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SECRETS OF THE DEAD: Irish Escape

Airs Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Re-creation of a jail for the program "Secrets Of The Dead: Irish Escape." This case revisits the story of what has been called the most outrageous escape story in the history of the high seas. In 1876, after eight years of incarceration at Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, six Irish political prisoners escaped on board the American whaler "Catalpa."

In 1876, after eight years of incarceration at Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, six Irish political prisoners escaped to America on board the American whaler "Catalpa."
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Above: In 1876, after eight years of incarceration at Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, six Irish political prisoners escaped to America on board the American whaler "Catalpa."

"Irish Escape" revisits the story of what has been called the most outrageous escape story in the history of the high seas. In 1876, after eight years of incarceration at Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, six Irish political prisoners escaped to America on board the American whaler "Catalpa." Under the pretext of a whaling voyage, the "Catalpa" and its unassuming captain, George Smith Anthony, had sailed from New Bedford to liberate the prisoners.

SECRETS OF THE DEAD tracks down descendents of Anthony and the prisoners and explores the swashbuckling details of the dramatic rescue through re-enactments of key events, including a fierce confrontation between the "Catalpa" and the "HMS Georgette," the British steamer that pursued the whaler once the escapees were on board.

View a timeline of the events and related Irish history.