Have you ever been shipwrecked? Neither have I. It can’t be much fun, I’m sure you’ll agree.
But in the accidental convergence of the cruise liner Costa Concordia with some rocks off an Italian island called Giglio (no giggling, please) an event of high tragedy seems to be laced with moments of low comedy.
Early newspaper photographs and internet clips revealed grim scenes of panicked passengers in the ship’s darkened interior that might have come from James Cameron’s chilling cinematic depiction of the last hour of the Titanic. But now the papers are also reporting bizarre incidents that more resemble scenes from a Buster Keaton silent classic.
The captain, defending himself against accusations that he abandoned his ship while hundreds of passengers were still aboard, claims to have fallen, rather than jumped, into a lifeboat. Some mariner! Some fibber, more like it.
Today emerges an even stranger story: the ship’s cook reports that the captain ordered dinner ONE HOUR after the ship hit the rocks. The response of the acutely observant cook is priceless: “We wondered what was going on. The stuff in the kitchen was falling off shelves and we realized how grave the situation was.” Now, the skipper ordering a meal as his ship foundered might be explained as a ploy to reassure the kitchen help that all was well. But if the request comes when stuff is falling off shelves, that’s something that might indeed start a man wondering.
Meanwhile, upstairs, a female crew member is telling passengers milling about in their life vests that the vessel has merely suffered an electrical fault. Presumably a few of them were moved to point out to the lady that electrical faults don’t usually bring a ship to a juddering halt that scatters crockery all over the dining room floor. Her fabricated diagnosis had also been sent in a signal to an evidently bemused Italian coast guard. The bemusement was understandable, as the police had already reported that a dining passenger had telephoned to say that, at the moment of impact, “everything fell on his head”.
The Italian authorities are now anxious to interview an attractive blonde Moldovan ballet dancer, who earlier in the evening was seen drinking and dining with the captain (evidently a man with a hearty appetite) who then took her for a tour of the bridge, which is apparently where she was when the ship ran aground.
No Mediterranean cruise for us this year, thank you.