The use of computer graphics to recreate Napoleon's
huge flagship, the Orient, as well as the British fleet's victorious battle
strategy off the Egyptian coast, makes Napoleon's Lost Fleet on Discovery
Channel a most interesting historical flashback to 1798.
With this hour -- billed as one of the network's
primetime "Expedition Adventure" specials -- Discovery again blends an
intriguing, centuries-old underwater find with dramatic re-enactments.
The leader of this expedition, Frank Goddio, is the same
marine archeologist behind Discovery's Cleopatra's Palace special in
The 250-foot-long Orient -- described by narrator
Donald Sutherland as the most powerful battleship of its time, with 120 cannons -- was
discovered by Goddio almost exactly 200 years after its sinking in Egypt's Aboukir
In setting up the bloody confrontation, Sutherland and
Goddio explain that Britain's Admiral Nelson was searching the seas to destroy
France's navy at the same time that Napoleon was bent on conquering Egypt. While
Napoleon and one-third of his crew sought supplies on land, Nelson staged a surprise
The positioning of the vessels and the battle plan were
determined by Goddio's magnetometer equipment and explorations across the equivalent
of 10 underwater football fields.
The French, who had expected the British to wait for
sunrise, had their 13 vessels chained together across the bay, making them sitting ducks
for Nelson's 14 mobile ships. This victory gave Britain control of the Mediterranean.
The hour -- featuring such finds as cannons, bones, the Orient's
15-ton rudder and coins from Malta, which Napoleon had defeated only months before --
concludes on a somber note: 2,600 died in the hours-long clash, including 1,700 French.
That toll would have risen if Nelson had not deployed rescue ships for French survivors.
About one year later, Napoleon became French dictator in a
coup. But oddly, the producers don't engage in any speculation on how history might
have been changed had he been aboard the Orient at Aboukir.
Napoleon's Lost Fleet, which bowed on Discovery
Aug. 29, will repeat Sept. 5 and 8.