Tragedy At Sea

From [email protected]

Russian marine biologist was drowned, and an Italian badly hurt, when the research vessel on which they were working was rammed by a cargo ship and sank off the coast of Sicily on 3 August. The ship, Thetis, was measuring marine biomass around seven kilometres off the island’s coast when it was struck by the Heleni, a 55,000-tonne Panamanian container ship. It was morning, and the weather was foggy. “The scientists on board say it was like an apocalypse when the container ship came at them out of the blue,” says Ennio Marsella, head of the CNR Institute for Coastal Marine Environment in Naples, whose scientists were in charge of the project. The 200-tonne Italian vessel sank in minutes, giving no time to use lifeboats or life jackets. “It was clear we had no way out,” says Giusy Buscaino of the CNR, head of the mission, “so I ran towards the stern, then dived and swam away as fast as I could. It was so surreal to look back and find no noise, no vessel, the big cargo vessel going on like nothing happened.” The man killed, bioacoustics expert Petr Mikhejchik, 53, of the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fishery and Oceanography in Moscow, was probably trapped working in one of the labs below deck….Port authorities in Sicily had repeatedly warned the Heleni that there were other vessels nearby. The authorities had also issued an order on 24 July for all ships to keep at least 1,000 metres from the Thetis, which had just left port.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

2 Replies to “Tragedy At Sea”

  1. How sad! What type of penalty or fine, if any, will be put on the Panamanian vessel’s crew? It is tragedies like these that really hit hard!

  2. Unbelievable. Don’t let my wife see this, she is already worried about me everytime I go to sea enough as it is.

    Please keep on top of this, I’d like to know any developments about this case.

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