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Students map deep sea battles for television

A film crew from Terra Nova Television recently visited USF to film a segment based on USF history professor William Murray’s research into ancient naval sea battles.

The crew was filming an episode titled “The Battle of Actium” for a series called Moments in Time that will air later this year on the Discovery Channel.

The Battle of Actium marks the site where Mark Antony and Cleopatra lost to Octavian in their bid for control of the Roman world. This victory was followed with the rise of Roman emperor Augustus Caesar.

Murray said this battle holds great historical significance.

“The Battle of Actium represents one of those important turning points in history,” said Murray. “If it had gone differently, western history would have developed much differently than it did.”

For the piece, Murray and his class laid out an 80×50-foot model of how the battlefield may have looked. The map was spread at The Corral adjacent to the Sun Dome.

The class then took scale models of 600 ships and moved them around to show phases of the battle throughout the day.

The crew used a special camera to film the map, said Murray.

“(The camera crew) came in with a camera mounted on a crane that they extended way up high so they could get a picture of the whole thing,” said Murray.

Murray said this production was the first of its kind.

“It was unique because such a large map has never been made before,” said Murray. “This is the closest to doing the real thing and going through the problems of typography that are involved with shooting it in a naval setting.”

Murray, a professor and chairman in the history department, has been conducting research on the Battle of Actium for the past 20 years and has written a book about it titled Octavian’s Campsite Memorial.

Murray said the Terra Nova producers contacted him as a result of a Web page he had produced and the research he had done on the battle.

Murray said the piece will also feature footage of the actual battle site.

“(The Terra Nova producers) flew me to Greece, and I took them around to the sites of the ancient battle, as well as the campsite of Octavian.”

Murray said the crew also visited the memorial Octavian had built for his fallen comrades of the battle.

“At (the battle site), (Octavian) displayed the battling rams on a stone wall from 36 of the biggest ships that he captured with Mark Antony and Cleopatra,” said Murray.

Murray said he could not have completed such a grand task without the help of two individuals. One was Paul Zandbergen, a USF professor of geography who designed the map of the battle area.

The other was Michael Garcia, a master’s student in the history department and the president of Outdoor America Images, who printed the map and the ships that were used in the piece.Murray said he enjoyed filming the piece at USF.

“This map was a cool experiment to see put into effect,” said Murray. “It is a great representation of the battle that took place that day.”