You do not need to be a large commercial ship to be part of AMVER. Many smaller vessels like Concordia and the Sea Education Association’s SSV Corwith Cramer and SSV Robert C. Seamans participate too. If you own or operate a commericial vessel, do yourself and the entire maritime community a favor and sign up today!
This morning I had the good fortune to speak with Ben Strong from the US Coast Guard’s AMVER unit. (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System) AMVER is a voluntary system where commercial ships report their positions so that they can assist in at sea rescues.
Let’s face it, the oceans are vast and boats, no matter how big, are still small. If something happens out there and you need some help, there’s a good chance that the first responder will be a commercial ship. An added benefit of participating in the system is that regular position reporting will help you to be found if you encounter some kind of catastrophic event at sea.
The following message appeared this evening on the Class Afloat website:
Our Students Teachers and Professional Mariners mustered together this morning for their final colors led by the Captain of the Concordia.
The whole crew arrived at the hotel last night. According to an Alumni parent who was on scene for the evening our students were bedraggled but happy and full of energy. First step off the bus was into the dining hall where all were well fed. From there, they moved into a large conference room that had been set up with chairs and tables. Small groups were then taken to a side room where they were first screened and quickly assessed for medical checkups and/or a chat with a trained psychologist. There were two doctors and two psychologists who attended to all.
Boxes of clothes were brought in by the Embassy that had been contributed by the Brazilian Navy and today, through the ship’s agent, additional clothes will be distributed for the trip home.
The story that is slowly emerging from our students and professional staff is of the heroic communal effort that saved all aboard. Students, well drilled in the emergency procedures of the vessel, helped one another and the professional crew in the extraordinary evacuation. That all were saved is a testament to the training, equipment and professionalism of our shipboard community.
Arrival of the Canadian contingent of the crew cannot yet be confirmed by our office. Class Afloat understands the need of the press to continue to tell this story; however, it should be clear to all concerned that when the children arrive, that reuniting with their parents must be first and foremost.
2:30 p.m. – A distress signal goes out from the Concordia
9:00 p.m. – Brazilian navy receives alert. Navy officials spend 18 hours confirming what ship sent the signal, whose flag it was under. Confirms location, attempts radio contact with the Concordia. Contacts the school — is informed the last contact with the ship did not indicate any problem.
Thursday, Feb. 18
2:30 p.m. – Brazilian navy asks air force to do a flyover of the area and alerts merchant ships in the region. Stormy seas prevail.
5:00 p.m. – Brazilian air force spots lifeboats.
9:00 p.m. – Merchant ships Crystal Pioneer and Hokuetsu Delight told to go to location. Stormy seas, bad weather continue.
Friday, Feb. 19
4:00 a.m. – Crystal Pioneer spots lifeboats — due to darkness and high seas, waits to pluck the survivors to safety.
7:00 a.m. – The relieved passengers start boarding the Crystal Pioneer and Hokuetsu Delight.
9:00 a.m. – Last lifeboat located, passengers transferred to Hokuetsu Delight.
Saturday . Feb. 20 – All 64 students, teachers and crew arrive safely in Rio de Janeiro
On May 14, 1986, the topsail schoonerPride of Baltimore also sailed into a microburst and sank. Tragically, she lost 4 souls. Next time you are in Baltimore you can visit the monument honoring the lives of Captain Armin Elsaesser 42; Engineer Vincent Lazarro, 27; Carpenter Barry Duckworth, 29 and Seaman Nina Schack, 23.
To get an idea of what might have been going through the minds of the Concordia sail trainees, watch this video of the Pride of Baltimore survivors telling their harrowing sea stories. The video quality is poor but it’s really the audio that’s more important.
Captain William Curry of the high school tall ship Concordia that sank on Wednesday reports that his ship was a victim of a weather phenomenon called a microburst. However, Concordia is not the first victim of this type of extreme weather.
On May 2, 1961, the brigantineAlbatross also encountered a microburst 125 nautical miles of the Dry Tortugas and sank almost instantly taking 7 souls including 5 high school students. In 1996 Jeff Bridges starred in the Ridley Scott movie White Squall which is a fictionalized account of the Albatross story.
Here’s a video of Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Dan Gudgel, National Weather Service, Hanford, CA describing a microburst and it’s cause and effect. Make sure you stick with the video to the very end in order to see the incredible power and speed of these types of weather events.
Last year the Dallas Cowboys training facility was the victim of a microburst and this weather report video does also does a great job in explaining how microbursts occur.
Here’s raw video of the incident as it unfolds.
It’s not hard to imagine how a sudden powerful weather event like this could have caused a stout sailing ship like Concordia to capsize. It’s really a miracle that this didn’t happen in the middle of the night when students would not have been in above deck classes with easier and quicker access to escape the sinking ship.
I will continue to update this post with articles about the sinking of the Concordia. There’s a lot of duplicate content out there so I’ll do my best to curate the best, most relevant. While I am a huge fan of the Class Afloat program you may see posts with different opinions since I think examining this incident from different perspectives can be valuable and instructive. Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment below.
Updated Feb. 19, 2010 – 10:00 PM EST There is still so little information available about what happened but the following story at least let’s us know that some communication has occurred with the captains of both the Concordia and the rescuing ship and that there are no serious injuries. The rest at this point is all speculation and conjecture. One thing that we do know for sure is that going to sea has always been and will always be fraught with risk and that’s one of the reasons why the experience can be so powerful.
I’ve posted aboutConcordia’s amazing program in the past and know the former owner and several of the captains and crew from my American Sail Training Association days. If you are not familiar with the Concordia or Class Afloat, please take a few minutes to watch this video about their amazing life forming programs for young students.
During a time when so many sail training vessels and tall ships are experiencing challenges, this is even more sad news. Concordia was a wonderful ship that did great work over the years and she will be sorely missed.