PBS’ science strand ‘Nova’ will premiere two one-hour docs this month, slating Why Ships Crash for May 18 and Ice Age Footprints for May 25.
Centering on the incident in March 2021 when the enormous container ship Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking traffic through the vital waterway for nearly a week, Why Ships Crash (pictured) explores the many factors that can contribute to maritime disasters. These can range from the obvious (e.g., bad weather) to the more localized and specific, such as the working dynamics between a ship’s captain and crew and the maritime pilots who assume navigational control of the vessel at busy ports or narrow crossings.
In addition to the Ever Given crash, the doc also examines other recent examples of cargo ships that ran into difficulty at sea, including the Modern Express (which was pushed by wind into a 40-degree tilt), the El Faro (which went down with all hands after sailing into a hurricane) and the Cosco Busan, which spilled 53,000 gallons of oil after crashing into the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.
Why Ships Crash is produced for ‘Nova’ by Windfall Films, in association with the BBC and WeltN24. Alessandra Bonomolo and Tom Cook are co-producers and co-directors, with Carlo Massarella executive producing for Windfall. For ‘Nova,’ the executive producers are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt.
The second new doc, Ice Age Footprints, focuses on a team of archaeologists in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park studying ancient footprints that could provide evidence of human presence in North America much earlier than scientists have previously assumed.
Where previous theories have estimated that humans first arrived on the continent approximately 15,000 years ago, the tracks found at the White Sands site — which have been buried for thousands of years, and have only recently begun to be uncovered due to wind erosion — indicate that human habitation could have begun as much as 21,000 to 23,000 years ago, even though the land at that time would have been largely covered by massive ice sheets.
Accompanying the archaeologists and other scientists at White Sands as they employ radiocarbon dating to analyze the tracks of the ancient humans and other creatures found at the site (including mammoths, enormous ground sloths, dire wolves and camels), the documentary also employs immersive 3D graphics to re-create the world of this period.
Windfall Films is also the prodco behind Ice Age Footprints, with David Dugan and Bella Falk sharing directing duties. Falk also serves as producer, while Dugan is executive producer for Windfall. Executive producers for ‘Nova’ are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt.