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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Solent comes to the big screen

Over 200 people attended a film premier exploring life on the sea bed last week. They were taken on an underwater adventure exploring ship wrecks found in the Solent.

The film, by award-winning underwater cameraman Michael Pitts was made in partnership with the New Forest National Park Authority for the New Forest Coastal Heritage project.

Celebrating the launch of the ‘Shipwrecks of the Western Solent’ DVD - front row, third in Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, Mike Pitts, cameraman, James Brown, Authority’s Education and Outreach Officer and far right Mark James, Authority’s Maritime Archaeologist.

‘Shipwrecks of the Western Solent’ is a 28 minute long educational film investigating five different types of shipwrecks;  the Ceres, Fenna, SS War Knight, SS Serrana and MV Margaret Smith.

The premier was attended by local heritage and diving societies, educational groups and project volunteers who gave up their time to help contribute to this project.

‘Making the film wasn’t as easy as it sounds,’ says Michael Pitts who made the film. ‘Maritime archaeology is full of challenges and none more than on the south coast. If anyone has been across the Solent on the Isle of Wight ferry and looked in the waters they will have noticed that they are not crystalline.

‘It took a lot of hard work and after the initial disappointments we soon learnt to dive the right tides and with the knowledge and expertise of our skipper, we finally had enough footage to put the film together.’

Mark James, New Forest National Park Authority’s Maritime Archaeologist, said: ‘The New Forest has a vast coastal history and the aim of the film was to capture a snapshot of this. With the risk of rising sea level and the threat of climate change it is important that we start working on a detailed record of what lies beneath the Solent; making a film seemed like a logical part of recording this work.’

Mark added: ‘A lot of the New Forest’s history is underwater; we needed a lot of help from volunteers to dive previously unexplored areas of the seabed. It is thought that the Solent could have witnessed over 5000 wrecks.

‘James Brown, the Authority’s Education and Outreach Officer, said: ‘The film will be a great tool to take into local schools.’ He continued: ‘The New Forest coast has a great history and it is important that we take our knowledge and help children learn about the New Forest’s unique past.’

The film will initially be available to local schools, heritage organisations, museums, dive charters and clubs. However, the film will be available to watch free as part of the ‘Coastal Detectives’ exhibition at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst until the 10 March and at the St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery from the 23 April to 28 May. The exhibitions celebrate the discoveries made as part of the project through panels, an interactive game and a series of coastal inspired activities.

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