East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Other People’s Pulps: The Adventures of the Seaspray

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I’ll start the year with a chunk of personal nostalgia.

I mentioned already – ad nauseam – how my generation was brought up with a steady, solid, high quality diet of adventure… often, real life adventure.
I grew up with documentaries about the Apollo missions, about Thor Heyerdahl, about deep sea divers and explorers.
There was a lot of South Seas in my youth – mostly through the Folco Quilici documentaries, but also thanks to a TV series that hit the Italian screens in the early ’70s – when I was about six or seven years old.


It was an Australian serial, and it was called The Adventures of the Seaspray – but in Italy was presented as “A Sud dei Tropici” (South of the Tropics).

These are the adventures of a charter schooner, of its Captain – journalist Dan Wells – and of his children as they roam the South Pacific

The set-up was quite simple: a schooner sailing across the South Pacific, owned by a lone freelance writer/charter captain (Walter Brown). The crew includes the captain’s teenage son and daughter (Gary Gray and Susan Haworth), and a wild-haired sailor called Willyum.
Assorted adventures ensue.

indexThe internet helped while walking down memory lane – Seaspray was produced in 1965-1967, for a total of 32 half-hour episodes plus a pilot. American company Screen Gems was a partner in the production.
The series was shot on location – chiefly in Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea.
Each episode featured some standard adventure trope: smugglers, haunted islands, shipwrecked sailors, criminals, native tribes and hidden treasures. I remember distinctly an episode featuring a lost Nazi treasure.
The plotting was tight, and there was the right mix of action and thrills.
Not bad, for 30-minutes episodes.

001a 08aInterestingly enough, there was a third son of the captain, in the first few episodes – but apparently the young boy portraying Noah did not like being an actor, and dropped out of the series after eight episodes. There was much speculation in my house about whatever happened to the younger kid in the cast.
Also, the man portraying Willyum – Leone Lesianawai – was not a professional actor, but instead he was the owner of the boat used in the shooting – actually called Fifeath Ban.

The series was never released in DVD, and thge openingtitles sequence is the only snippet of video I was able to find – the music’s great, but of course it’s hard to gauge the very high quality standards of the series – both in terms of writing and filming – from the title sequence.

What I remember most vividly is the locations – the tropical islands, the ports of call, the ocean.
As I said, there was a lot of sea in my early years – the seventh continent, the deep frontier…

Now, about forty years after drinking in the Seaspray stories1, I’m writing a series of stories about a single charter captain sailing from adventure to adventure.
Memory works in a strange way – and we are made of the stories we read… or watched on a small black and white TV, back when we were in second grade.

Should you be curious, here you can find a great article about the series and its development.

  1. two tie-in novels were printed, and one day I’ll find them. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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