A gigantic cruise liner with 4,234 passengers aboard ran aground near Isola del Giglio, a tiny island off the Tuscan coast, over the weekend. The Costa Concordia had sailed from Civitavecchia, heading on cruise of the western Mediterranean. As the cruise liner passed near Isola del Giglio on Friday evening, it hit an underwater rock formation that cut an enormous gash under its portside waterline. The ship quickly took on water and began to list, forcing its evacuation.
Survivors described their terror and the chaos aboard as passengers scrambled for safety. The BBC reports eyewitness accounts, many of which made comparisons to the Titanic disaster and to the 1997 film. Most of the passengers were successfully evacuated, but at least 11 people were killed and 24 passengers are still missing. A Korean couple and a crew member were rescued more than 24 hours after the ship ran aground.
The Costa Concordia was a modern luxury cruise liner built by the Italian firm Fincantieri for 450 million Euros and completed in 2006. Nautical experts and shipbuilders are astonished by the shipwreck, according to the BBC.
The commander of the Costa Concordia has been arrested over his handling of the ship and of the disaster. Repubblica reports on the charges against the commander and the accusations that he abandoned his ship while passengers were still aboard. Sylvia Poggioli reports from Italy for NPR on the accusations against the commander. An audio recording of the Livorno port authority ordering the commander back on board his ship is available on the Telegraph online. NPR provides additional details on the investigation. La Repubblica is now reporting that commander Schettino was reportedly drinking and dining with a former hostess who has tried to defend him in the press.
NPR reports on the possible approaches to salvaging the Costa Concordia once the rescue operation has concluded.
The wreck of the Costa Concordia raises a number of serious questions about the state of the Mediterranean and the disaster is already provoking heated debate in Italy. Massive luxury cruise liners have become increasingly present in the Mediterranean, as the tourism industry expands. The concept of the Grand tour of Italy as a crucial part of early modern European noblemen’s education has been extended to the entire Mediterranean and democratized for tourists of wealthy countries. Historians of the Mediterranean World will want to follow the developments in the Costa Concordia disaster and the debate about its significance for Mediterranean tourism, economic development, ecology, and society.