Wednesday, July 15, 2009

When worlds collide

I just finished reading "No Bone Unturned" by Jeff Benedict. He follows the life and work of Smithsonian curator of the Museum of Natural History, Dr. Douglas Owsley. Such a fascinating man and so much the consumate anthropologist.

I have a belief that Anthropology is a calling, a vocation. You don't just learn it, you are it. Dr. Owsley's life as presented by Mr. Benedict, confirms that. From his reconstruction of a horse skeleton as a youth (without pictures, technological knowledge or any help)to his on-going reading of bones as a Physical cum Forensic Anthropologist. He worked on some famous cases such as David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, the Pentagon victims (plane and offices) from 9/11 and others. He was one of the lead scientists named in the scientists v. the US Government over the Kennewicke Man. As Benedict writes, "He reads bones like most people read books" (front matter).

In his life, worlds do collide as he pieces together the lives and humanity of skeletons, present and past and ancient. But my title for this piece is from another interesting collision.

One of the projects worked on was the 8 skeletons retrieved from the CSS (Confederate States Ship) H.L. Hunley, a submarined belonging to the Confederate States during the American Civil War. After successfully sinking the Housatonic in February 1864, the Hunley sank on its way back to shore. The reasons are unclear. The sub was found by NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency), an organization founded and funded by author Clive Cussler.

I'm a fan of Clive Cussler's novels, having read them all up to date. I've learned a lot from about oceanography from his books, even though they are fiction. It is obvious he writes about his passion -- the sea, and it is equally obvious that he is one of those fortunate enough to bring to life and support real life adventures through his NUMA organization. For me, I'm fascinated when worlds collide. Not just the real and ficticious worlds around Clive Cussler, but the Clive and Douglas' connection to that piece of history. It only all connects because of my equal interest in the career of Dr. Owsley and the writing of Clive Cussler.

For more information check out wikipedia. (The article does indicate that there is more to the story than what I have written, but I'm basing my article on my experience.)

For your bookshelf:

Benedict, Jeff. No Bone Unturned: Inside the World of a Top Forensic Scientist and His Work on America's Most Notorious Crimes and Disasters. Harper Paperbacks, 2004. Available at

Cussler, Clive. The Sea Hunters: True Adventures with Famous Shipwrecks. Pocket Star, 2003. Available at

Happy reading!