Treasure hunt: Edmund Downing, left, who first saw the wreck of the Sea Venture in 1958 with fellow wreck searcher Teddy Tucker. *Photos taken from LookBermuda’s Downing’s Wreck: The Story of the Sea Venture
Treasure hunt: Edmund Downing, left, who first saw the wreck of the Sea Venture in 1958 with fellow wreck searcher Teddy Tucker. *Photos taken from LookBermuda’s Downing’s Wreck: The Story of the Sea Venture

It has been five years in the making but a long-awaited film charting the untold history, discovery and excavation of the Sea Venture is about to come to light.

This is the most extensive film made about the wreck of the Sea Venture, the wreck that eventually led to the permanent settlement of Bermuda in 1609.

The film by LookBermuda / Look Films was  initiated in 2009 by a grant from the Charitable Trust in celebration of the island’s 400th anniversary. Originally intended to be a 20-minute educational film it has evolved into a 50-minute HD film including never-before-seen interviews with some of the key players.

Most notable was skin diver Edmund Downing (pictured), a descendant of one of those aboard the ship, who was the first to set eyes on the wrecked hull of the Sea Venture in 1958. After a summer searching for the wreck, he was the one to spot the ballast and the outline of the great ship that met its fate on Bermuda’s seabed over 400 years ago.

3D rendering

And for the first time, thanks to advances in computer modelling techniques and details from a rare Elizabethan shipwright’s manuscript — an accurate 3D rendering has been made of the Sea Venture herself. 

Despite historians’ theories that her deficiencies were the cause of her wrecking — archaeological evidence now suggests that it was her excellent design that allowed her to survive so long in the pounding hurricane that eventually wrecked her.

The Bermuda International Film Festival will give a special screening of the documentary — Downing’s Wreck: The Story of the Sea Venture — later this month and it will be officially premiered in April or May. It also aims to become part of the
official curriculum across Bermuda’s schools. 

The research has been sourced from archives, museums, image libraries, BBC and National Geographic archives as well as private collections.

Jean-Pierre Rouja, Executive Producer for Look Bermuda, told the Bermuda Sun: “Once we started the research we soon realized that we would not be able to do justice to such an important topic in a 20-minute educational film. At that stage I decided to let the story and script evolve as far as necessary and to produce the film to broadcast standards. 

“Five years later, the result is this 50-minute HD film far exceeding the original educational mandate and budget.

“The film tells the untold part of the Sea Venture story — of the adventures of its rediscovery and the research establishing its identity and its signature defining role in Bermuda history.

“It is told as much as possible by the people actively involved in this quest. In this way it allows a new audience to engage more tangibly with
history through the lens of exploration, adventure and science. 

“The result is an original film that will be used in the curriculum for generations to come and will be of long term interest to the general public especially once it is released as one of the island’s first BLU Ray films.”

The story of the Sea Venture has always been politically contentious due to differing accounts of events. Rouja said that many have praised his team for finally bringing all the players together in one timeline — even though many of them may have had disagreements at the time.

“One of the hardest parts was aggregating all of the different stories surrounding the discovery of the wreck and the very strong characters involved and navigating a way to tell a comprehensive account. 

“We reached out broadly looking for historical film and pictures and were very fortunate to discover lost reels of B roll archival footage in the UK — that we had digitized — that included never before seen interviews of key characters in the Sea Venture rediscovery — most specifically of Edmund Downing. 

“It was a real pleasure to be able to get to know and give voice to the many dedicated individuals involved and through the computer reconstruction of the wreck and to the showcase the ship itself.”

Others credited in the film include Bermuda’s great shipwreck searcher Teddy Tucker, Russell Whayman, who spotted the ribs and keel of the ship in 1978 sparking a second excavation that would confirm her as the Sea Venture; Mendel Peterson, a pioneer in marine archaeology from The Smithsonian; Smokey Wingood of the Bermuda Maritime Museum who re-opened the case and John Adams the Marine Archeologist who was able to reconstruct the hull of the Sea Venture through computer modeling.

There are exciting first person accounts of the search for the ship including Tucker who, wearing a snorkel and mask, was towed on a line behind the search boat to look out for clues below with sharks trailing in his wake.

The Bermuda High School for Girls are among the first schools to have viewed the film for consideration in its curriculum.

Head of History Harvey Cornish wrote a letter to potential supporters of the film saying that he and his colleagues, “all agree that this will be an extremely valuable teaching resource… I strongly recommend sponsorship for the completion of this film as I believe it would be used in all Bermuda schools for the teaching of Bermuda history”.

LookBermuda said the project has had a great deal of support from the public and private sectors however as it has grown in scope and scale since its inception, they are now actively looking for additional sponsors. 

To join the mailing list for future screenings send an email to Anyone interested in supporting this project or the subsequent curriculum components should contact them directly via

Film credits: Executive Producer Jean-Pierre Rouja/Producer /Director Ben Watson; Asst. Producer Milton Raposo; Asst. Researchers Laura Andrews, Nadia Hall, Christen Burgess; Story Development / Dive Coordinator Philippe Rouja/ Narrator Nigel Kermode/Music Felix Tod.

See more video here: