Seconds from Disaster

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Seconds from Disaster
Title card used between 2011 and 2018
Based onHistorically relevant man-made and natural disasters from the 20th century
Narrated byAshton Smith
Richard Vaughan
Peter Guinness
ComposerGraham Reilly
Country of originUnited States / United Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes69 (list of episodes)
Running time30/40–50 minutes
Production companiesNational Geographic Society
Darlow Smithson Productions
Original release
NetworkNational Geographic
ReleaseJuly 6, 2004 (2004-07-06) – February 22, 2018 (2018-02-22)

Seconds from Disaster is a US/UK-produced documentary television programme that investigates historically relevant man-made and natural disasters from the 20th and early 21st centuries. Each episode aims to explain a single incident by analyzing the causes and circumstances that ultimately affected the disaster. The program uses re-enactments, interviews, testimonies, and CGI to analyze the sequence of events second-by-second for the audience.[1]

Seconds from Disaster was first broadcast on the National Geographic channel in 2004 and originally consisted of 45 episodes over three seasons. Following its original conclusion in 2007, the show was put on a four-year hiatus and later replaced with Critical Situation. In 2011, National Geographic revived the show and aired another 22 episodes over three seasons until the following year. In 2018, the show revived again and aired two episodes featuring compilations about helicopter and airliner crashes.[2] Narrators of the show are Ashton Smith, Richard Vaughan, and Peter Guinness.

,,Disasters don't just happen. They are a chain of critical events. Unravel the fateful decisions in those final seconds from disaster."


Seconds from Disaster is characterised by an emphasis on chronological sequencing (in accordance with the show's name), the use of CGI technology and its blueprint-like CGI format. The show has little or no dialogue for the actors in the re-enactments, but instead is almost entirely dominated by the narrator.

Each episode begins with a chronological re-enactment of the disaster, which is always cut into several scenes displaying critical moments in the unfolding of the disaster with a clock appearing at the beginning of each scene. After the sequence of events, the show "winds back" the scenes to analyse the causes and events leading up to the disaster. The series uses blueprint-formatted CGI in every episode to reveal the anatomy of the disaster and the structures involved but in season 3, the blue formatting of the CGI is not used on the background and is replaced with a white background. From season 4 onwards, they used a sepia-like background. The show concludes with the original disaster scenes being rewound and played again; but this time, the clock is being replaced by a countdown timer and the conclusions reached from the analysis being put together with the sequence. Most often, the show finishes with a short moment of sentimentality (where those involved often speak of their emotions on the disaster) followed by the technological advances made to prevent similar disasters from happening again.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
113July 6, 2004 (2004-07-06)October 26, 2004 (2004-10-26)
219June 28, 2005 (2005-06-28)July 11, 2006 (2006-07-11)
313July 25, 2006 (2006-07-25)March 7, 2007 (2007-03-07)
46September 5, 2011 (2011-09-05)October 10, 2011 (2011-10-10)
56March 11, 2012 (2012-03-11)April 22, 2012 (2012-04-22)
610July 22, 2012 (2012-07-22)December 29, 2012 (2012-12-29)
72February 15, 2018 (2018-02-15)February 22, 2018 (2018-02-22)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ With the exception of the series 3 episode "Comet Air Crash", that examines the crashes of two de Havilland Comet airliners in 1954.
  2. ^ "[current-page:title]". National Geographic. January 1, 2019.

External links[edit]