Museum dives onto the international stage in National Geographic epic

13 April 2022

Museum of Tropical Queensland maritime archaeologist Dr Maddy McAllister takes centre stage in National Geographic’s worldwide TV phenomenon Drain the Oceans as they follow HMS Pandora’s famous journey and explore another mystery surrounding Australia’s very own ‘Titanic’ shipwreck.

The National Geographic episode titled Great Barrier Reef, already watched by millions around the world, takes viewers on a journey to discover the mystery behind SS Yongala, retraces HMS Pandora’s final moments and dives deep with the latest technology to discover the secrets of the largest living structure on Earth.

Museum of Tropical Queensland and James Cook University (JCU) Senior Curator, Maritime Archaeology Dr Maddy McAllister said it was amazing to work with an international team on the episode, and to have the opportunity to showcase the museum’s collections to a global audience.

“To be able to share stories of Australia’s maritime history on an international stage knowing that it will be seen by people in more than 170 countries and translated in 44 different languages is a privilege,” Dr McAllister said.

“For the first time, Mallinson Sadler Productions (MSP) recreated two iconic Queensland wrecks, SS Yongala and HMS Pandora in highly accurate, 3D computer animation for the world to see, not only as they sailed - but as they now lay on the sea floor. It was an incredible experience, not just as an archaeologist but as a fan of the show.”

Using maps and archaeological records from Queensland’s State Maritime Collection held at the museum, together with latest technology for mapping the ocean floor, Dr McAllister tracks the movements of both ships to solve the mysteries on how they met their fate on the notorious coral barrier that lines the famous Great Barrier Reef coast.

Multiple award-winning documentary maker and Principal at Mallinson Sadler Productions, Crispin Sadler said Drain the Oceans is the ideal format to tell stories of maritime archaeology and oceanology.

“All our imagery is based on actual data, and I have to thank all those in Australia for providing us with the information to make these shows. Given we had to work around the pandemic, now that rules are relaxing, we can’t wait to do more great stories from Australia and its surrounding oceans,” Mr Sadler said.

The top-rated episode also features the groundbreaking archaeological research behind Museum of Tropical Queensland’s latest exhibition Connections across the Coral Sea: A story of movement as it travels to the northeast coast of Queensland to highlight the cultural exchange that occurred on Jiigurru (Lizard Island) thousands of years ago.

Queensland Museum Network CEO Dr Jim Thompson said the episode is an impactful collaboration that puts the work of Queensland scientists and researchers on the world stage.

“Drain the Oceans has provided a fascinating snapshot of the vast natural and cultural history of the Great Barrier Reef,” Dr Thompson said.

“Queensland Museum Network has been incredibly proud to collaborate with the team at MSP to present our work and research to the world.”

Drain the Oceans Season 4, Ep 5 Great Barrier Reef first aired in late 2021 and is currently screening on the National Geographic channel on Foxtel Australia. More information on the episode can be found here on National Geographic’s website.

Find out more about HMS Pandora and SS Yongala at


Media Contact:
Andrea Hughes | Marketing Coordinator | Museum of Tropical Queensland