According to my sources (and I have no doubt that these figures can and have been argued for years at a time, so cut me some slack), the Starship Enterprise, in its biggest configuration, could hold a maximum of 5000 crew. Not nearly enough. Switching to the Star Wars universe, an Imperial Star Destroyer seems to max out somewhere around fifty thousand crew and troops. Pretty impressive, but still no-where near what we need. The Death Star, now that would probably do it. And if the operation failed, the Death Star’s planet destroying laser could obliterate all evidence of the project, saving Imperial management from any size-related embarrassment. The only problem is these ships are all fictional. The Enterprise, a Star Destroyer or the Death Star would break into a bunch of itty bitty pieces as soon as one Geek stepped on them because they are just plastic models… Or CGI- which wouldn’t even hold the one Geek a model just might be capable of.
If you really wanted the capability of moving half a million Geeks in one shot, try a Great Lakes freighter. Now I’m not saying anyone would be particularly comfortable -as a matter of fact, Geeks would be packed in the holds like sardines- but it could definitely be done.
I was flipping through The Globe and Mail a few weeks ago and came across an article (Nerds Ahoy), pointing out the flourishing culture of Great Lakes freighter nerds. Geeks, Nerds, it can be a coin toss in terms of which is which and maybe this was a little bit of Canadian press standards slipping into it as well. But frankly, I think this whole Great Lakes freighter area has been a little overlooked by our community and so I decided to delve a little deeper. It turns out that I have dabbled in this area before without really realizing it. My wife and I have taken the kids to ports in Goderich, Toronto and other locations on numerous occasions and always spent at least a few minutes gawking at the massive ships docked there. When we were camping near Niagara Falls and there were thunderstorms one night, what did we do? Everyone piled into the van and we drove to Welland to watch some of the big boats moving through the Welland Canal. Actually, if you want a really good combination of physics, mechanical engineering and massive scale, watching a freighter moving through a lock system is a combination that’s pretty tough to beat. I’ve even clicked through Boatnerd a few times before without it really registering. I find it particularly fascinating to look at photos of some of these vessels over the decades as they switch ownership or are re-purposed. The Metis, shot here in Toronto by photographer John Heineman (photo used with permission), is a cement barge. There are photos of the Metis online through its years of service, sometimes so rusted it looks as though it’s defying all odds just to stay afloat. People compile stats, track movement, build scale models, buy pieces of scrapped ships, even organize gatherings to view the vessels- they’re classic Geeks.
So, if you think that Star Trek or Star Wars fans are a little focused, have a look at Boatnerd; there’s a whole other class of Geeks out there and they’re obsessing about the real thing.