After hitting a reef off the Italian coast and running aground at Isolo del Giglio, Tuscany, on the night of January 13th, the luxury cruise vessel Costa Concordia partially sank, requiring the evacuation of the more than 4,000 people on board. At least thirty lives were lost and more than twice that number were injured.
Over the following days and weeks the news media swarmed the scene, delivering countless reports of the tragic incident. We were mesmerized by videos and still photos from every conceivable angle. The images came from shore, all kinds of boats and aircraft, and intrepid underwater photographers who accompanied rescuers into the bowels of the doomed vessel in their desperate searches for possible survivors, even as roughing seas threatened to pull the ruptured ship off its precarious perch into much deeper water, taking their very lives with it.
The coverage that followed included another set of images; photos of the Captain, accused of abandoning ship and arrested, family pictures of the dead, injured and missing, videos of crew members giving instructions to confused and frightened passengers. Later, we were relieved to see and hear the reports that so many had been accounted for and that crews were finally successful in removing the vast supply of fuel from the craft, averting yet another layer of environmental disaster.
But there is another image of the Concordia that haunts me, a black and white one taken through thin clouds from a satellite in orbit miles above the waves and rocky coastline. In it, the vessel seems completely out of place, almost alien, as if it had plunged through the atmosphere from some unknown source of origin. It lies on one side with its underbelly partially exposed, like the carcass of some unfortunate beast that wandered too far off track. The most striking detail is the heavy boom line stretching from the stern to the nearest points of land in a frantic attempt to secure the rocking hulk and prevent its escape to the ocean floor.
I find powerful symbolism in that picture, and especially in the need to tether what is man-made, what is part of the built environment, to that which is part of the natural world because there is so little to apparently connect them otherwise. Sometimes it’s as though gravity alone binds our enterprises, and the things we build, to that which is their very source.
If we forget, or worse yet…choose to ignore, the necessity of honoring our relationship with the world around us, piloting our ship with arrogance and carelessness, we do so at our own peril.
Posted: 6/21/2012 9:55:40 AM by
Mary Kestner | with 0 comments