Wednesday, June 18, 2003

One of the most telling moments on Nova's special of the exploration of
U869 (a sunken German U Boat off the coast of New Jersy) was the final moments when the explorers confronted the German U-Boat historian with their evidence that U869 sunk off the coast of NJ and not Gilbralter. This historian continued to poor over all of his documents claiming the boat sank off the coast of Gilbralter...not near NJ.

First it is interesting that we depend so heavily on our papers and records and historical fact, that we have a hard time assimiliating that a humongous sunken hull of a ship is as good evidence as mark on a piece of paper. The other thing that is interesting is that the evidence in the paper work was largely dependent on itself. That is the historians worked until all the paperwork was consistent, then later assumed that the paperwork was all correct. Basically, the paperwork was dependent on the fact that sub was ordered to Gilbraltar and that a French ship recordered an explosion near Gilbraltar that may have been a sub.

The piece was a good example of how science works. Depending on paperwork for decisions is not a bad way to go, but we can see how easilyt it is to create a historical error from the data, and how easy it is for all of the paper work to remain consistent, when in fact it is in error.

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