It 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 courageous and unassuming captain, George Smith Anthony, were part of an ambitious plan to liberate the prisoners.
Their story is one of swashbuckling adventure and heroism, told with historical accuracy and suspense on Secrets of the Dead. The film recounts the tale through dramatic re-enactments of key incidents, including a fierce confrontation between the Catalpa and the HMS Georgette, the British steamer that relentlessly pursued the whaler, firing a hot ball of lead from its 12-inch cannon. The film also tracks down descendants of Anthony and the prisoners. The result is a riveting documentary that blends the present with the past, and uncovers more than a few secrets along the way.