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'Samurai subs' focus of New Canaan natives' documentary

Published 11:03 am, Wednesday, May 8, 2013

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  • Devon Chivvis, a documentary filmmaker from New Canaan, peers out from the entry hatch of a submergence vehicle. Chivvis and her husband Mark Fowler's film "Hunt for the Samurai Subs" will be shown at the New Canaan Historical Society in an event sponsored by Staying Put. Photo: Contributed
    Devon Chivvis, a documentary filmmaker from New Canaan, peers out from the entry hatch of a submergence vehicle. Chivvis and her husband Mark Fowler's film "Hunt for the Samurai Subs" will be shown at the New Canaan Historical Society in an event sponsored by Staying Put. Photo: Contributed

 

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Staying Put will host a special showing of the film "Hunt for the Samurai Subs" at the New Canaan Historical Society at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15.

The documentary about the mystery and discovery of Japanese secret submarines threatening America, previously shown on the National Geograhic Channel, was written and directed by Devon Chivvis and produced by her husband Mark Fowler, both of whom grew up in New Canaan. They are founders and partners in Wildlife Productions, which creates many films for television.

Chivvis is the daughter of Lyn and Beecher Chivvis, and Fowler, a born adventurer, is the son of Jim Fowler, former host of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."

Just before the atomic bomb forced Japan into submission, the Japanese Imperial Navy sent a fleet of incredibly advanced combat submarines to attack a major U.S. naval base. But when Japan surrendered, the U.S. Navy confiscated these super subs, only to later have them scuttled near Hawaii when Soviet scientists demanded access.

In 2009, a team of explorers found some of these lost subs in the Pacific's dark waters. From the Hawaiian island of Oahu, manned deep submergence vehicle pilots Terry Kerby and Max Cremer, along with a team of explorers, dived to depths of nearly 3,000 feet to hunt for some of World War II's largest and fastest submarines, in a Japanese super-submarine graveyard.

Chivvis and Fowler were instrumental in putting together this project, documenting it and making it accessible on television, bringing together a research lab at the University of Hawaii and the National Geographic Channel, which commissioned the production and aired the film in November 2009.

The film includes rare footage taken by the U.S. Navy in l946 of a 1-14 submarine as she was sunk. The 21st-century explorations have documented, at a depth of almost 3,000 feet, two newly discovered aircraft-carrying subs, longer than a football field at 400 feet and the largest submarines ever built before the nuclear-powered submarines of the 1950s.

For Devon Chivvis, the most exciting aspect of the adventure was "seeing this massive six story high WWII shipwreck, longer than a football field, when it suddenly revealed itself. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack -- we just got lucky."

The program is free and open to the public. Reservations are requested and can be made by calling 203-966-7762.