When the cruise ship Costa Concordia so spectacularly ran aground and capsized off the coast of Italy in January 2012, it seemed baffling and tragic that 32 people died when the ship was within eyesight of a popular tourist beach. But as you learn more about the scope and size of this massive disaster, it is a minor miracle that more people didn’t die. The length of three football fields, the Costa Concordia was three times the size of the most famous shipwreck of all, the Titanic, and, with passengers and crew, could hold almost 5,000 humans. Crazy.
But after the last victims were accounted for, and after the TV crews left, there was still this massive shipwreck that itself was a recipe for disaster. NOVA: Sunken Ship Rescue chronicles the salvage operation, which was a race against time. With the threat of winter storms, the ship (which was precariously perched across an underwater cliff) was just a good jostle away from sliding off the rocks, breaking in two, and causing a spill of not only hazardous materials, but of a ship full of furniture, plates, clothing, cleaning materials, etc.
To “rescue” the ship, aka upright the wreck and hopefully tow it away in one piece for salvaging, required an astonishingly impressive feat of engineering. This one-hour special follows the over two-year process where a team of over 500 divers and engineers as the painstakingly create a design of pulleys and floats and cranes and cranks in order to oh-so-slowly move the ship into an upright position. Using the raising of one of the sunken battleships in Pearl Harbor during World War II, the engineering team create an extremely sensitive system that would not only keep the ship intact, but would not harm the very delicate ecosystem of the sea floor where it rested.
All in all, the salvage cost of $1.2 billion not only cost more than the building of the ship itself, but it cost one more life. One of the salvage divers died in the operation. That death, and the deaths of the passengers of the Costa Concordia, is the sobering reminder what caused this amazing, yet unasked-for engineering feat to occur in the first place.