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Another Night to Remember
April 20, 2012 3:06 PM   Subscribe

"I never believed this could still happen in 2012." The sinking of the Costa Concordia. In slides.
posted by Avenger50 (57 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I never believed this could still happen in 2012."

Because the laws of physics regarding buoyancy have changed?

Great pics.
posted by Jimbob at 3:12 PM on April 20, 2012


Great slideshow. I was surprised how long it took for the ship to settle and how much of it remained above the water line. It surprises me a little that anyone died. How did that happen?
posted by Triplanetary at 3:24 PM on April 20, 2012


How did that happen? Not wishing to be snarky but have you actually read the article? It covers the events of that night in great detail, including how the unfortunate ones died.
posted by jontyjago at 3:36 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The text in the slideshow says at least 15 people died when the ship rolled suddenly onto its side, a little past midnight, and that more died jumping into the water and drowning or getting hypothermia.
posted by lilac girl at 3:38 PM on April 20, 2012


Schettino had joined Costa as a safety officer in 2002

If you see my jaw down there on the floor, could you help me reunite it with the rest of my head, please?
posted by Danf at 3:46 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


From slide five:

around 12:20 a.m.: On the port side of Deck 4 near the middle of the ship, American Benji Smith devises an escape route for his wife and in-laws. By tying knots into a discarded rope, throwing it down the roughly 75-foot hull, and securing it to the railing on Deck 3, Smith would eventually lead 120 passengers to safety.


Fuck yeah, Benji Smith. You rule. Well done, sir.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:51 PM on April 20, 2012 [19 favorites]


"I never believed this could still happen in 2012."

Yeah, anytime I ever hear anyone say something like that, I know they are incompetent and I can mostly ignore what they have to say.

There were a lot of those comments during the Deepwater Horizon shit fan.

Bryan Burrough reconstructs an epic fight for survival—in which all too many would perish.

All too many = 32? Over 100 people die every single day in U.S. car crashes (about every 15 minutes). Not saying this boat sinking wasn't tragic, but the loss of life was not a catastrophe by any measure.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:51 PM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


All too many = 32? Over 100 people die every single day in U.S. car crashes (about every 15 minutes). Not saying this boat sinking wasn't tragic, but the loss of life was not a catastrophe by any measure.
posted by mrgrimm


So, if it was 101 would it be a catastrophe? 200? Where do you start calling something tragic by a different word?

If those 32 people were solely comprised of your immediate family and friends, would it be a catastrophe?

I don't understand your line of thinking.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:58 PM on April 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


the loss of life was not a catastrophe by any measure

I think the sinking of a modern, fully functional cruise ship through sheer incompetence resulting in the loss of even a single life happily rises to the level of "catastrophe" by any measure I can imagine.
posted by yoink at 3:58 PM on April 20, 2012 [18 favorites]


I haven't read this one but what is unconscionable is if the executives of the cruise line are not held criminally responsible. Now that a gps track of any vessel can be available for review, and they did not fire the captain the first time he 'buzzed' that island, at least a year previously, a bunch of 'executives' should spend some time in jail.
posted by sammyo at 4:13 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


sammyo, buzzing the island is free publicity for the cruise line. He was probably told to do it.
posted by localroger at 4:14 PM on April 20, 2012


Now that a gps track of any vessel can be available for review, and they did not fire the captain the first time he 'buzzed' that island

I don't know. I think the issue of how close he planned to come to the island is something of a red herring. If you look at the courses that these cruise ships sail in the Med, you'll see lots of cases where they have to sail as close to land as the captain intended to do in his fly-by. Almost every time they enter harbor, for one thing (there aren't many occasions when they'll call on a tug boat). These are very manoeverable ships, and there is no reason that the vessel couldn't have come in very close to shore quite safely. There was plenty of depth there. The problem was the utter incompetence of the managing of the vessel. They came in at too high a speed, started executing the turn far too late, and the stern swung wide and collected a rock (a rock which was marked on their charts and which was very close to the shore).

Anything short of utter incompetence on the bridge and the "fly by" is nothing more than a brief, picturesque interlude on an uneventful trip. It's not some kind of white knuckle manoeuver that inherently carried with it enormous risks.
posted by yoink at 4:22 PM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I never believed this could still happen in 2012."

Never underestimate people's ability to sink boats.
posted by fshgrl at 4:25 PM on April 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


There seem to be an awful lot of "ruggedly handsome" individuals connected with maritime things in Italy.

I heard about this on the radio while working in the Ivory Coast. The story was in French (mine is tenuous), and radio was static-y, so I figured I just misunderstood. The thought of a cruise ship with 4,000 people sinking basically on an island and killing a bunch of people while the captain snuck away definitely made more sense if interpreted through my terrible French as either a story about the Titanic (?) or maybe something totally unrelated to shipwrecks at all.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:28 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fascinating article. So much so that I finally subscribed to Vanity Fair for two years (huh? $20 for a 2 year subscription blew up to $26 once you added in shipping / handling fees).

Metafilter. Boosting the American Economy $5 at a time. Sometimes more.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:35 PM on April 20, 2012


It's not so much the sinking causing the loss of life, it's the staggering incompetence causing the sinking.

One of my earliest childhood memories is being dragged through a huge department store by my father because they had just received a bomb hoax. The store wasn't evacuated and it was mildly embarrassing to be racing past eye-rolling shoppers who had correctly assumed it was nothing to worry about.

After reading this I'd just like to say here's to my dad, the magnificent paranoid bastard who would have been winching his own lifeboat down to safety about 10 seconds after the first bang.
posted by fullerine at 4:35 PM on April 20, 2012 [18 favorites]


"I never believed this could still happen in 2012."

The one bit that is very 2012: the Italian coast guard finding out about it because a passenger who freaked out at the initial bump called her daughter on her cellphone, and then the daughter called the police.
posted by epersonae at 4:42 PM on April 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


There seem to be an awful lot of "ruggedly handsome" individuals connected with maritime things in Italy.

Yeah, Vanity Fair tends to edge into fanfic territory sometimes.
posted by elizardbits at 4:42 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


4000 people on board when the boat flopped over and 31 (or 32) died? That sounds relatively non-catastrophic to me.

But then, when the Twin Towers came down, buildings that had contained 50,000 - 100,000 people, and less than 3000 died - one-tenth of whom were rescue workers who entered the buildings AFTER the planes hit, I thought of it more as one of the Greatest Rescue Efforts Ever rather than the Worst Terrorist Attack ever. But then, I'm totally out of touch with American 'Reality'.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:52 PM on April 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


Just saw a documentary on this and other cruise liner disasters. (Of course, including the Titanic) Considering that the wife and I are going on a cruise in a month...

"After reading this I'd just like to say here's to my dad, the magnificent paranoid bastard who would have been winching his own lifeboat down to safety about 10 seconds after the first bang."

This.
posted by Splunge at 4:53 PM on April 20, 2012


jontyjago: Not wishing to be snarky but have you actually read the article?

Ouch. Didn't realize there were two links right next to each other. Reading the article now. With the cold water, maybe we are lucky that fewer than 1% of the passengers perished.
posted by Triplanetary at 4:56 PM on April 20, 2012


I am more surprised not by the spectacularly bad decisions that lead to hitting the rock, but the apparent and total collapse of a command structure on board. At least the way I am reading it, the crew just gave up? didn't know what to do? That totally shakes my faith in people who wear uniforms.
posted by selenized at 5:04 PM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


hey guys let's stop trying to pin down exactly how many third-party-incompetence-caused deaths constitutes a catastrophe yeah
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:12 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


All too many = 32? Over 100 people die every single day in U.S. car crashes (about every 15 minutes). Not saying this boat sinking wasn't tragic, but the loss of life was not a catastrophe by any measure.

100 out of 300+ million; 32 out of 4200. It'd be comparable to ~2 million of US population dying in a single event - that's pretty catastrophic, 4x more than WWII US casualties.
posted by rainy at 5:21 PM on April 20, 2012


You fuckers are loopy.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:24 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


By the way, why was he promoted to being captain directly from being a safety officer? Shouldn't he have spent a few years being second-in-command? I don't think a safety officer can be a second in command, I'd expect it has to be an officer with navigation duties?

One of the things he said in his defense was that the rocks were not on his chart. Did that turn out to be a lie? Is it normal for a captain to rely on charts near shore or on both charts and radar?
posted by rainy at 5:26 PM on April 20, 2012


rainy according to the article he's being accused of relying mostly on his eyes as opposed to his chart and radar. Also it casts his word in serious doubt when, say, he instructs his officers to lie to the coast guard about the ship taking on water, amongst other things.
posted by selenized at 5:29 PM on April 20, 2012


Yes I've read that but he's also described as standing at the radar. It seems like this claim would be the only strong piece of defense he put up, and then it wasn't ever denied or confirmed.. It's a bit odd.
posted by rainy at 5:34 PM on April 20, 2012


Underwater rocks don't show up on radar.
posted by TheJoven at 5:55 PM on April 20, 2012


He left the ship whilst there were still hundreds of passengers and some of his crew on board.

If his defense does not focus on some sort of psychological breakdown he's going to be nailed to the wall.
posted by fullerine at 5:56 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the first slide:
Shortly after 10:50 p.m.: Captain Schettino drops two anchors that, according to nautical analyst John Konrad, could have prevented the ship from tipping over. But too much chain is released, rendering the anchors useless.

So not only did the captain fail at not hitting things with his boat, he failed at not hitting things with his anchors? Unbelievable.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:12 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


People who are saying "I can't believe this could still happen in 2012" are not idiots who think that steel stopped being heavier than water. Nor are they under the delusion that man's hubris has subsided much in the past 100 years.

The incredulity comes from "you mean even after all of the thousands of safety improvements, design innovations, new regulations and technology available to them, someone STILL managed to screw the pooch this badly?"

I realize there is no upper limit on how boneheaded people can be, but until you see the staggering levels of "what in the hell were they thinking?" on display here, it's really hard to (ahem) fathom.

These guys really make the Titanic look like a glowing success by comparison.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:13 PM on April 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


All too many = 32?

32? Meh.

36? OH THE HUMANITY
posted by Sys Rq at 6:14 PM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I realize there is no upper limit on how boneheaded people can be, but until you see the staggering levels of "what in the hell were they thinking?" on display here, it's really hard to (ahem) fathom.

As the saying goes, it's impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
posted by Ritchie at 6:27 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone called from below. Turning, they saw a young Argentinean couple, clearly exhausted, holding a toddler. They hadn’t the energy to jump upward. The woman beseeched Georgia to take the child. “Here,” she pleaded, raising the three-year-old, “take my daughter.” Georgia did, then thought better of it. She handed the infant back, saying, “Here, take the child. She should be with you. If the end is going to happen, she should be with her parents.” (They evidently survived.)

I really don't know how to feel about this. Aside from incredibly upset.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:39 PM on April 20, 2012


I recommend the National Geographic documentary on this subject. It credited a steady 20 mph wind with gently pushing the ship toward shore, saving most of the lives. The ship was dead in deep water listing the other way when the sudden wind caught it broadside just in time.
posted by Brian B. at 6:42 PM on April 20, 2012


a steady 20 mph wind with gently pushing the ship toward shore, saving most of the lives.

This.

If the ship had drifted out to sea, it would have sunk quickly. More than 1000 people remained on the ship at 1am, 3 hours after hitting the rock.
posted by dave99 at 7:14 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]




After learning more about the details, I can agree that yes, it's silly to think that this can't happen in 2012. Here's why:

All along, I assumed that this was an accident.

This event was a non-accident in the same way that the pilot of a jumbo jet deciding to see how many times he can skip his plane off the surface of the water before the flight attendants had even given their safety briefing would be a non-accident.

Planes and ships have been made to be really safe & stuff, but there's no technology to cure plain old deliberate recklessness. I can't even really fault the people who panicked and for some reason flung themselves into the ocean. 3 hours into a cruise is barely enough time to find the slot machines, let alone your muster station or a decent escape route.

It's amazing and tragic that about 1% of the people on board managed to find a way to die, but once the captain of a ship decides to put a hundred years of "efforts designed to keep people from dying in shipwrecks" to the test, all bets are off.

So again, we're pretty much back to the point where anything short of the Captain admitting "I wanted to see what would happen if I did everything wrong*," it's still really hard to believe that it err... went down the way it did.

*"wrong" is perhaps not a strong enough word, in that it suggests merely "incorrect." What we're dealing with here is more along the lines of not only scoring an own-goal for Team Tragedy, but also loading your bench with rookies, hiding their skates, leaving at halftime and taping your goalie's eyes shut.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:09 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Almost every time they enter harbor, for one thing.

You are right that this is a very dangerous time for a ship, as it comes into or makes out of port. This is why, at those times, the ship is conned not by the master, but by the harbor pilot. The pilot knows the local waters comprehensively, and has extensive skill in ship handling. A harbor pilot's certificate is much harder to get then a master's certificate.

Buzzing random islands without a local pilot aboard is, well, stupid and dumb.
posted by eriko at 8:15 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am certainly no expert seaman, but I spent three months working as a deckhand on an itty bitty, 50 passenger, 167' cruise ship. One thing that struck me about the total lack of order during the evacuation is that it actually makes sense if you understand the command structure on a ship.

Docking, boarding, navigating out of a harbor, or any other major activity on a ship, needs to happen in a very specific, well timed sequence. This sequence is overseen by the captain. Unless you really, really think you know what's going on better than your captain, you go where you're supposed to go, and you wait for further orders. To do otherwise can put people in danger without you even realizing it. Even on my little 167' ship, I never felt that I had a good handle on the "big picture" when we were docking. I knew what was happening on the stern; and, I knew approximately when I should throw my lines to the guys on dock. But, there were all sorts of rumblings and sounds of hydraulics and orders being barked over the radios. Sometimes currents or winds would complicate things. The point being, the only guy on board my ship who was in any position to act with autonomy was the captain.

If Captain Schettino had keeled over from a heart attack instead of freezing in shock, the evacuation would probably have gone much better, as authority would have been delegated to the first mate. As long as Captain Schettino remained on the bridge staring blankly and denying that disaster was unfolding, his crew was unable to act without breaking maritime law.
posted by UrbanEye at 8:26 PM on April 20, 2012 [18 favorites]


That was a great explanation for what really happened (it seems a little odd to me that it took so long to hear about it). I do think that the attempt at the beginning of the article to make it sound like the Titanic II is a little overblown; if the ship hadn't fortunately grounded of course that would be true.
posted by blue shadows at 8:39 PM on April 20, 2012


Seems like the Captain called to "abandon ship" pretty early on. Couldn't the crew have snapped into action and initiated well known (to them) evacuation procedures?
posted by ShutterBun at 8:39 PM on April 20, 2012


Not early enough, I guess.

I'm gonna finish watching this before commenting further.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:44 PM on April 20, 2012


Underwater rocks don't show up on radar.--TheJoven

The article says that the rock was visible. The captain saw it, too late, and panicked, turning sharply away from it, causing the back end of the ship to slam into it.
posted by eye of newt at 12:22 AM on April 21, 2012


I went through a whole lot emotions watching the Discovery Channel Special that ShutterBun posted. Surviving the sinking of luxury cruise around Italy is a first world problem but it is impossible not to feel for everyone on-board when they are dropped into a situation they could not imagine.

The captains behavior was quite odd but is it a symptom of something much larger. It strikes me that as our world becomes more complex and interdependent we need leaders who are more risk averse but it seems that the process of promotion is counterproductive to this end. Is there evidence to say that there are more and more examples of the fundamental fallibility of people in whose hands we are required to put our lives.

We put our lives in the hands of a captain who can run our ship aground or a banker who can over-leverage a financial operation in which we have our life savings. A lack of effective, moral, ethical and responsible leadership becomes a more universal problem with each passing day.
posted by vicx at 12:26 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's not a bad point. Ship captains "back in the day" had probably seen their fair share of hairy situations via war or other military operations (Which pretty much anyone in a luxury cruise line uniform seems to fancy themselves a part of, at least until the shit hits the fan)

I don't know what the qualifications are these days to become a Captain of a major league cruise ship like this, but I'd like to think his credits included something more impressive than "managed not to pilot ship onto the actual surface of the Sun".

Maybe there's not enough naval warfare these days to give seamen a good taste of excrement hitting propellers, but for the love of god, I mean...just... come ON! This should have been about as difficult as a fire drill in an elementary school, and he managed to let 32 people die.

I usually find myself playing "devil's advocate" in these kinds of threads, but in this case I'm pretty sure Satan and I are both quoting Seanbaby saying "we don't even have a form to fill out for that kind of thing down here!"
posted by ShutterBun at 2:30 AM on April 21, 2012


If you've got a spare couple of hours Adam Curtis did a great blog piece about the weird culture and history of modern cruise ships.
posted by brilliantmistake at 2:44 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


By the way, why was he promoted to being captain directly from being a safety officer? Shouldn't he have spent a few years being second-in-command

It took me a bit to find this, but his career did proceed more as you expect:
[His sister] said he had begun his career with the ferry company Tirrenia, then worked for the petroleum group Agip before joining Carnival, the US-based firm whose stable of distinguished brands includes P&O, Cunard and Holland America.

Schettino joined its Mediterranean cruises arm, Costa, in 2002. After a spell as a second-in-command he was promoted to the rank of captain and in 2006 his career reached a new peak when he was handed command of the newly launched, 114,500-tonne Costa Concordia.


All too many = 32?

How asinine. This was not just a tragedy that shouldn't have happened at all, it was one that was actively made worse by poor decision-making after the accident itself. By refusing to admit the plight of the ship, to himself (apparently), to his crew, and to rescue authorities, Schettino caused those deaths almost as surely as if he had gone to their cabins with a gun and shot them himself.

The decisive, effective action taken by the Mayor and the junior officer saved many lives directly. Had Schettino kept his wits about him, quite possibly everyone aboard could have been saved. Certainly things like people leaping into the frigid water could have been avoided.

After reading this I'd just like to say here's to my dad, the magnificent paranoid bastard who would have been winching his own lifeboat down to safety about 10 seconds after the first bang.

In the similar account by William Langewiesche, A Sea Story, of the sinking of the Baltic ferry Estonia:
Survival that night was a very tight race, and savagely simple. People who started early and moved fast had some chance of winning. People who started late or hesitated for any reason had no chance at all. Action paid. Contemplation did not. The mere act of getting dressed was enough to condemn people to death, and although many of those who escaped to the water succumbed to the cold, most of the ultimate winners endured the ordeal completely naked or in their underwear. The survivors all seem to have grasped the nature of this race, the first stage of which involved getting outside to the Deck 7 promenade without delay. There was no God to turn to for mercy. There was no government to provide order. Civilization was ancient history, Europe a faint and faraway place. Inside the ship, as the heel increased, even the most primitive social organization, the human chain, crumbled apart. Love only slowed people down. A pitiless clock was running. The ocean was completely in control.

I mean no disrespect to Burrough's piece, but the one by Langewiesche remains one of the best magazine articles I have ever read.

As long as Captain Schettino remained on the bridge staring blankly and denying that disaster was unfolding, his crew was unable to act without breaking maritime law.

This is where the concept of crew resource management comes into play. The Captain is the decision-maker, but he takes input from all members of the crew who have something to offer. When there is a crisis, the crew need to both feed information to the Captain and highlight what is important from their area of expertise. The Captain isn't a puppeteer, he's a resource directing the efforts of the people below him who know their jobs, possibly better than he could.

This was a complete failure of CRM.

"I never believed this could still happen in 2012."

In many ways it should not have. It isn't a matter of defeating physics; it's a matter of organizing and managing complex systems. Regulations were flouted. Procedures were ignored. Responsibilities were derelict. Yes, duh, if a ship hits a rock it is likely to sink. But no, duh, if an incident occurs are lives certain to be lost, not when there is time to organize and manage a rescue operation.

I thought of it more as one of the Greatest Rescue Efforts Ever

Well, this and 9/11 both can be thought of that way, but in both cases the credit goes broadly to people who self-rescued from a situation that had overwhelmed the authorities ostensibly in charge.
posted by dhartung at 2:54 AM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Accident. There's that word again. It's not working for me.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:02 AM on April 21, 2012


From the documentary: "Maritime law states that all passengers must be (reasonably?) able to be evacuated to lifeboats within 30 minutes of the "Abandon Ship" call.

Seriously, it's like they skipped "negligence" and went straight to "malfeasance" or something.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:51 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You are right that this is a very dangerous time for a ship, as it comes into or makes out of port. This is why, at those times, the ship is conned not by the master, but by the harbor pilot. The pilot knows the local waters comprehensively, and has extensive skill in ship handling. A harbor pilot's certificate is much harder to get then a master's certificate.

Buzzing random islands without a local pilot aboard is, well, stupid and dumb.


There are numerous occasions on any Mediterranean cruise where ships have to navigate narrow passages between islands--passages for which no pilot is brought on board and where the ship must come as close to the shore on both sides as was intended on this "fly by." It is simply incorrect to suggest that it is an inherently high-risk maneuver to bring a modern cruise ship close to an island where there is plenty of depth close to the coast.
posted by yoink at 9:26 AM on April 21, 2012


When I was on a sizable ship this spring, we did a lifeboat drill within minutes of dropping our bags in our rooms. I'm pretty sure someone said it was a direct result of the Concordia.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:18 AM on April 21, 2012


January 30, 1945 was truly a nightmare to remember. Pressed into wartime service, the German cruise ship MV Wilhelm Gustloff (20,000 tons lighter and 200 feet shorter than Titanic) was packed with evacuees fleeing from advancing Russian forces in East Prussia when she was sunk in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine. An estimated 9,400 passengers (including thousands of children) died in the world's worst maritime disaster.
posted by cenoxo at 9:08 PM on April 21, 2012


Perhaps the wisest course is to avoid ocean travel altogether:
"No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned... a man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company."
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Let's take the train instead.
posted by cenoxo at 9:31 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


gottabefunky, those lifeboat drills have been a mandatory part of the cruise ship experience for a long time. It's maritime law that everybody on an ocean going vessel has to have a way to be notified of an emergency and training on what to do. The cruise lines make it as perfunctory as possible because it's kind of a downer compared to their whole vacation vibe, but they have to do it, and it's not so much because of the Concordia as because of the Titanic that that's the case.
posted by localroger at 3:44 PM on April 22, 2012


The difference is in the TIMING. The Concordia struck distaster within a couple of hours of setting sail. I can't remember when our muster drill was conducted, although I know it was pretty early on. But at the time I sailed (in 2007) it would have been too late to have been useful in the Concordia's situation.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:33 AM on April 25, 2012


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