Details of the now widely reported Costa Concordia tragedy are still being revealed. What is known is that the vessel hit a submerged rock and began taking on water. Five are known to be dead. Many others were injured.
Less clear is who was at fault. Costa Concordia’s captain maintains that the rock was not marked on nautical charts.
Costa’s official statement, by contrast, acknowledges that “there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship’s master, Captain Francesco Schettino . . . The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and in handling the emergency the captain appears not to have followed standard Costa procedures.”
Others say that shipping rules need revision, suggesting that captains have too much leeway in deciding their routes (for more on a European Union project designed to impose stricter regulations, read about the Mona Lisa project, and if you’re a non-Swedish speaker curious to learn even more, use Google Translate to read an article about the Swedish Maritime Administration’s project in the Svenska Dagbladet).
Certainly, we’ll know more in the coming days and weeks.
For now, a relevant question for future cruisers (and all travelers): What is your tolerance for risk?
My own tolerance is quite high. When I was 20, I straddled the seat of a bicycle and began pedaling across America. I knew the risks of riding largely unprotected on the road, but I reasoned that I would rather spend my life living instead of simply existing. That attitude has served me well for more than three decades now.
And besides, even a cautious life is a risky one. Knowingly or not, we take chances every day. In one of my favorite books, A Short History of Nearly Everything, author Bill Bryson writes: “If this book has a lesson, it is that we are awfully lucky to be here, and by ‘we’ I mean every living thing. To attain any kind of life in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement.”
When you begin your day with the notion that we are indeed lucky to be here at all, life takes on new dimensions — and is filled with new possibilities. We are entitled to nothing — not even one day of living. Being lucky liberates us to live, and of course to travel.
On a more practical level, cruising is still safe, but like everything in life, seas and ships sometimes meet with misfortune.
I met a gentler misfortune in the south of France last Sunday when my rental car was broken into.
Stolen: my passport, a wallet with a fair amount of cash, credit cards — and more. Hard to believe when I walked away from the car in the charming little village of Le Castellet that someone would smash the window and leave with a backpack that should have been on my back. I’ll never be so naive again. Innocence lost, yes. My desire to travel, no.
We go on with our lives or we withdraw into our protective shells. Life is fraught with dangers.
I don’t know about you, but I choose to live my life, despite the dangers, consequences and risks. In closing, I leave you with a quote that inspired me when I gathered the courage to leave home on that bicycle more than 30 years ago. It still inspires me today.
I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time. — Jack London