It’s been slightly over one hundred years since the R.M.S. Titanic tore a gash in her hull by hitting an iceberg in the cold North Atlantic, sank in a matter of hours, and went to a watery grave, taking 1,514 souls along for the ride. (Titanic sank on April 15 1912, and there is something bizarre about the ship going down on income tax day, but I haven’t figured out just what that is yet.) I’m morbidly aware of the anniversary of this event for two reasons. One, as an e-book author, I’m always looking at what’s in the top 100 list at the Kindle store, and this month, there are two or three Titanic-related e-books that are doing well on the charts. The other reason is that the circumstances described in my own maritime disaster book are strangely familiar, even if they did occur nearly a hundred years after the Titanic went under. As my book “Reckless Abandon: The Costa Concordia Disaster” describes, here’s the scenario: “Large ship strikes large sharp object, tears hole in hull, sinks.”
So at the risk of sounding boringly repetitive, in a hundred years, just what have we learned? I’m hoping the answer to that question is ‘we’ve learned something.’ Titanic taught us that ships needed sufficient lifeboats to hold all the passengers on board (well, D’UH…). Now, our modern ships have so many lifeboats that there’s space in one for a ship’s captain to accidentally fall into a lifeboat ahead of a few hundred of the passengers. (Yes, cheap shot at Costa Concordia's Captain Coward, but hey, I couldn’t resist.) And with all our increasingly geeky technology which I love, I’m sure we’ve learned from the Costa Concordia tragedy as well. I suspect all the big cruise lines have learned to program the following subroutine somewhere in the headquarters’ mainframe (you could write this one in Visual Basic if you were so inclined)-
ship’s computers send signal that [AUTOPILOT = DISENGAGED]
ship is anywhere near land THEN
CALL SHIPS BRIDGE ON CELLULAR
ASK “WHAT THE !##$>>!?!#$! ARE YOU DOING???