The Voyage of the Mimi
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|The Voyage of the Mimi|
Episode 1 opening sequence
|Created by||Bank Street College of Education|
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Executive producer(s)||Samuel Y. Gibbon Jr.|
|Original run||1984 – 1984|
|Followed by||The Second Voyage of the Mimi|
The Voyage of the Mimi was a thirteen-episode American educational television program depicting the crew of the Mimi exploring the ocean and taking a census of humpback whales. The series aired on PBS and was created by the Bank Street College of Education in 1984 to teach middle-schoolers about science and mathematics in an interesting and interactive way, where every lesson related to real world applications. The series was also released as a LaserDisc collection.
After a segment of fictional adventure in the first part of each episode, a corresponding "expedition documentary" taught viewers something scientific relating to plot events in the previous episode of the show. For example, there was an episode where the plot was about obtaining drinkable water, and over the course of the episode, the viewer would also be given lessons about condensation, heat, and the three states of matter. Each lesson had accompanying student and teacher handouts or worksheets. Four software modules were available that covered topics and skills in navigation and map reading, computer literacy and programming, the elements of ecosystems, and the natural environment of whales.
A second series was produced in 1988, The Second Voyage of the Mimi, in which the two Granvilles, along with other archaeologists, searched for a lost Mayan city, and uncovered a conspiracy along the way. Both series emphasized equal opportunity in math and science with a diverse cast (including race and disability status) and incorporated an instructional strategy wherein the fictionalized adventure would catch the interest of students for the initial part of the learning process.
Ben Affleck played C.T. Granville and Peter G. Marston played his grandfather Captain Granville. Marston was a scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the production of the program and used to own the actual ship, the Mimi.
- Ben Affleck as Clement Tyler (C.T.) Granville
- Peter G. Marston as Captain Clement Tyler Granville
- Edwin De Asis as Ramon Rojas
- Victoria Gadsden as Anne Abrams
- Mark Graham as Arthur Spencer
- Judy Pratt as Sally Ruth Cochran
- Mary Tanner as Rachel Fairbanks
Each episode consists of two fifteen-minute segments: the actual episode, then an expedition that reveals the fact behind the fiction.
The first segment of each episode follows a serialized tale of scientists taking a census of humpback whales off the coast of Massachusetts. Captain Clement Tyler Granville, the owner of the sailboat Mimi is hired by scientist Anne Abrams and her colleague Ramon Rojas to make the census. Anne's Graduate Research Assistant is Sally Ruth Cochran. In addition, the two scientists each invite a high school student (Arthur Spencer and Rachel Fairbanks) to take part in the study. Finally, Captain Granville's identically-named grandson comes visiting for the summer in order to give his mother a break during her pregnancy.
Each second segment is a standalone exploration of one of the scientific principles touched on in the serialized tale. In these second segments, one of the actors who portrays a young person (Ben Affleck, Mark Graham, or Mary Tanner) comes out of character and interviews real, in many cases well-known, scientists about their work. These scientists include oceanographer Sylvia Earle, geologist Kim Kastens, zoologist Katharine Payne, Greg Watson of the New Alchemy Institute, and physicist Ted Taylor.
|Episode Number||Episode Name||Expedition Name|
|1||All Aboard||Planet Ocean|
|2||Setting Sail||Whale Watch|
|3||On the Shoals||Mapping the Blue Part|
|4||Counting Whales||Whale Bones|
|5||Going Fishing||Scraping the Bottom|
|6||Home Movies||Songs in the Sea|
|7||Fastening On||Hands Full of Words|
|8||Tracking the Whale||World's Worst Weather|
|10||Making Dew||Water, Water, Everywhere|
|11||The Feast||A New Alchemy|
|12||Rolling Home||Boat Shop|
|13||Separate Ways||A Sailor and a Scientist|
The real Mimi
The Mimi is a French-built sailboat that is 72 feet (21 meters) in length, originally built in 1934 to function as a deep-hulled cargo barge. She was built in the Northwest of France in the region of Brittany, on the coast of the Mer d'Iroise (the Iroise Sea). Mimi is a type of vessel known as a "Gabare d'Iroise," where "Gabare" translates as "cargo barge," and "Iroise" refers to the region in which she was constructed.
Mimi was initially used as a cargo ship in the rough waters of the North Sea, and was thus built to withstand serious maritime conditions. Because Mimi was a "gabare," she was also built with a shallow draft. This combination of strength and ability to operate in shallow waters allowed Mimi to be used both in the open sea and the extensive canal system in Europe at that time.
Nazi commandeer and near death
The Mimi was used by German soldiers during the Second World War to transport munitions. In 1942, the Germans seized the Mimi for the purpose of transporting supplies to military outposts in the region of the Brittany coast. When the Allied Forces pushed the retreating Axis forces back eastward through France in August 1944, Nazi protocol was to destroy any military property that might possibly be used against them by the invading forces (i.e. fortresses, ammunition, vehicles, etc.) For reasons unknown, Mimi was not destroyed by retreating Nazi forces, but rather left tied to a tree on a mudflat.
By 1988, the Mimi had a new owner, Peter Marston, who was an MIT professor at the time. The boat was kept moored in Gloucester, Massachusetts throughout the filming of the series and thereafter. In addition to its role in "The Voyage of the Mimi," which began in 1984, the boat was used from the late 1980s through the 1990s to enrich and inspire schoolchildren utilizing the Mimi curriculum. Each school year, the Mimi sailed from New England to the Gulf of Mexico and back, stopping at pre-arranged ports of call to meet with students in grades 4 through 7, and their teachers. At each port, "Mimifests" were held, which included various activities and presentations about marine life, seamanship, and navigation. These events were attended by approximately 30,000 students each year.
Marston retained ownership of the vessel until 1999, when the boat was sold to new owners Captain George G. Story of Gloucester, Massachusetts, his brother Captain Alan M. Story of Deltona, Florida, and Spiro "Steve" Cocotas, also from Gloucester. They operated the vessel as Three Mates Inc. for several years, bringing the boat to as many as 28 cities along the east coast.
Beginning of the end
After three years of ownership under Three Mates Inc., Mimi was repossessed for financial reasons and sold at public auction in Massachusetts. Michael Spurgeon developed a plan to resurrect the Mimi, and the vessel was subsequently purchased with venture capital provided by Spurgeon's employer, Capt. Greg Muzzy, a Boston-area entrepreneur who owns and operates the "Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships,". Mimi was sailed from Gloucester to the Mystic River in Boston, where she was kept docked at various Marinas in East Boston and Chelsea. Spurgeon's intention was to rehabilitate the ship, and possibly court a Discovery Channel special about Mimi's story. After spending approximately $100,000 on infrastructural investments on the ship, including a complete rebuild of the stern and diesel engine, the ship became too costly to continue work on.
In 2008, it was discovered that a homeless man had been living aboard the ship while docked at the Marina, and he was promptly removed from his quarters there. In an act of revenge, the man returned and removed one of several plugs in the belly of the ship, allowing her to rapidly fill with water. Mimi sank while at port, effectively ruining all electronics aboard the ship as well as seriously damaging the recently rebuilt engine. A significant amount of damage occurred above the keel of the ship due to freshwater clams colonizing the wood while she was underwater, rendering restoration nearly impossible. 
She was floated back to the surface by a recovery team two weeks later, and sat disused after that.
Attempted revival and final disposal
In the summer of 2010, two recent college graduates of the University of Vermont who had been fans of The Voyage of the Mimi stumbled upon the Mimi at port and soon afterwards mounted an effort to save the ship, which had fallen into a state of disrepair. Their efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful, given among other factors the high cost that would be required to save the ship and the Mimi's limited historical value, so the Mimi was scrapped in July 2011.
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