In his second and concluding post from Giglio Island, where Cruise Critic’s UK editor Adam Coulter was watching the raising of the Costa Concordia, he describes what it was like when the ship was finally pulled upright.
Yesterday I was woken at 4:11 a.m. by the sound of a ship’s horn. My first thought was: “Is that Concordia’s horn?”
Then I thought, no impossible, but why would they be sounding a ship’s horn at this hour, unless…?
I leapt out of bed, threw on some clothes and ran down to the harbor front. It was full of people (even at this ungodly hour), looking out toward where the wreck had been.
It was still pitch black, and although the arc lights were still exactly where they had been the night before, I couldn’t make out the ship. I looked again and thought the worst.
But a quick look around me, and I could tell this wasn’t a sad moment: People were joyful.
And then I looked again and could just make out the shape of the ship, lying perfectly upright though partially submerged, a little distance from where it had been just four hours before, when I went to bed. Retrospectively, I think a combination of sleep deprivation, the dark and the fact that my eyes had been searching for a shape that has been imprinted on the world’s collective memory for so long, meant I could not see where it was at first.
Giglio Harbor is lined with bars and restaurants. Every single one of them was full that morning, with people sitting at the tables and chairs outside, many who had been up all night. Engineers, salvage workers, locals, media, police, kids, adults. I wouldn’t say it was a party atmosphere, exactly, but there was a definite air of jubilation, with camera crews jostling for interviews with arriving salvage workers boating in from the wreck site to the dock.
Later, when the first streams of light appeared in the sky and the detail of the damage began to become clear, I walked down to the north end of the harbor, where most of the camera crews had set up, and I took some of the pictures you see here and on our website.
It was still early, 6 a.m., and it was relatively quiet compared with the day before, with just a handful of bleary-eyed presenters rushing down to make their first broadcast of the day.
The extent of the damage to the starboard side was revealed in full detail. Dirty and discolored, it had been crushed in and down from the force of the ship hitting the reef. I marveled at how the structure had stayed together (I found out later it looked a lot worse than it actually was, because the balconies – which were all crushed flat – gave the appearance that the side had caved in, when it had not).
The ship looked low in the water; just the top seven of the 13 decks were visible and the funnel had been removed to prevent it damaging the top of the ship. The Bridge, where this whole sorry tale began, was just inches from the water level.
It was a somber sight.
I walked slowly back the way I had come and saw a vaguely familiar figure standing at the sea wall. I tried to place his face but couldn’t. I paused beside him and stole a surreptitious look at his name tag (everyone on the island – including residents – were wearing them).
I recognized him from the hundreds of TV appearances he had made right after the incident. It was Pier Luigi Foschi, the former chief executive of Costa Cruises.
I introduced myself, and although he was clearly having a moment of reflection, he didn’t seem to mind my presence. I said what an extraordinary job the engineers and salvage workers had done, what a feat it was.
He turned to me and said: “It’s unthinkable that this should have happened in the first place, but it’s unbelievable that they have achieved the impossible.”
And then, turning back to look at the ship, he said, almost to himself: “She’s back up, she’s back up…”
His last words trailed off, and I could see his eyes had filled with tears.
I left him to his thoughts, and walked back to the harborfront where the celebrations continued.
It had been an extraordinary few days. Ones I will never forget.
Read Part 1 of Adam’s blog.