what’s going on around you. This is true in many cases and it manifests itself sometimes in an accident and you know I guess the thing to say is that it’s interesting, an interesting life. And these accidents are a part of it.”

Hitting home

Few have took to the sea for our life and love more than we Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, with Hearn being no exception. He shares why we as a people would take to Disasters At Sea, a series that will undoubtedly hit home with the people here more than most. 

“I think they’ll be able to relate to it. The show was so well put together in terms of relating to stories of the people who were on-board,” Hearn explains. 

“It’s because of proximity and necessity that Newfoundlanders always look to the sea and there’s so many people involved in and around it. I think that it will be an easy program for people to start to pick up on and to enjoy. Some people came through some really difficult things and got out the other way and I think this is the enduring story of Newfoundland, that it takes a lot of challenges, but somehow in the end of it we always seem to come out on the other end.”

Disasters At Sea airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET, 11:30 p.m. Newfoundland time on Discovery.

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