Ross Kemp: Shipwreck Treasure Hunter, review: behold the Alan Partridge of adventuring

Never mind Bear Grylls – is anyone living a more Boy’s Own adventure existence than Ross Kemp? We’ve had Ross Kemp: Alive in Alaska, Ross Kemp on Gangs, Ross Kemp in Search of Pirates, Ross Kemp: Battle for the Amazon, Ross Kemp and the Armed Police, and that show where he met a man who kept lions in his back garden off the M1. In Ross Kemp: Shipwreck Treasure Hunter (Sky History), he’s continuing to realise his dreams.

The series sees Kemp learn to wreck dive before visiting various sites off the coast of Britain. In episode one, he went to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, anchorage for the Royal Navy fleet during the First and Second World Wars.

This presented us with an interesting bit of military history, as Kemp explored the wrecks of a German escort vessel and the SS Tabarka, the latter sunk at the entrance of Scapa Flow to protect it from enemy submarines. The “treasure” he recovered included a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale and some Bovril: “antique rubbish”, in Kemp’s words, but poignant all the same. There was a personal element to this programme: two of his relatives, cousins once removed, died at sea, serving on HMS Hood when it was attacked by the Bismarck in 1941.

The series highlighted Kemp’s strengths and weaknesses as a presenter. He is at his best when meeting people, chatting easily and asking perceptive questions. As an interviewer, he’s really quite good. But, oh Lord, his delivery. He has learned from the master – Jeremy Clarkson – that a voiceover must go UP [dramatic pause] and then DOWN [meaningful silence]. He interprets the need to speak slowly and clearly by splitting every sentence into parts. “Next time. I’m diving deeper than ever before. All the way back. To World War One.”

And there is something so earnest about Kemp’s presentation that the spectre of Alan Partridge is never far away. “I’m Ross Kemp and I’ve always had an affinity with the sea and, in particular, shipwrecks.” It didn’t help when he met Emily Turton, a technical diver who acted as his guide for this episode and helped him squeeze into a wetsuit: “This is something I never thought I’d be doing: lubing up Ross Kemp!”

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