September 5nd, 2013
New Doco Reveals Kiwi Woman Behind First Kapok Life Jacket Designed for WWI
The Drowning Country, a 25 minute documentary that uncovers a New Zealand woman who designed the Kapok life jacket during WWI, and also
examines Kiwi attitudes to life jackets amid some of the worst drowning rates in the world, will have its first major
screening at the Tall Ships Festival being held in Auckland, October 25th – 28th.
The Drowning Country tells the previously unknown story of the documentary maker’s great-grandmother Orpheus Beaumont, a New Zealander who
made her mark on the world with her design of a Kapok lifejacket in the early 1900s that was chosen by Britain to be
used in the navy. Orpheus seemed destined for this fate given that she had siblings who drowned and she was named after
New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster – the sinking of the HMS Orpheus.
The documentary also looks at Kiwi attitudes to lifejackets and why so many still refuse to wear them, and explores
whether Orpheus’s quest to prevent drownings was all in vain - New Zealand's drowning rate is one of the highest in the
developed world, and twice that of Australia.
WHAT: The Drowning Country, a new 25 minute documentary being shown during the Tall Ships Festival.
WHERE: The Cloud, Viaduct, Auckland
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday October 26th and 27th, with 25 minute screenings running throughout the weekend.
WHO: Documentary maker CAROLINE FITZGERALD. Made with the support of The Maritime Museum Foundation, The Centre for Science
Communication at Otago University and Natural History New Zealand. Caroline is a published New Zealand author and this
documentary is part of her Masters in Science Communication - Natural History Documentary Making.