Monday, February 4, 2008

IS IT REAL? Ghost Ships

National Geographic Channel - Original Air Date: 2005

The show tackles some common sea myths in this episode, including the haunting of the Queen Mary and the ghost ship Mary Celeste.  Tour guides from the QM talk of their spooky experiences aboard the ship, and then demonstrate how a "spirit" can be detected with dowsing rods.  A skeptic then demonstrates how easily a rod can be subconsciously manipulated.  Much time is spent talking about the perils of the sea and humanity's relative powerlessness in the face of the ocean.  This explains why some superstitions and myths have grown up around the water: to give humanity a sense of control, even though there is no actual control over nature.  Strange sounds heard by divers on a wreck are suggested to be whale song or other natural underwater noises, distorted by the ocean and heard imperfectly by human ears--which are not built to hear under the water.  In examining the Mary Celeste mystery, the show points out that some of the myths believed to be "true" about the story are actually taken from a fictional account of the voyage penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The show suggests that possibly the ship's occupants left the ship to escape toxic alcohol fumes, but their lifeboat became separated, and the ship sailed on without anyone aboard.  As usual, a scientific and skeptical point of view dominates the show.  And, as usual, it's hard to argue with.

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