Executive Producer Karen McCairley Talks Season 8 Of Mighty Ships

New season encounters unprecedented weather as well as profiles two homegrown ships.

Jennifer Coxby Jennifer Cox

Mighty Ships recently kicked off its epic eighth season, delivering an unparalleled stem-to-stern journey alongside the world’s most sophisticated vessels. Broadcasting Sundays at 7pm, exclusively on Discovery, the long-running Canadian mega-hit series uses stunning cinematography to capture the spectacular scale and innovation behind everything from luxurious cruise ships and cargo haulers to warships and oil drilling rigs, along with the navigational challenges of stormy seas and extreme weather.

Executive Producer Karen McCairley offered CraveOnline readers a behind-the-scenes look at the mighty popularity of Mighty Ships.

CraveOnline: Tell us about the new season of Mighty Ships.

Karen McCairley: This new season, Season 8, brings viewers the mightiest variety of vessels the series has ever witnessed. We have ships that are so enormous, they are mind-blowing. The jobs take weeks, and the ships and their crews travel tens of thousands of kilometres in the fiercest weather we have ever encountered in the past eight years of producing this show. Two of the episodes feature Canadian ports of call, so we are able to showcase our own strong maritime connections.

Why do viewers seem so fascinated by these vessels?

I think each new episode continues to be a revelation. We hope that after each show, viewers take away really cool information about incredible jobs that take place on our oceans every day, jobs we had no idea even existed. Look around you – everything you touch, wear, drive, and even the energy that’s powering your home or office, is likely to have been brought to you by a crew aboard a vessel at some point in time.   

What has been the most challenging thing about producing a show like this?

A couple of things – from an Executive Producer’s point of view… every episode takes place in one shoot, on board one vessel. If all of a sudden that vessel has a mechanical malfunction before our shoot, or the job we are supposed to fly off to is delayed by weather, client contracts or what have you, and the shoot is cancelled, well, there goes an entire episode. It’s not a case of saying, “Oh, this guy is sick and can’t do the interview,” so we look for a replacement – when we lose a ship, we lose an entire episode and that’s a big deal. The other challenge is definitely the weather – besides cancelling or postponing shoots, it can also keep our crew aboard a vessel for much longer than anticipated. During this season’s Maersk Interceptor episode, our camera crew ended up spending weeks aboard in hurricane force winds, the worst weather to hit Norway in 20 years. We didn’t have the story in the bag, and the rig couldn’t operate until the seas calmed. It was a long, hard shoot. 

On a personal note, did you have knowledge about these mighty ships prior to working on the show?

Yes, I am actually a mermaid, so it was a natural fit for me to get the job of executive producing such a water-logged series. There’s nothing I don’t know about life on the high seas. In all seriousness, I am still learning just like everyone who works on this show. Each ship brings us a new story, and over the years, the emergence of new vessels, technologies and jobs keeps it so interesting. I certainly know much more than I did before I began, but am in no way an expert. I’d still rather be a passenger on a cruise ship or a viewer of our episodes on the outside looking in. I couldn’t do a fraction of the jobs these men and women do aboard some of the toughest working vessels on the oceans. They are amazing and they are fearless.