When A Cruise Ship Crashes, How Much Does Cleanup Cost?

European Commission DG ECHO, Flickr

When a crash or accident happens, there are the immediate, often horrendous, effects, like death. But in the face of destruction, there are the long term effects that many of us never give a second thought to. Like the removal of wreckage.

Such is the case with Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Italy in early 2012, killing 32 people. Since then, the boat has remained grounded, partially submerged in the waters near the Tuscan island of Giglio, and a constant visual reminder of the travel tragedy. Certainly not “out of sight, out of mind.”

But next month, the boat will rise from the seas, to remove the wreckage and start the restoration process of the surrounding waters.

At 114,500 tons, removing the Concordia is no small feat, and will require cables attached to hydraulic pumps that will help lift the wreckage from the seabed and onto an underwater platform. From there, repairs will be made to the submerged sized, and eventually giant steel boxes on the sides of the ship will be pumped full of air, in theory floating the top to the top of the water. A detailed example of how all of this works can be found on the restoration project’s website.

Overall the salvage work is coming in at $400 million, which some might say is a small price to pay for the horror and pain caused by the accident.

Racing Boats Made From Beer Cans At Australia’s ‘Top End’

Darwin's Beer Can Regatta raises funds for the Lions Club
Kraig Becker

Tucked away in a remote corner of Australia’s Northern Territory – known as the “Top End” in the local vernacular – sits the bustling and vibrant city of Darwin. A bit of a hidden gem for travelers, Darwin boasts warm, tropical weather all year long, not to mention some of the most spectacular sunsets that you could ever hope to see. Visitors can elect to relax on a tranquil beach, sail the open waters of the Timor Sea or venture deep into the vast and wild Outback in search of crocodiles and wallabies.

Deftly blending that famous Aussie-hospitality with a laid back vibe that is all its own, the city has a unique feel to it that is unlike any other you’ll find on the continent. While Darwin is a growing city that is likely to play a vital role in Australia’s economic future, its inhabitants certainly know how to leave work behind and have a good time. Nowhere is that more evident than the Darwin Lion’s Beer Can Regatta, an annual event that is equal parts beer bash and charity fund raiser, with a hefty dose of nautical mayhem mixed in for good measure.

As the name implies, this regatta features boats made almost entirely out of beer cans, which the owner and his friends have no doubt put a lot of effort into emptying. Those cans are then combined with a variety of other materials – such as PVC pipe, plastic water jugs and whatever other buoyant items they can find – to create a mostly-seaworthy vessel that is capable of competing against other entrants both in aesthetic value and speed out on the water.The actual regatta takes place on Darwin’s popular Mindil Beach on a Sunday in July. The most recent version was held a few weeks back and featured a variety of boat designs that both amused and impressed the substantial crowd that gathered to take in the festivities. Notable entrants included the “Crocket Ship,” which bore a more than passing resemblance to the crocodiles that are so common in the Northern Territory, and the “Grog Monsta,” a massive boat constructed from more than 50,000 cans that came equipped with a powerful water cannon designed to harass any would-be rivals.

The Beer Can Regatta is an all-day affair that includes a number of activities both on and off the water. For instance, kayak races allow youngsters in attendance to get in on the action while a spirited tug-of-war competition gives teams a chance to flex their muscles. A thong-throwing contest (the shoes not the underwear) is also quite popular with this year’s winner managing to toss his footwear an impressive 51 meters.

An entrant into Darwin's Beer Can Regatta
Kraig Becker

But the real highlight, of course, is the competition between the crews of the various beer can boats. Throughout the day they challenge one another to a variety of races in the waters just off Mindil Beach, earning prizes as they go. The enthusiastic crowd cheers them on while some of them get an early start on building their own boats for next year by emptying a few cans on their own.

Those preliminary races are just a warm-up for the real competition, however, as it is the Battle of Mindil that caps the competition and determines just who is the true champion of the event. During the battle the teams search for “booty” hidden under the water while using water cannons, flour-bombs and balloons filled with tomato juice to rain down destruction on their foes. The first few minutes of this final competition are pure chaos as the boats attack each other with little regard for finding the hidden treasure, which is simply represented by a plastic bottle tied to buoy hidden out on the course. In order to win the battle, the “booty” must be claimed and then taken to shore and delivered to the starters’ table. That gives other teams an opportunity to steal the prize for themselves, although, by that point of the competition some of the boats wouldn’t exactly be described as ship-shape any longer. Once the booty has been placed in the hands of the judges, the Battle of Mindil is over and the champion of the Beer Can Regatta is crowned.

While the event is a raucous affair that features plenty of eating and drinking, it is all done for a good cause. Sponsored by Darwin’s chapter of the Lions Club, the Beer Can Regatta is used to raise funds for a number of local causes. For 40 years the Regatta has brought the city together while managing to raise thousands of dollars that go directly back into community projects. The premise of racing boats made primarily from beer cans may sound silly, but it has some serious implications for the city.

The date for the 2014 Beer Can Regatta has yet to be decided but you can bet that next year’s competitors are already planning their entries. After all, if you want to launch a winning boat, you need to start emptying beer cans early.

Exploring Normandy, France: The Harbor Town Of Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue

The land of Calvados, Pont l’Evêque cheese and World War II history, Normandy, France, is one of those places that manages to pack almost everything into one region. Coastline, farmland, history, culture, food – in a trip to Normandy you can get it all.

Well known for some of its larger cities and the World War II beaches like Utah and Omaha, an often forgotten gem of Normandy is Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, a small fishing village just east of Cherbourg. A tiny village in the off-season, during the warmer months it explodes with French and Brits descending upon their vacation homes. Which makes late spring or early fall the perfect time to explore: the weather is nice and the streets are quiet.The first harbor to be freed by the Allied Forces in 1944, the village is also home to the La Hougue Fort and Tatihou, part of 12 groups of fortified buildings across France that have UNESCO World Heritage classification. Built by King Louis XIV’s famed engineer Sebastian le Prestre de Vauban, the Vauban fortifications include citadels, urban bastion walls and bastion towers. In Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue you’ll find one just east of town and the other on the island of Tatihou, both built after naval Battle of La Hougue saw twelve French ships sunk in the surrounding waters. Go to La Hougue Fort early in the morning and have the place to yourself, the waves crashing on the rock wall that surrounds the fort and, if you’re up for it, an excellent promenade.

In town you’ll find the infamous Maison Gosselin, a family-owned store that’s been in operation since 1889. It’s still set up like a classic store – you take your produce to be weighed before you pay for it – and it’s complete with regional products like Sel Guerande sea salt and plenty of options for Calvados. In fact the wine cellar almost seems bigger than the store itself. Foodie heaven.

From here you are a short drive to the WWII beaches, Utah Beach and the Utah Beach Museum being the closest. Omaha Beach, which houses the Normandy American Cemetery is just a little further east.

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When in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue:

Eat:

Le Pub le Creperie – Owned by an ex-Parisian named Philippe, this is the place to go for good crepes. You can also get the traditional serving of moules frites (mussels and fries). Be sure to accompany with the rose. 36 rue de Verrue.

Oysters – One out of four oysters in France come from Normandy, and Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue is a hub of oyster production. You can visit a local oyster production complete with a tasting at Ets Lejeune.

Shop:

Snag a classic striped mariniere French sailor shirt. Check out local boutique Cap Saint Vaast Marine (12 rue de Verrue) for the classic brand St. James. While you’re at it, stick to the maritime theme and pick up a few jars of flavored sea salts at Maison Gosselin.

Do:

Get up early and check out the La Hougue Fort; you’ll have it to yourself and the fortified walls are beautiful in the early morning light.

Go to Ile Tatihou. The island is limited to 500 people per day so make sure to book a time on the local ferry that shuttles visitors to the island.

Get outside. In the summer Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue is a hub of activity, from cycling to sailing.

Photo Of The Day: The Ganges River At Dawn

Sometimes, the most poignant travel imagery is captured before the destination has even woken up. Take, for instance, today’s Photo of the Day, taken by Flickr user Calvin Lee on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. Later in the day, the river will be filled with pilgrims engaging in religious rituals, tourists taking photos of them and the hustlers that inevitably follow the tourists. But in this image, taken at dawn, you can practically hear the silence.

Do you have any evocative travel photos of destinations at dawn? Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Amazing Photos Of Uzbekistan’s Desert Ship Graveyard

A relentless sun bakes down upon the desert sands near the Uzbekistan city of Mo’ynaq, sending shimmering waves of heat and swirling dust clouds floating skywards. As the scarce few travelers who have traversed this most barren and isolated of landscapes will tell you, it’s probably the last place on earth you’d expect to find a flotilla of abandoned ships. Except this isn’t a mirage – you’ve reached the Graveyard Ships of Mo’ynaq, a surreal collection of rusting fishing vessels in Uzbekistan, stranded nearly 100 miles from the nearest shoreline.

How on earth did this strange sight come to pass? The story starts back in the 1980s, when Mo’ynaq was a thriving fishing village situated on an inland lake connected to the Aral Sea. As the USSR diverted the water for use in irrigating massive cotton fields, the lake dried up, leaving Mo’ynaq’s boats high and dry (and the villagers with no way to make a living). The strange collection of boats left behind is both a ghostly beautiful scene and a chilling reminder of the damage too-easily wreaked by careless use of water.

Check out a gallery of photos from the graveyard below to take a closer look.

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[Photos by Flickr user Martijn.Munneke]