Back from the Dead


This is a story of international significance… a New Zealand story of survival against the odds told through dramatic re-enactment, interviews and News footage in the 90 minute Greenstone documentary – Back from the Dead – The Saga of the Rose Noelle.  Best Documentary, 1997 TV Awards.

October 2, 1989….Great Barrier Island, New Zealand…. A boat is pounded to pieces on the rugged southeast coast…four survivors scramble ashore…. four men who’ve come back from the dead. The men say they’re the long-lost crew of the trimaran Rose Noelle which vanished on a trip from New Zealand to Tonga four months previously. If their story is true, these men have set a new world record for survival at sea in a cold climate.

They are Rick Hellreigal, 31 years old – a former policeman and outward-bound instructor…38 year old American ex-patriot Jim Nalepka….42 year old Phil Hofman…and the owner and skipper of the Rose Noelle, 47 year old John Glennie. The harrowing deprivation of their ordeal is one of the great stories of maritime survival.

Their story of 119 days adrift in an upturned trimaran has become the stuff of legend and is a saga of strength, courage and commitment in the face of constant stress and hardship.  The men, who started out as strangers and whose backgrounds were so different, found bitter personality clashes a constant threat.  The teamwork they depended on to survive was strained by self-doubt and depression, yet they battled on with courage, spirit and resourcefulness.




Promotional Trailer

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Production Details

Producers: John Harris, Mark Everton

Cast: Russell Shipman, John Kempt, Steve Wright, Christian Hodge

Network exec: Geoff Steven

Director: Mark Beesley

Researcher: Mark McNeill

Writers: Mark Beesley, Mark Everton

Make up artist: Noeline White

Gaffer: Grant McKinnon

Locations manager: Jared Connon

Art director: John Williams

Graphics director: Bruce Carter

Online editor: Paul Hamilton

Offline editor: Bryan Shaw

Production managers: Cathy White, Tania Stiles

DOP:  Nic Finlayson

Sound: Craig Perry

Narrator: Frank Whitten

Music: Keith Ballantyne

Financial controller: Glenda Paterson

Funded by: TV3 & New Zealand On Air