Monday, April 02, 2012

Channel 4 Documentary Disasters at Sea: Why Ships Sink

I'm no great fan of disaster movies or disaster documentaries for that matter, I just don't find them compulsive viewing, putting them slightly above the "gore" genre. Although I must say in passing, I did make exception to that rule quite recently. I can always make exception to clips that show bullfighters getting theirs, in fact I quite enjoy seeing the horn go in, nothing makes my day quite like watching Bull 1, Bullfighter 0 type of contests. But I digress.

But having just watched Channel 4's Disasters at Sea: Why Ships Sink, I didn't experience the usual, 'I've had enough of this' half way through the thing. And I think at this point though, I might ask you to consider that one of the reasons, disaster at sea films don't do much for me, is that I have been around small boats, on and off, for most of my life, and until relatively recently, I was a live-aboard for ten years on a small yacht. I mention it, not because I want to be considered a salty dog and master mariner, but rather it is relative to what talking head, Dr Michael Bruno, had to say in parts of the documentary.

And staying with talking heads, I find it a pretty unique experience, that I had no truck with anything, any of the wonks featured in the film had to say. I mean in any documentary, there is normally some talking head that you are quietly saying to, oh do be quiet. But not so on this occasion, I found them all very wonky in the wonk department.

I am not going to mention all these fellows, just two in fact, the first being Titanic wonk, Paul Louden-Brown. Ismay and the Titanic by Paul Louden-Brown. That he had no delusions about the Titanic, it being just another ship, and not a very good one at that, was reason enough to listen to him, but he held in his hand an actual rivet from the Titanic. But it was on that very subject that I updated, in the comments section, this recent post of mine, Why Mega Cruise Ships Are Unsafe: Opinion.

Below then, to save you a journey, is what I had to say in the comments section.

Though I am only a "small boat" man as opposed to a "big ship" man, the physics are the same. Just as physics are the same on Mars as they are here on earth.

Physics is physics.

Then lo and behold, not a few days later, I happened upon this short article, which as you can see from the title, became an update must; but just so happened to include said rivets.
The role of physics in the sinking of the Titanic Direct link

Among the many other things Paul Louden-Brown had to say, but one hardly needed to be expert to utter what he did, was that when four or five thousand people are packed into a floating gin palace, poorly crewed at that, then when things do go wrong, you end up with, and I quote: a disaster of Titanic proportions. A situation, if not lost on the owners of such vessels, certainly seems to be lost on the passengers.

The poorly crewed aspect seems to be a common factor on all these cruise liners, brought home with a vengeance in the segment that deals with the 1991 sinking of the cruise ship, Oceanos. The most unlikely of heroes you are ever likely to meet, Moss Hills was a guitarist on the Oceanos. But for him, the death toll would have been enormous. As the ship was starting to founder, he went to the bridge to see what was happening, and it was deserted, the captain, officers and crew had all buggered orf, abandoning the ship without even putting out a mayday.

Enter now, talking head, Dr Michael Bruno. I will just deal with two of the points he brought up. Firstly what he had to say about captains playing fast and loose with the safety of his passengers, fully endorsing what I said when the details first started to emerge around the wrecking of the Costa Concordia, and one the reasons I made mention of Dr Bruno early in the post. Though must be said, he wasn't quite so colourful as I in his dialogue.

My comment 17 January 2012.
And the Skipper! fuck me! the arrogance of the man, to start dicking around with a ship that size with 4'000+ souls aboard for no good reason.

Fuck me! you couldn't make it up.

I survived my years at sea as a single-hander, due to one thing, being careful.
Thus covering two very salient points.

But in fairness to Captain Francesco Schettino, skipper of the Costa Concordia, Bruno went on to say, and I've no argument with what he did say, that once the enormity of what had happened hit Schettino, then he more than likely went into mental shutdown and was incapable of making any kind of rational decision. People say a rush of Adrenaline is oft a life-saver, but it is as nasty hormone, a normal rush can put the fear of God into people, what amount was coursing through Schettino that night and what its effects is anybody's guess.

All this said, I thought the documentary was a must watch, particularly if you are thinking of going on a cruise. Then afterwards, you won't be thinking about going on a cruise.

Link to 4OD here, which will be UK only. I shall embed the program below, but I have no way of knowing if you can watch it outside the UK, perhaps one of you might let me know.

Cancel the embedded, it's disabled. Youtube version here.

Disasters at Sea: Why Ships Sink examines the sinking of the Titanic and the ongoing issue of passenger safety at sea.

Nowadays, huge, extravagant cruise ships tower above the ocean surfaces, boasting state-of-the art shopping malls, cinemas and tennis courts, and offering arrays of bars and restaurants.

In spite of a century of advanced design and new technology and being built by the world's greatest expert marine engineers and scientists, lessons from the past are being constantly overlooked and these ships continue to sink.

The Titanic embarked on her maiden voyage in April 1912 and was the largest, heaviest, most expensive luxurious man-made moving object on the planet, built by the world's most skilled labour force.

Regardless of this, the ship sank after striking an iceberg, with catastrophic consequences, shocking the world and prompting a thorough investigation into the dangers at sea.

One hundred years later, the world received a frightening reminder of such deadly events when luxury cruise liner the Costa Concordia suffered a similar impact.

The ship was a palace of the ocean: it had a capacity of 3780 passengers and was 290m long and 31m high. Yet in January 2012, it capsized and sunk off the Tuscan coast in one of the worst disasters in the cruise industry's history.

Disaster at Sea: Why Ships Sink examines the complex web of design and construction weaknesses, navigational and human errors, and failures in evacuation plans, which contribute to the sinking of ships and the loss of passenger lives.

The documentary examines the science behind the individual tragedies of ships and features in-depth interviews with marine engineering experts to find out whether we can prevent another devastating disaster at sea.


Anonymous said...

YouTube video cannot be watched in Holland which is a pity because you said the doc is worth watching. On the other hand I'm not thing of going on a cruise so beforehand I won't be thinking about going on a cruise.

Even the ship laywoman (a new study) can see that a cruise ship is a block of flats. Well, I don't need to be a naval architect to appreciate that things look somewhat amiss. As the old saying goes, if it looks right, it is right.

A cruise holds no attraction for me, too many people, too little space. It also seems boring to me but that's personal and it seems that I'm entitled to my opinion.

Safe navigation!

Himself said...

A cruise holds no attraction for me, too many (cruise) people, too little space.