Friday Report: Get that iceberg outta the way!
Ryan Summerlin January 3, 2013
Cruise ships are only required to notify authorities if more than 2 percent of their passengers fall violently ill. Cruise lines don’t like to acknowledge such events, but some of these leviathans bunk over 6,000 people and that means 120 passengers have to be barfing onto the lower decks before somebody calls the CDC.
You always hear about cruise ships running aground, running out of gas, running into icebergs or running into Carnival fun bouts of ship-wide diarrhea and gastric upheaval, stomach cramps, dehydration and finally those pesky, massive burials at sea. OK, I made that last part up. Mostly they dump the still-living off at hospitals in ports along the way.
I noticed that the capacity of the top two Royal Caribbean Cruise ships was 12,442 which coincidentally, is exactly the population of Grand County and I thought to myself, why the heck not? I mean, how often is it that a whole county would get to go on vacation at the same time? I know right now you’re thinking one of two things: Either this is the stupidest thing you’ve ever read, or that’s the last thing in the world I’d ever do.
Four passengers to a vehicle means we could move everybody in just 3,135 cars and one doubled-up motorcycle. About the third week in April we’d head off to San Diego where we would board a couple of Holland America goliaths for a 30 day float to Rarotonga, Bora Bora and Nuku Hiva, returning at the tail end of mud season. Or maybe not.
It was a year ago that the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy. The captain was doing a showoff pass-in-review for Giglio islanders. Normal shipping lanes are five miles from the island but the Concordia struck a reef a scant 2,600 feet off shore. He claims the photo-op was ordered by Costa Cruises, the Concordia owners. Costa Cruises denies this but admits they had ordered similar deviations in the past.
Teenagers, listen up! The captain admits to driving distracted on a phone call when the Concordia struck a jagged rock 26 feet below the water line, ripping a gash more than half the length of a football field. The substructure flooded within minutes, submerging the ship’s generators and gigantic engines. Power and communications were lost almost immediately. The ship abruptly listed 20 degrees, throwing people to their knees.
The Concordia carried 4,229 passengers and crew, almost twice as many as the Titanic. Chaos on the Concordia was profound. About 700 new passengers had no evacuation training, tilted decks made loading the lifeboats awkward and slow, the captain was nowhere to be found, and some of the crew sent passengers back to their cabins.
Captain Francesco Schettino claims he was frantically inspecting his listing ship when he slipped and slid down the hull, incredibly landing unharmed in one of the few lifeboats that did get away. He says he’s wrongfully being accused of the deaths of 32 passengers; in fact, his skillful steering after the impact saved thousands of lives that night. Prosecutors will determine in the next few weeks whether he will face charges that could lead to 20 years in prison
The Concordia salvage will be completed by June of this year. It is the largest salvage operation in maritime history costing an anticipated $400 million. Sensitive to one of Italy’s most scenic coastlines, they intend to patch the hole, fill the ship with air chambers and pump out the water. The plan is to float it off to an Italian shipyard where it will then be scrapped.
At least he wasn’t texting.