Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Six Greatest Maritime Mysteries of All Maritime

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for May is called, "Mary Celeste." The Mary Celeste was a ghost ship that was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872. There was plenty of food and the cargo was untouched, but the crew was missing, prompting the ship's discovery to be dubbed the greatest maritime mystery of all time. Here are the other maritime mysteries that round out the top six.

# 6 The Bermuda Triangle
I'm not sure whether it's due to magnetic anomalies, rogue waves, or aliens, but most of us are able to accept that the lines connecting Miami, San Juan, and Bermuda form a three-sided figure. 

The concept of the Bermuda Triangle was conceived by a bored guy with a newspaper subscription, a map, and some pushpins. I don't know who this guy was, but I'm sure Scotland Yard could have tapped into his unique skill set to track and capture serial killers. 

Gentleman, if you look at my map and pushpins, you will see that all of Jack the Ripper's victims lived in this England-shaped island just off the coast of Europe. But why? Detectives who are used to doing things the way they have always been done may now go home to your families, but I'm going to stare at these pins deep into the night until I see the connection.

#5 The Loch Ness Monster
Like a prehistoric Keyser Sรถze, the greatest trick this camera-shy plesiosaurus every played was convincing the world she didn't exist. Even with a brain the size and texture of a golf ball, Nessie has enough gumption to sustain herself at the bottom of a lake for thousands of years, and enough savvy to evade every five letter acronym we've thrown her way... SONAR, RADAR, LASER, and even SCUBA. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we won't have better luck finding her with TASER, SEALs, NAFTA, NSAIDS, or BiPAP.

#4 Atlantis 
I've heard that the History Channel has dedicated hundreds of hours to exploring the mysteries of this ancient sunken island-city, but I remain unconvinced of its existence. Anyone who understands the basics of plate tectonics knows that there is no scientific justification to support the presence of such a thing as the History Channel on basic cable.

#3 The Edmund Fitzgerald
As a child, I loved sitting in the bathtub and trying to guess the relative buoyancy of different objects. I experimented with whatever I had at my disposal... Paperclips. Crayons. Apples. Aluminum foil. Urine. Larger humans than myself have applied this experimental method to other hypotheses: Witches float. Floats sink. Sinks also sink.  Steel sinks, but ships made out of steel float, a puzzling fact that engineers are often challenged to explain at job interviews. All we know is that when a ship goes down, our fundamental assumptions about flotation are rocked to their very cores. (Exception: When Gordon Lightfoot sings about those assumptions, they are merely folked to their very cores.)

The E-Fitz, as we serious buoyancy-enthusiasts call it, sank in a storm in 1975, somewhere in L-Supe. The usual culprits have been blamed... rogue waves, icebergs, sea quakes, aliens, ice sculptures, fresh-water pirates. Gordon Lightfoot biographers agree that one of these was probably not much of a factor, but which one?

#2: The Laugh Track on The Love Boat
Here's the thing: there was no laugh track on The Love Boat. According to legend, dozens of studio audience members died during the filming of the pilot when they were trapped in the soundstage during a grease fire. Throughout the nine year run of the show, the victims of that fire haunted the post-production suite, their ghostly laughter mysteriously appearing after every punch line. There were even peals of corpselike chuckling following topical jokes that shouldn't have made sense to people who died in 1977. How did they even get those jokes if they were too dead to follow the news?

If we knew the answer, it wouldn't be the second greatest maritime mystery of all time.

With warmest regards,