Spike Island to feature in new flagship series for Discovery Channel

The Discovery Channel has been filming on Spike Island and will feature it in the first episode of a new flagship series being launched in September called 'Breaking History.'

The channel got the opportunity to film the opening of underground chambers on the island, some of which were sealed off as far back as the early 1900s, and to view artifacts which were discovered inside them.

John Crotty, the general manager of Spike Island, said having such a prestigious TV channel as the Discovery Channel air a programme about the island's history was "absolutely fantastic" as it would get to a niche market that he and his colleagues would normally never have a hope of reaching.

"They (Discovery Channel) will add gravitas to the site. I'm blown away by it as Spike will be in the opening episode of the new series. I think it will definitely help to add to our visitor numbers as we will get penetration into markets we normally wouldn't be able to reach. The channel is a really respected brand," Mr Crotty said.

A number of the tunnels were also blocked off in the 1960s and then before it opened as a prison (juvenile detention centre) in 1985.

"We have been unblocking them recently and our aim to to have them opened to the public in the future."

It's planned to open around 200m of tunnels. Some of them actually held prisoners in the 1850s, when it was the biggest jail in the world.

"Can you imagine what it was like. They would have lived in absolutely horrific condition with no windows, no light and cold temperatures," Mr Crotty said.

During the course of unblocking the tunnels, the Spike Island team discovered spare parts for coastal artillery guns which were put into place in the fort by the British in 1904.

"We also found original lanterns which were used by the prison guards in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We were very pleased to find them," Mr Crotty said.

He said that it will take some time to get the tunnels opened to the public.

The only issue will be completely taking down the separation walls, but otherwise the tunnels are rock solid.

While the island's history dates back to the founding of a monastery on it in the 7th century, the Discovery Channel programme will focus onwards from the period from when it was a noted pirate haunt in the 17th century.

That will include its time as a military fortification and prison.

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