Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The $450 million dollar Costa Concordia cruise ship -- shown above on its side -- held over 4200 passengers.  The death toll from its capsizing stands at 11 and the number of missing passengers has been dropped to 21.

The sheer scale of the ship was not evident to me until I saw the satellite photo above.  Not only do you see how big the ship is, but also how close to the shore it came.  A lot will be said and written about this disaster in the years to come, but one thing that will resonate with people more than anything are the actions of its captain Francesco Schettino, who chose to save himself while his ship and his passengers scrambled to reach the shore.

"Is okay.  I explain you what happened!"
Extreme acts of cowardice are fascinating to me.  It's not unlike how some people deal with grief.  Some people bloom in those kinds of situations.  They instinctively set aside their own feelings to help others.  Some people, people like Captain Schettino, think only of their own feelings and well-being.

They're the kind of people that are no shows at funerals, or make them all about themselves, even when a dead relative lies cold in a box somewhere in the room.

I think maybe cappuccino.  Per tutti!
Can we really blame him for not wanting to go down with the ship?  No, not really.  No one WANTS to go down with the ship, but there are miles of road in between facing the briny deep and running away like a coward.  He could have stayed on the boat to help his passengers to safety.  I have to believe that seeing the captain of a sinking ship -- while you're still on it -- gives you some comfort and maybe, just maybe, it gives you the strength to help others as well.

"Bring us the one they call Capt. Schettino.."
Well, he didn't -- and there's not much else that can be said about it.  Investigations will be carried out, fingers will be pointed, people will be charged and jail sentences will be handed down.  In the end, Captain Schettino may see the inside of an Italian prison cell.

The question that keeps dogging me is -- will he comfort himself knowing that over 4,000 passengers survived or will he focus on the vital few that he turned his back on.  There is precedence for heroic action taking over basic human terror.  It does happen.

Schettino is a pariah and will remain so until the day he dies.  Whatever foolish decision making process that drove him to steer into a rock is probably the same one that forced him off the ship at the first sign of danger.

In Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a ship captain kills the bird of good omen - an albatross -- and dooms his ship and crew.  For his crime, he was forced to wear the dead bird around his neck.  These days, it represents a guilty burden from which we feel we may never be free.
"Instead of a cross, the albatross from around my neck was hung."

Yeah.  Pretty much sums it up.


Post a Comment