Sea Venture Part 1: Background & Project Aims

The Sea Venture was the largest of a ‘third supply’ fleet bound for Jamestown in the summer of 1609 following the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery. It’s voyage was hoped to be uneventful, but instead turned into a story that has to this day resonated to the people of Bermuda and is thought to have influenced many others across the world. Although unclear in its exact placement of the story, it is widely regarded that Shakespeare’s The Tempest is influenced heavily by the events that transpired to the crew of the Sea Venture as news soon began to filter through to England about the ships fate.

Deryck Foster. Sea Venture and consorts at sea, 1609. Painting, 1994. Reproduction courtesy of Bank of Bermuda Foundation and Bermuda Maritime Museum.

The information for this comes directly from two accounts, Silvester Jordan and the poetic William Strachey, who both depicted exactly how chaotic and extreme the weather conditions were that brought the 300 ton ship crashing into the reef just off of the coast of an uninhabited Bermuda, or ‘Isle of Devils’ as it came to be known. Some excerpts from their experiences highlight how they endured more than a normal storm, as what they found themselves embroiled in was a hurricane that left the crew of the Sea Venture stranded in Bermuda for months as they constructed two small ships (Deliverance and Patience) to carry them on-wards towards Jamestown. In 1611 the Tempest was written and the resemblance between the events that happened and the play, even down to the wordplay from written accounts is remarkably similar. Core themes such as the appearance of St Elmo’s fire on the rigging (flames amazement) and even the description of A most dreadful Tempest in the original account by Strachey, added to the timing of the piece reinforce the notion that this maritime site may have created moments and stories that people still empathize with today.

The Sea Venture was rediscovered in 1958 by Edmund Downing and more details of its re-discovery and archaeology can be found on the Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds MOOC at the University of Southampton. Anyone who holds an interest in Maritime Archaeology should sign up for this course as it not only provides a great learning resource, but also over the next three weeks (Until the end of October 2014), direct access to many specialist underwater divers and specialists including Jon Adams, whose reconstruction drawings and designs inspired my reconstructions of the Sea Venture.    

Look Bermuda and Downing’s Wreck

In April 2013, ArtasMedia was approached by Look Bermuda to create a series of reconstructions of the ship for their documentary ‘Downings Wreck – The Story of the Sea Venture’, the trailer can be seen below. 

It was decided that over the summer of 2013 that a full scale CGI model would be created fueled by the research and years of experience of Professor Jon Adams at the University of Southampton. This project breakdown will detail the stages that were undertaken to construct this model both archaeologically and technically including it’s modelling, texturing, scene creation, animation and rendering.

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