Seconds From Disaster

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

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
Country of originUnited States / United Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes69 (list of episodes)
Running time30/40–50 minutes
Production company(s)National Geographic Society
Darlow Smithson Productions
DistributorNational Geographic
Original networkNational Geographic
Original releaseJuly 6, 2004 (2004-07-06) – February 22, 2018 (2018-02-22)
Preceded bySeismic Seconds
Followed byCritical Situation
External links

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. Narrators of the show are Ashton Smith (American narrator for seasons 1 to 3), Richard Vaughan (British narrator for every season except 3), and Peter Guinness (British narrator for season 3).

The show was revived again, with the first episode of season 7 airing on February 15, 2018.[2] Its return has been paired with the 17th Season UK Premiere of Air Crash Investigation, which aired back to back beginning on February 15 at 8PM on National Geographic UK's channel.[3]


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 rewind 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


  1. With the exception of the series 3 episode "Comet Air Crash", that examines the crashes of two DH.106 Comet airliners in 1954.
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