This article is the result of information I obtained while doing an investigation of a ship in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was done to obtain answers to several who had inquired about doing shipboard investigations and the propensity for ghosts being reported. While I did not obtain any conclusive evidence, I was able to identify several areas that could be improved to obtain better results in the future. This article covers those issues.
What Do I Need To Know Before Investigating a Ship?
Recently I had an opportunity to do an investigation of a ship. The purpose was two-fold. Of course I was looking for activity of any type as is normal in any investigation. But perhaps more significantly it was a different environment than what I usually do. Thus I went in with the purpose of identifying any conditions or methods which may require alteration based on the location itself. What I found was that any shipboard investigation requires extensive changes from what is acceptable in other locations. This report will summarize what some of those changes are and how they may lead to false positives unless steps are taken to compensate.
I have broken this report down into three types of evidence and how a ship environment might affect each. Where applicable I will also suggest methods which may prevent erroneous data and lead to a more complete investigation.
The acoustics are quite different on a ship than those encountered in most dwellings. Plus, ships are constructed differently than houses and buildings leading to some unique situations. One of the positives is the fact most ships are built of steel rather than more conventional materials. This means that down in the inner decks the steel acts as a Faraday cage, blocking stray RF from the outside. In this regard one of the common faults encountered by EVP recordings is eliminated; that being outside radio sources contaminating the audio.
But all is not as it seems. This steel shell also provides a means of electrical conduction. Stray EM Fields are common and changing. If any device is switched on elsewhere in the ship it is quite likely that action will be reflected in a change in the EM fields elsewhere. This can cause audible anomalies on the recording. So shielding the recorder and amplifier is actually more important on a ship than elsewhere. The pre-investigation scan often done to identify troublesome areas of EMF is not reliable since conditions can change dramatically and unexpectedly due to these shifting fields. So a clean area may become quite contaminated. One needs to do continued monitoring for EMF at any area under investigation.
Another concern is ventilation. Many large ships have ductwork that runs throughout the ship. Thus a sound quite a distance away can be carried into the area you are working resulting in contamination of your recording. Even sounds from another deck are easily transmitted through these air ducts. And to make matters worse, often it is impossible to shut down ventilation since the air in the lower decks can quickly become stale unless air flow is maintained.
The hull of the ship also conducts sound quite readily. Steel bulkheads running through the ship may carry sounds and likewise cause contamination. Also be aware that steel plates may have expansion / contraction due to changes in water temperature. This may result in other sounds that wind up on your recording. And wave action striking the hull the ship produces infrasound that carries throughout the ship and could interfere with your recordings.
Finally for those who do in depth analysis of audio a common practice is to use audio models which can be used to separate true voice from other sound sources. However most of us do not have concise models of sounds from ships. Thus we cannot make a good determination in this manner. The solution is if we expect to do regular shipboard investigations, we need to obtain models from ships in addition to those we have from more conventional structures for comparison purposes.
I touched on this a bit above. Electrical fields can be generated by eddy currents running through the steel of the ship, creating EMF which can cause false positives. And often certain equipment such as bilge pumps and ventilation fans cannot be turned off. We need to work with them rather than eliminate the source. Multiple EMF meters or monitors may help identify changing fields when they occur.
Another source of electrical activity are what are called sacrificial anodes. These are placed on the hull of the ship to prevent corrosion from sea water. They work by electrolysis; that is a current is passed from the sea to the ship where it is dissipated. But this current can cause magnetic disturbances and may interfere with EMF monitoring. This would be especially noted deeper in the ship's interior.
Finally, any lighting or electrical equipment in use elsewhere on the ship could cause ground loops in various parts of the steel hull. Since it may be impossible to disable all electrical devices we need to pay particular attention to any EMF activity and attempt to rule out these sources before considering any other explanations.
This section applies equally to still photos and video. First consider the ventilation system. While you may not feel air moving, if ventilation is active, air is moving. Any time air moves airborne dust is a distinct possibility. So photographic orbs and moving lights are quite common on ships. Plus many ships have an accumulation of sources for this dust in various hidden areas of the ship. So expect dust orbs!
Another common sighting consists of apparitions, or maybe not. Mists or other hazy objects often appear in photos, especially those from lower decks below the water line. This is likely condensation of water vapor. To explain, the water temperature is usually much cooler than the air temperature in the ship. But humidity in the ship, due to moisture is often quite high. The steel hull of the ship does not provide much insulation so its temperature is near the water temperature, not the air temperature on the inside of the ship. In low pockets near the floor the dew point may be exceeded, and a misty vapor cloud may form. If air movement changes this cloud may drift up and be seen as a fleeting mist drifting across a video screen. Instant ghost!
This phenomena can be minimized by more vigilance regarding temperature and humidity. Better monitoring may not prevent this from happening but knowing the precise dew point at all times can certainly identify it when it does occur.
Another type of sighting consists of doors opening or closing on their own or other objects moving. Often investigators forget they are on a ship floating on water. As waves or tides shift the ship may also follow the water action. It sounds obvious, but consider the movement of the ship, even if barely perceptible, can cause doors and hatches to shift unless thay are restrained. Other objects may suddenly fall from shelves. Before calling it a poltergiest, check the stability of the object moved.
In conclusion, it becomes obvious many factors are involved in a shipboard investigation that may not be important in a conventional building. But a ship investigation can be productive if these conditions are taken into consideration when conducting the investigation or analyzing the data.