Mental Floss

Revisiting The Voyage of the Mimi

Erin McCarthy
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Long before he was an Academy Award-winning screenwriter and producer, Ben Affleck played C.T. Graville on PBS’ educational mini-series, The Voyage of the Mimi, about scientists taking a census of humpback whales off the coast of Massachusetts. The episodes, which began airing in 1984, consisted of two segments: A 15-minute episode that tells the fictionalized tale of scientists on the Mimi, and a 15-minute “expedition” documentary where Affleck (or one of the other young actors) comes out of character to showcase the facts of the previous segment and interview real-life scientists about their work. Here are a few of our favorite episodes from the show. (And if you want to watch more, you can find all of them on Youtube.)

Episode 1: “All Aboard,” “Planet Ocean”

In this episode, we’re introduced to CT, the Mimi and its crew. Captain Granville—CT's grandfather—was played by Peter G. Marston, an MIT scientist who owned the ship at the time.

Episode 4: “Counting Whales,” “Whale Bones”

In the episode, we learn what distinguishes humpbacks from finbacks, see a breach, and watch the crew enter sighting data into a truly ancient computer; in the expedition, Affleck heads to the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum.

Episode 6: "Home Movies," "Songs in the Sea"

Via home movies of another expedition that follows the humpbacks from the Northern Atlantic down to the seas around the Dominican Republic, we learn about how the whales travel to certain areas to mate and calve, listen to whales sing (that starts around 11:30), and watch the scientists match photos of flukes to identify whales.

Episode 9: “Shipwrecked,” “Goosebumps”

This episode—my personal favorite—demonstrated how to cure hypothermia (everybody strip and get in a sleeping bag to bring up that body temperature!). The documentary segment, “Goosebumps,” has young Affleck visiting the U.S. Army’s arctic wind tunnel.

Episode 10: "Making Dew," "Water Water Everywhere"

Still shipwrecked, the crew of the Mimi teach young CT—and young viewers—how to create drinkable water from salt water.