Off the fence
A CAPTAIN abandoning his ship. It is a thought that flouts every notion of the honourable codes and protocols that for hundreds of years have ruled our great seas and oceans.
Fine if the ship is about to sink and the captain is the last person aboard. But we all know now that Francesco Schettino left many passengers aboard the luxury vessel, the Costa Concordia, after it went aground off the coast of Tuscany on Friday, January 13 last. There are also serious questions over his steering of the ship too close to the shore.
Can you imagine the excitement, the air of anticipation, when just hours earlier passengers from all over Europe and the world boarded this lavish floating hotel. Young honeymoon couples, elderly sweethearts, groups of friends and families, all hauling cases packed full with glad rags, jewellery, swimsuits, perfumes, books, laptops.
For some, I am sure, it was about to be the holiday of a lifetime. This cruise would bring them on an odyssey through the Mediterranean, from the Italian ports of Civitaveechia, to Savona, Cagliari to Sicily’s Palermo and then on to Barcelona and Mallorca in Spain.
Little did they realise, as they were shown to their cabins, that just hours later and a short 80km into their voyage, the ship would be holed with a 160ft gash and listing dangerously into the sea.
There were more than 4,000 passengers and crew on the six-storeyed, 950ft long luxury liner, with many of them in evening dress about to indulge in a sumptuous dinner, when the Costa Concordia hit a reef close to the island of Giglio.
Lucky – not for some victims and their families though – there were so few fatalities, in the circumstance. Imagine the breadth of the human tragedy if the seas were stormy or the accident occurred farther out from the coast.
The potential enormity of this accident is made even more poignant by the fact that the centenary anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaches.
INDEED, all last week we were confronted by the elemental power of the ocean as a small fishing community in west Cork fought swells and high winds in a bid to recover the lost skipper and crew of the Tit Bonhomme.
Again there were close to the shore when tragedy struck at Adam’s Island at the mouth of Glandore Harbour.
Technology was still quite simple when the Titanic was struck by an iceberg one hundred years ago. In 1927, when, on one October night 45 fishermen from Cleggan to the Mullet peninsula were victims of a sudden storm, shipping forecasts were only heard by those privileged few who owned radios.
In the interim meteorological services have become very sophisticated, as has GPS and radar navigational equipment. But clearly, while man has become more equipped to challenge the ocean, its venomous and reckless powers have not diminished.