The wallowing Olympic Voyager

Here is a video, taken from a helicopter, of a cruise ship taking a beating from massive seas.

You look at this video and you think, Good God! What must it have been like to be inside that boat?

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this kind of thing anymore, but this being the web, you jolly well can find out what it was like to be inside that boat. Here’s a link to a Spanish news video about the experience: Inside The Rough Cruise Ship Video

I once saw a TV special on the disastrous Sydney-Hobart Race of 1998. This was a big regatta that sailed straight into the teeth of an enormous storm. Boats sank, people died, and since they were rich enough to own racing yachts, this story hit the news in a big way. The funny thing I noticed from the show was this: rough seas don’t look that rough from a hovering helicopter. There was plenty of video footage of visibly frightened people clinging to boats, and it just didn’t look that bad. But I know full well that if I were plunging to the bottom of every trough, sick with apprehension about the structural soundness of my ship (not to mention seasick), I would be just as scared.

That’s one reason I was fascinated by this cruise ship video. Once again, the seas don’t look so bad until you see the dramatic effect on the wallowing barge.

So what was the real story with the cruise ship? The ship was the Olympic Voyager, and the event was a Valentine’s Day storm in 2005 that knocked out her engines. What you’re watching is a large ship (though not big by modern cruise ship standards), designed to be fast, unable to make way in a massive swell. Without enough speed to give her steerage, she’s taking the seas in a particularly bad way. Here’s the full story from MSNBC: Once-hobbled Spanish cruise ship out of danger.

Web research has the ability to make a story pop out of the screen into three dimensions. Because you’re able to come at things from so many different angles, from inside and outside the boat and so on, you can develop a larger sense of the events that occurred. This story was hard to track down though, because this one video was so popular that it washed everything else out of the search results. It took a while to sift through the dozens of sites that simply reposted the video along with its minimal and somewhat incorrect text description. I was pleased, though, to eventually find this review from an earlier voyage:

Much of the time it was actually quite dangerous to try to walk anywhere on the ship, because the pitching and lurching of the ship was often violent. Day after day of staggering is not a pleasant experience. The fundamental problem seems to be that the ship simply cannot handle water that is rougher than a ripple.

Speedy though she is, my advice is to avoid the Olympic Voyager.

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