September 16, 2013 4:16pm PT by Bryn Elise Sandberg
Discovery Channel to Air Special on Costa Concordia Recovery
Discovery Channel is returning to the scene of the Costa Concordia.
More than a year and a half after the cruise ship disaster, the Sept. 20 special will reveal the inside story of the largest refloat in history as told by the elite team of engineers tasked with the recovery project.
Discovery Channel will air Inside Raising Concordia, an hourlong special that explores the recovery of the sunken Italian cruise liner. The luxury ship ran aground off the shore of Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, on Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 of the more than 4,200 passengers onboard.
Inside Raising Concordia will premiere Friday, Sept. 20, at 10 p.m. and will be broadcast in more than 220 countries and territories worldwide. Produced for Discovery Channel by Darlow Smithson Productions, the special marks the latest documentary centered on the cruise ship catastrophe.
Mere days after the tragedy, Discovery announced that it would premiere a special on the disaster. In return, National Geographic enlisted the producers of British documentary Terror at Sea: The Sinking of the Concordia. That special ultimately became Nat Geo's Italian Cruise Ship Disaster: The Untold Stories and aired a week before Discovery's Feb. 19, 2012, effort Cruise Ship Disaster: Inside The Concordia.
Discovery's second chance at a Concordia-centered special seeks to capture the salvage operation around the downed ship. A team of engineers in charge of the recovery process will tell the inside story of what it was like to rotate the colossal ship into its upright position and subsequently remove it from the sea.
The special will take viewers through the "parbuckling" process in depth -- the technical term for pulling the ship upright. Weighing 114,00 tons, a ship of this size has never before been parbuckled.
"In terms of the size of the operation basically you could take all the other salvage operations I’ve been involved in and times them by 10," said Nick Sloane, the project’s senior salvage master. "It’s the biggest salvage operation by a long way."
Engineers prepped for the job by building massive barges complete with a hospital, gym and living quarters for the hundreds of divers and specialists involved in the project. All these considerations have made the recovery process an expensive one, costing close to $800 million so far.
While crews would normally break the ship apart onsite for a much cheaper recovery, blowing up the Costa Concordia would prove to be an environmental disaster as it's filled with toxic chemical substances that would leak into the water. It is also believed that two bodies are either trapped between the ship and the surrounding rocks or in the ship’s hollow hull.
In need of a more innovative solution, the Concordia owners opted to call in Titan Marine instead, a company best known for its radical salvage operations. The special will also include insiders’ accounts of what happened following one of the cruise line industry’s biggest calamities.
Discovery will also release never-before-seen time-lapse footage of the ship’s recovery online starting Sept. 18.
Howard Swartz will executive produce the special for Discovery.