Marco Polo Swimming Pool Game
In my new book The Marco Polo, Odyssey I describe the origin of game played in swimming pools called "MARCO—POLO."
Marco Polo tells of his travels across the most desolate desert in the world called the Taklimakan. In translation it means desert from which one never returns. The following is Marco Polo's words:
"The truth is this. When a man is riding by night through this desert and something happens to make him loiter and lose touch with his companions, by falling asleep or some other reason, and afterwards he wants to rejoin them, he then hears spirits talking in such a way that they seem to be his companions. Sometimes they even hale him by name. Often these voices make him stray from the path so he never finds it again. And in this way many travelers have been lost and have perished."
You can easily see how the game of Marco Polo mimics this story. It is a game of tag in the swimming pool. One person, who is "it," and closes his eyes and calls out MARCO and all the others in the pool respond by replying POLO. He will then attempt to go to the source of these voices and tag someone and do this with his eyes closed. The tagged person is then "it" and the game repeats.
An explanation of how the sound is produced in the sand dunes of a desert is explained as follows. Individual grains of loose surface sand bounce up and down, powered by the wind, over the compacted lower layers of the dune. The interaction between the upper- and lower-layer sand grains produces vibrations that make sound, much as a violin string does as a bow passes over it.
As I traveled across this desert I experienced this many times and to hear these weird sounds at night is scary. They do sound like voices.
You can learn more about Marco Polo and my adventure following in his footsteps from my book "The Marco Polo Odyssey." This book tells the story of my expeditions as the first person to travel the 13,000 mile overland route of Marco Polo from Venice to Beijing. See www.MarcoPoloFound.org.