Eighteen months ago the massive Costa Concordia cruise liner crashed onto the tiny island of Giglio, 12 miles off Italy's western coast. Within minutes the 950-foot vessel tipped sideways, tossing passengers into the sea. In the end, 32 people died and 64 were seriously injured.
In the very near future, engineers will attempt to pull the battered ship upright and float it away. The hulk is snagged on jagged outcroppings of rock in 60 feet of water, groaning and swaying precariously with each incoming wave on the edge of a steep slope that drops 200 feet to the bottom of the sea. If the operation goes well, it will be the greatest success in the history of maritime salvage. But if a single thing goes wrong, the boat will tear apart or sink whole, seriously polluting the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals—the largest park of its kind in Europe—which surrounds Giglio. The waters are a haven for dolphins, porpoises, whale calves and scores of other sea creatures. Exquisite coral reefs line the seafloor immediately below the stranded, rusting ship.