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That Apocalypse Was a Let Down

Well it seems we survived another end of the world.

All the semi-serious stations on TV were offering various specials about the Maya and their calendar and some even included actual science.  One in particular got my attention.  Called Apocalypse Island the two hour show explores the idea that this particular island off the coast of South America is home to a Mayan monument located ideally to watch several key celestial events in 2012.

The monument and in fact the whole notion that this is apocalypse island has mostly been written off as a hoax at worst or as wildly over-optimistic wishful thinking at best.  The story goes something like this – a Canadian explorer and adventurer was on this island a few years ago, he was out hiking, got lost, made camp in a rainstorm and when he woke up the next morning, he looked up and saw this huge monument that he instantly recognized as being of Mayan construction.  He’s been trying to raise money ever since to go back and examine the monument with a professional and then hopefully raise money for an archeological dig.  The History channel fronted some money and our Canadian adventurer returns with an anthropologist.  The show follows the two (and their never seen camera man) as they make their way to this distant island, hike across it, camp out, then finally find the monument.

Part of me wanted the discovery to be real.  How amazing would it be that the Maya – who were careful astronomers – had mapped out the location of this distant island and using their astronomical projections located a monument from which they could view these celestial events?  Whether or not there was an apocalypse, wouldn’t it demonstrate the genius of Mayan culture if they had done what the explorer and adventurer said they’d done?

Watching the show, it’s difficult to not be impressed by the beauty of the isolated island.  Watching as the two men hiked closer to the monument, seeing the adventurer’s excitement as he gets closer to the monument, I felt excited myself.  Then they get to the “monument” and frankly all I saw was a rocky outcropping, worn away by centuries of wind and rain.  That’s all most people see.  In other words, it’s just a windswept piece of rock thousands of miles out to sea.  It’s a real let down.  The show itself plays and fast and loose with the facts, unfortunately.  It makes it seem as if the island is uninhabited when in fact it is inhabited by nearly a 1000 people.  It has an airport.  It has a place a boat can safely land.  It has a name – it’s known as Robinson Crusoe Island.

But there’s a lesson in all this brouhaha about the end of the world and the excitement of discovery.

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