The Atlantic’s In Focus (edited by Alan Taylor, formerly of The Big Picture) has two features on the wreck of the Costa Concordia. The first is of the wreck itself, as it happened and shortly afterward. There are some spectacular (and spectacularly horrifying) images in this series.
The second, which I found even more gripping, is of the aftermath and the Italian rescue divers’ efforts to find survivors. Looking at the conditions these divers are working in makes it abundantly obvious that they are risking their lives with every dive. Pushing through floating furniture, going down underwater corridors and around corners and through broken windows…the number of opportunities for something to go wrong are too numerous to think about. And as if that weren’t enough, the ship is shifting, gradually moving back toward a dropoff into much deeper water. It’s a diving nightmare, yet they were going back again and again, desperately hoping to find one more living person.
Their courage stands in stark contrast to the absolute cowardice of Captain Schettino, the man responsible for the wreck who then fled the ship shortly afterwards. The recorded phone call between him and Gregorio de Falco, the local harbor authority, has now become legend in Italy. While the captain stood on shore, watching his passengers trying to flee (he later claimed that he slipped and fell into a lifeboat while overseeing the rescue effort), de Falco called him and said:
Listen, there are people going down from the prow using the rope ladder; you take that rope ladder on the opposite side, you go aboard and you tell me the number of people and what they have on board. Is that clear? You tell me whether there are children, women or people needing assistance. And you tell me the number of each of these categories. Is that clear? Schettino, maybe you saved yourself from the sea, but I’ll make you pay for sure. Go aboard, damn it.
Schettino did not go. So far the death toll stands at 16.
De Falco became a national hero, much to his dismay, because he was just doing his job. If only Captain Schettino had done the same.
Spiegel has a good three-part article on how the wreck occurred, why it was an accident waiting to happen, and why the aftermath was so much worse than it had to be. Suffice to say that if you’re on a cruise ship and you have reason to believe something has gone seriously wrong, don’t wait for an announcement and don’t wait for any of the crew to help you. In today’s “bigger is better” cruise ship industry, experienced and well-trained crews are not the norm.
The Costa Concordia wrecked at 9:45 at night. The emergency alert to passengers did not sound until 10:58.