NOVA: Voyage of Doom

Directed by Alan Govenar


Details: NOVA: Voyage of Doom 1999, 60 minutes, color, Producer: Alan B. Govenar, Executive Producer: Paula S. Apsell, Director: Alan B. Govenar, Writer: Alan Govenar and Andrew Dean, Editor: Andrew Dean

The recent discovery of Belle , part of the fleet of fanatical French explorer Robert La Salle, has been called the most important shipwreck find in North America. Join the unprecedented excavation effort as NOVA reveals Belle's vivid history, incredible artifacts and mysterious details.



In the 1680s, French explorer LaSalle charted new ground in the U.S., returning later in hopes of establishing a toehold in the Mississippi Valley and bringing a French presence to land dominated by Spain. His colonial mission, however, was plagued by disasters. Problem number one was that the French maps of the time showed the mouth of the Mississippi being in the vicinity of Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast. In 1995, divers stumbled on the wreck of the Belle , one of LaSalle's exploratory ships, submerged in the bay under 12 feet of water. The fine silt of the bay had kept the ship and its contents remarkably intact, and it was to become one of the most remarkable archaeological finds in Texas history. In typically detailed fashion, Nova follows the excavation efforts; the historians' struggle to piece together the last days of the ship points out the ways that archaeology and detective work are similar. The crew unearthed an incredible number of artifacts, including muskets, cannons, brass rings and combs (used for trade currency with the natives), cookware, and countless other objects, that provide a fairly clear picture of what shipboard life must have been like. Interviews with members of the Texas Historical Commission and other researchers bring the project to life and provide fascinating insights into the difficulties and triumphs of the dig.
-Jerry Renshaw of