________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 11 . . . . January 25, 2008


Buried at Sea.

John Wesley Chisholm (Director). John Wesley Chisholm (Arcadia Entertainment Producer). Kent Martin (NFB Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
52 min., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9106 364.

Subject Headings:
Hazardous waste sites-London.
Marine pollution.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

* /4


While we worry about weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue states, the West's legacy may prove far more dangerous. During the Second World War, Canada produced more chemical weapons than any other of the allies. After the war, and during the Cold War era, massive weapons stockpiles were simply dumped into the ocean by the United States, Britain, Canada, the Soviet Union and Germany. They were considered buried and done with. Problem solved---forever. In many cases, nobody ever bothered to mark their locations. Information about known dumps was either mishandled or suppressed. (From the DVD cover.)

Buried At Sea, in the title of this film, refers mainly to hazardous materials such as mustard gas, vast quantities of which are lying on the ocean floor. These toxic materials, often referred to as "left over ordinance," are the result of Twentieth Century hot wars and the Cold War. In addition to gases and chemicals, some countries also dumped bombs into the ocean. The most dangerous is a hydrogen bomb jettisoned in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Georgia by a U.S. plane (1). The condition of these weapons and their exact locations are unknown, but it is expected that they pose a serious threat.

     Responsibility for these unused weapons rests with numerous countries, including Canada, which, according to the film, in addition to having hazardous materials off its coast, also has the world's largest toxic arsenal. Dumpsites exist off the coasts of Canada and the United States but also off the coasts of Europe, Russia, and Japan. The film suggests that these weapons will remain where they are because governments are not keen to try and recover them. It is safer to leave them and costly to find them.

     To be of real value in a classroom, Buried At Sea needs a teachers' guidebook with background information on the conflicts featured in the film and the kind of weapons mentioned. References for student research would also be useful. The film jumps around quickly from one location to another and attempts to cover too much ground. This makes it hard to follow and harder still to remember the subject matter. The coverage is also superficial. It would have made more sense to deal just with Canada's role (and to deal with it thoroughly) in the creation and disposal of toxic weapons rather than a number of countries. There is a great deal of data in the film, some factual, some guesswork. The two become blended together resulting in some confusion.

     Like much of contemporary journalism, which often gives a knee jerk reaction to events in order to provoke readers and viewers (2), the producers of Buried At Sea intended to shock their audience. While the weapons mentioned certainly were dangerous on land, no proof is given that gases rusting in containers on the ocean floor are still dangerous. This is assumed. Watching Buried At Sea can, therefore, provoke hysteria in a naïve audience in much the same fashion as the Maclean's cover mentioned. 

     There is some excellent film footage from the First and Second World Wars which could arouse an interest in why those wars took place. This could lead into a discussion of the reasons why a war is being fought today in Iraq.

Not recommended.

Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

1 The film contends that there are many other H bombs from the Cold War
era on the ocean floor.

2 A recent example was the November 28th cover of Maclean's Magazine which asked, “Is it time to bomb Iran?”

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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