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Journey To CONCORDIA

Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 by

While in Tuscany on a recent assignment, Peter Knego embarked on a special Trek to the island of Giglio, where efforts were well underway to remove the wreck of the ill-fated COSTA CONCORDIA.

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I owe this entire experience to my dear friend and traveling companion Rob Di Stefano for not only helping arrange a rather complicated but seamless itinerary but for also being able to drive a manual car through the Italian countryside.

There are certain things one cannot postpone, especially in the ephemeral world of ships. My mantra has always been “ships first, sights later”, even when visiting regions such as Greece, the Ukraine, China and the Philippines for the first time. In this latest instance, that mission has evolved to include a shipwreck of such renown that it almost sent the cruise industry into a downward spiral when it occurred some ten months ago off the otherwise tranquil coast of Tuscany.

A12 northbound from Civitavecchia.

Completing a round trip to the island of Giglio from the Rome-adjacent port of Civitavecchia in one day is a non-starter without a rental car (especially on a Sunday when truncated train, bus and ferry schedules do not jibe). With a little luck and a great deal of advance planning, after disembarking Windstar Cruises WIND STAR, we were on our way up Italy’s Tyrrhenian coast. Were it not for the road signage and the stone-walled citadels on “yonder hills”, I could have easily convinced myself we were on California’s Highway 101.

A dash of cheese in Orbetello.

With all the roadside trattorias closed, we made good use of a wedge of Reggiano Parmesan purchased earlier in the week.

Santo Stefano first look.

We turned off at the town of Orbetello and drove westward along a causeway and a rocky promontory until the marina of Santo Stefano appeared. Tantalizingly, passengers were milling about on a small ferry, even though several on-line searches did not show any midday departures. By the time we were able to secure a parking place, the ferry was well on her way to our anticipated destination, Isola del Giglio. Fortunately, that was not the only departure not featured on the on-line schedule and we booked passage on the next sailing at 3:45. This would actually pan out better than our original plans, which were to take the scheduled ferry over at 4:30 and back without going ashore, so now we would have almost an hour to spend on the island.

Stefano pastels.

A surprisingly lackluster lunch at a local pizzeria was followed by a quick self-guided tour through Santo Stefano’s indifferent streets to the closed fortress atop the hill.

Blur your eyes and it’s just like Portofino — sort of.

While the warm charm of Italian hamlets such as Santa Margherita, Trieste, Genoa and even Messina was missing, Santo Stefano was certainly not devoid of visual appeal.

MV ISOLA DEL GIGLIO.

We were back in the marina in time to witness the 1972-built, 1,273-gross ton ferry ISOLA DEL GIGLIO return. Her profile was familiar and it was only after doing a quick check on Fakta Om Fartyg that I realized she was one of those sleek, dark-hulled ferries built to traverse the Norwegian fjords.

Embarking MV ISOLA DEL GIGLIO.

On deck: MV ISOLA DEL GIGLIO.

Before long, we were clambering on board the ex STAVANGER and settling in a bench on starboard Bridge Deck.

Funnel clouds.

After a day of scorching sun, thick humidity and biting flies, it was a great relief to be in the soothing breeze created by the little ISLOA DEL GIGLIO as she sped into a ten-or-so-mile-wide patch of Tyrrhenia between Santo Stefano and the ship’s namesake island. At one point, a mysterious woman with raven hair asked to be photographed with Santo Stefano in the background. Rob later told me that he saw her asking other passengers to do the same as the little ship chugged along.

COSTA CONCORDIA first look.

Initially, Isola Del Giglio was but but a graceful silhouette in the strong backlight of the afternoon sun but eventually, off the ISOLA DEL GIGLIO’s starboard wing, a white segment along the shore morphed into a dramatic and sobering sight.

Woeful bow.

Discordant flanks of CONCORDIA. Photo by Rob Di Stefano 2012.

As we grew nearer and the name on her bow and flanks could be read, we could hear the sounds of welders’ torches and clanking steel. The extended stabilizer and giant rock that was wedged in her keel was no longer visible and all of the windows and portholes on the ship’s port side had been sealed in metal plating.

COSTA CONCORDIA.

COSTA CONCORDIA — head on

Audible gasps resonated along the deck as fellow passengers pointed their cameras and shook their heads. Multi-lingual “How could this happen?”’s and “It’s unbelieveable!”’s were among the many things muttered as we maneuvered into otherwise beautiful, serene Giglio harbor.

Entering Giglio.

As we began to disembark, my eyes met the wide stare of the raven-haired woman, who turned back to the ship and said, “Bless the beautiful lady and those who perished”, then scurried off.  We later wondered if she might have known someone who was lost in the accident or if she, herself, might have been on the CONCORDIA’s last voyage.

Giglio alleyway.

Once herded ashore, we had little time to reach the hill overlooking the wreck. It was so tempting to stop for a coffee and admire the tranquil beauty of Giglio but the last ferry back to Santo Stefano would be leaving in a mere hour. We hurtled up streets that seemed too steep for cars to navigate, to a main road that circled the promontory above the CONCORDIA.

Giglio chicken coop. Photo by Rob Di Stefano 2012.

A small gathering of local women were picnicking on the knoll and an elderly gentleman who apparently lived on the outcrop welcomed us to take photos of the ship. In the midst of clucking chickens, barking dogs and curious cats, we dragged out our cameras and clicked away.

CONCORDIA overview.

Below, the once proud and heralded COSTA CONCORDIA was now a disgraced monument to hubris and tragedy.

Cranes and barges.

COSTA CONCORDIA aft section.

COSTA CONCORDIA bow.

There was no time to reflect upon what unfolded in that rocky bay:  the piles of deck chairs lashed to the ship’s side; the half-cut funnel; the missing mast and the titanic machinery operated by an army of workers to secure and ultimately right (both metaphorically and literally) the wreck.

ISOLA DEL GIGLIO exiting Isola del Giglio.

Another barge awaits.

Ferry encounter:  Toremar versus Maregiglio.

Beyond the CONCORDIA, we could see the mainland, another large crane complex outside of the harbor and the approaching Toremar ferry GIUSEPPE RUM, which we would have to catch in a mere thirty minutes.

COSTA CONCORDIA from Giglio. Photo by Rob Di Stefano 2012.

Irony in Giglio.

On the edge of Giglio.

We scrambled back down the mountain, past those stucco residences and the lovely little marina where a cafe called Doria bore the name of another proud Italian ship that capsized.

CONCORDIA in the dusk.

The sound of workers and machinery grew louder once again as the departing GIUSEPPE RUM backed past the now-brightly-lit behemoth. As the sun set behind Giglio, my cameras remained fixed on the COSTA CONCORDIA. By this time next year, unless something goes awry with her complicated salvage, she will be nothing more than a stain on the rocks.

A wake for CONCORDIA.

Maybe one day, her many secrets will come to light.

End Of COSTA CONCORDIA Trek

Special thanks: Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano

For an earlier account with images of the ship prior to the salvage efforts, please see Mike Tattoli’s
Capturing COSTA CONCORDIA report from June of 2012.

21 Responses to Journey To CONCORDIA

  1. Martin Cox

    October 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Peter, I am so glad you were able to make this side trip to Giglio, thanks for your excellent report and pictures capturing the shock and strangeness of this tragic contemporary wreck.

    I had visited Giglio many years ago and never imagine it would be thrust in to the media spot light.

    Well done for going the extra miles you do!

    -Martin

  2. Kalle Id

    October 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    An extremely interesting read Peter. Yours always are, but this had a particular poignance. Also fun to notice I’m not the only one who ends up checking just about everything on Fakta om Fartyg…

  3. Michael Bennett

    October 23, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Moving and beautifully written and photographed

  4. Kenneth Eden

    October 24, 2012 at 5:07 am

    Peter

    The photo, COSTA CONCORDIA, first look is a chiller, to be sure. I can not imagine what it must be like for the residents of Giglio to endure this vision day in and day out. I would think that you just get used to it, but, it would be trying.

    You have captured the very essence of the tragedy, in all of its raw and passioned state, unlike TV specials, that stress “sensationalism” and hysteria.

    Mere words can not compete with your photo essay, which brings to mind, “it is what it is”, and justly so.

  5. AJ

    October 24, 2012 at 9:13 am

    hmmm…..I shall be passing her on December 15 aboard her sister, Pacifica.

    It will be my first time on one of these ships (I am a small ship person through and through and not a fan of the oversized Farcus Fantasies, but am willing to spend a week on board to see if ships this big actually tempt me or not).

    It will be many months before we know they real “why”, “how”, “wherefore” and “therefore” of what happened…personally I hate the way it has been (mis)handled in the media, but that is what sells newsprint, sadly.

    I have my own suspicions about Concordia…and ships like her…along with the “human element” which I shall not go into here.

    When I am aboard Pacifica I shall be meeting up with several crew from Concordia who were aboard that night….I met up with many on my last cruise aboard Classica earlier this year. One crewmember living in Barcelona and I will be spending the day catching up when Pacifica is in the city.

    Some great images of what is almost a sleeping beauty…I say almost cos her demise was anything but beautiful.

    I just hope that the many mistakes made…both ship & human…will not be forgotten…not ever….

  6. James E. Therrault

    October 24, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for the update… Current progress reports regarding the Costa Concordia are simply hard to come by.

    Just having a few hours in a single location can be very productive. In 1990, I spent a very few hours on Mauritius which in turn found me spending a week there a few months later.

    Excellent reporting as usual!

  7. Hank

    October 24, 2012 at 9:59 am

    It is still just amazing how quickly the seas can take a toll on a ship that is aground. Kind of like the ex AMERICA or a capsized NORMANDIE…Only not quite as stunning. I will admit that while this ship has quite a few identical twins (clone mode), The CONCORDIA isn’t all that bad in terms of looks. It certainly isn’t the most graceful, but it certainly looks better than the NORWEGIAN EPIC. I also like it better than most modern Princess Cruises ships. Although it is great that Princess kept some curves in her design.

  8. Freddie Melvin

    October 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Peter I have always loved your Alang reports but your reports on the Beautiful Lady and the Concordia are the best ever. These two ships are so under reported. I would hope that you will be able to see what condition the QE2 is in. I know if you can you will. Once again great work!!

  9. Peter Knego

    October 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks, everyone, for the very kind comments. I think the subject is particularly poignant. I feel fortunate to have been able to cover so many interesting stories over the decades and it always is gratifying when people offer their encouragement and support. Again, thank you. Peter

  10. Hank

    October 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Great job, Peter!

  11. Glenn L.

    October 25, 2012 at 5:18 am

    Nice report, thanks Peter. It will be a big event when she is finally righted and being towed away, much like Normandie. It was very sad to hear that the ship was looted, as if the survivors did not have enough of an ordeal. very sad.

  12. Ron MacLuckie

    October 25, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Kudos to you, Mr. Knego. I am happy you do not have a “real job” but instead, have turned your passion for the ships into a service that may enjoy , look forward to and find helpful in many arenas.
    Your visit and photographic log will be interesting to look back on as the salvage work continues to the finish of the job and the Costa Concordia.

  13. Yacht Crew Luxembourg

    October 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Great job Peter!

    Thanks for your reports.
    Keep it up and maritime greetings from

    Yacht Crew Luxembourg

  14. bobwilson1977

    October 26, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Sort of interesting to see that it appears that some of the Concordia’s deck lights are actually on. Guess if they were handy, they could use them to work by.

  15. Mauretania1907

    October 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Many thanks for your insightful report. Although I am so far away from the scene of this tragedy, I am interested in the salvage efforts.

  16. Joseph Sturges

    November 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Very nice job, Peter. Great photographs.

    They say you can’t fix stupid. At night, what seasoned seaman in his right mind would have done what Concordia’s Captain did? Jeopardizing his ship and his first responsibility, his passengers, his poor judgment stands as a monument to what should not be done.
    The fact that people died due to his lack of appropriate conduct makes this a tragedy to eclipse the ANDREA DORIA. Perhaps sitting on the beach for several years might make him a bit more responsible.

    Joe S.

    PS- Brings back memories of some of the very close high speed passes in mid ocean carried out by AUGUSTUS and GUILIO CESARE, CRISTOFORO COLOMBO and LEONARDO DA VINCI. Swagger and showing off are no substitutes for sane, sensible seamanship.

  17. nuno ribeiro

    November 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    So sad to watch… :-(

    Beatifull island.

  18. AJ

    November 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    @Joseph Sturges

    Like I already said above, there is way more than just a human element in this accident…the media love to “blame the bloke at the controls” cos its easy to do. It has been that way in the airline industry for decades…”always the pilot’s fault” until the black boxes are decoded & listened to and the lump of mechanised metal has been given a thorough post mortem, and then its a shopping list of procedures, mechanical/technological defects and other assorted problems that share the blame in often equal measures.

    As someone who studies aircrashes and has done for well over 30 years, this accident is very similar in many ways….mishandled by pretty much everyone, a ship with design flaws, a non-existant chain of command, several vitally important equipment failures long before the accident that were due to be fixed had the ship made it to Savona that night….

    There was an obvious lack of bridge resource management that must never be repeated. The vitally important items that were unserviceable on that ship should have had it impounded weeks beforehand. Items commonly seen on modern cruise ships that were adapted from equipment seen in buildings such as glass elevators that offer no-where to escape to in the event of a full listing event, amongst other design issues that MUST be carefully looked into and changed before another accident like this happens.

    Yes mistakes were made on the bridge that night, but those mistakes pale against the ship’s own participation in what happened and the corporate complacency that still exists in the cruise industry.

    Another massive mistake was made after the accident and continues to be made…media (mis)handling. The airline industry learned a lesson in this a decade or so ago…time that the cruise industry realised that they need someone with media experience to deal with media questions…”NO COMMENT” instead of having reams statements, often made in the heat of the moment that add confusion, anger and upset. That Italian coast guard officer should never have spoken like he did….he may hate Schettino’s guts but he should never have said it, especially not to the media. He was in no position to judge anyone so soon after the events of that night and he should have kept his personal thoughts to himself rather than puffing his chest out to any reporter that he could find.

    The cruise industry has alot to learn from this…but only if they want to learn from it…and right now, I am not entirely convinced that they are and the noises being made by them could well end up being mere lip service…and if that is the case, then 32 people died in vain.

  19. Kenneth Eden

    November 10, 2012 at 6:34 am

    there is a dedicated we site for the CONCORDIA

    http://www.parbucklingproject.com

  20. Patrick Le Bihan

    November 12, 2012 at 7:04 am

    It seems you are not informed about the Ferry NAPOLEON BONAPARTE built in 1996 by Alstom .Ship is sunk in Marseille harbour after a 150Km/H mistral the 27 October 2012 at 02h00 am
    Ship in bad situation
    Patrick LB

  21. thuran fonseca

    December 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    i was on this ship when it sank

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