The Only Way to Survive a Sinking Ship – Let we start with a confession: I’m a scaredy-cat. Yep, whenever I travel by water, I tend to imagine various catastrophic scenarios until I get so edgy that my neighbors begin to worry about me. On the other hand, I realize that the odds of being trapped on a sinking ship nowadays are quite low, and there are things you can do to survive if the near-impossible does happen.
So, let’s say, you’re setting off on a long-awaited cruise, you’re on cloud nine, and nothing could be further from your mind than paying attention to the safety precautions. But however unwilling you might be to waste precious vacation time on listening to safety instructions, you should remember that chances are, it could save your life.
That’s why it’s crucial to take part in the first-day safety drill. During this drill, you’ll need to check if your personal floatation device is in your cabin. If not, immediately inform the crew. If a tragedy strikes, its absence may cost you your life. On top of that, try to remember where the lifeboat closest to your cabin is, and figure out how to get there if it’s dark or the weather is stormy.
Also, read the instructions for how to put on and use your floatation device. In short, get as much information on how to save yourself in case of an emergency as possible. Imagine that your journey is pleasant and uneventful, until one day – bam! – something goes terribly wrong, and your ship starts sinking! Oh no! Hopefully, it’ll never happen to you, but just in case, it’s vitally important to know how to react.
First, you’ll hear the evacuation signal: (This is the captain. Sorry to interrupt you. Just wanted to let you know that the ship is sinking, and you’re all on your own. Bye!) NO that’s not it. It’s actually 7 short honks and a long one. After that, listen attentively. The captain can explain what’s happening through the intercom.
So, now you’re sure that the unthinkable is happening, and the ship you’re on is going underwater. Try to stay calm – you have no time for panic. If you’re in your cabin, immediately put on your floatation device and take anything else that may help you later. However, if you realize that you’re running out of time, just leave all your possessions where they are and hurry to save your life.
But if you still have some time to spare, put on all the waterproof clothing you might have, be it gloves, a jacket, or something to protect your head. The next step, which might become a life-altering one, is to get to safety. And to do that, you need to follow the crew’s directions to a T. These crew members know the ship, and are specially trained in rescue procedures, that’s why you should only act on your own if there’s no one in charge of the evacuation.
If you don’t know the language everyone around is shouting in, remember two crucial things:get up and off. While doing it, you might see people rushing toward the lower levels of the ship or even its center. Don’t be surprised – that’s how panic works. Regrettably, studies claim that only 35% of people manage to stay calm in a critical situation.
If you’re one of those lucky ones, help other passengers to get their bearings. Otherwise, their actions may slow down the evacuation process. What’s more, panicking people tend to forget themselves, shoving one another, and causing additional injuries that could be avoided, and putting you in even more danger. By the way: while panicking, some people may simply freeze with fear.
If you see a person standing still in the middle of the turmoil, yell at them – it’s an effective way to bring them back to reality. After that, concentrate on your top-priority task, which is to get to a lifeboat as quickly as possible. Remember that the ship may start to tilt to one side, making this task more difficult.
Try to stay upright by grabbing pipes, handrails, furniture, and other stuff, and never everuse the elevator. After all, the last place you’d want to be on a sinking ship is stuck in an elevator,right?And if you’re still on the lower decks when the water is coming in, and the ship is listing,watch out for massive floating objects and things that may be falling around you.
They could knock you unconscious; and when you recover, it could be too late to escape. As soon as you get to the deck, immediately rush for a lifeboat. If you can’t figure out where the nearest lifeboat is, search for crew members who are helping passengers evacuate. The crew isn’t supposed to leave the ship until they help all the passengers get to safety.
Do NOT stay on the deck with the crew, helping them. They’ll do their job, and you must do yours, which is saving your life and the lives of your loved ones. But eventually, when you’ve reached the lifeboat and are about to climb inside, it’s crucial that you do it without getting wet. As soon as your clothes soak up water, the risks of hypothermia and cold shock become much higher.
That’s why you need to follow the crew’s instructions – they’ll show you where it’s best toenter the boat. But let’s say you look around and see no available lifeboats whatsoever and start to panic!What then?In that case, try to find some floatation device, like a life preserver ring, and throw it into the water.
Unfortunately, it won’t save you if you must spend a long time in the really cold sea. But on the other hand, it may help you stay afloat until rescuers arrive. If there’s no time left, and you realize you’ll have to jump off the ship, always check where you’ll land first. Otherwise, you may be hit by some wreckage, a boat, or other people, and end up underwater.
Try to jump as close to a rescue boat as possible, swim toward it, and attract attention by waving your arms and shouting. When inside, make yourself calm down and wait patiently for the rescue. Meanwhile, huddle together with other survivors to stay warm and treat any injuries you have. If you haven’t managed to reach a lifeboat or a life raft, get yourself ready for even more hardship.
Usually, the water is cold, and the sea is rough, which decreases your chances to survive. The cold shock may pull you underwater even faster than hypothermia sets in. That’s why it’s vitally important to collect yourself, concentrate on survival, and distract yourself from terrifying thoughts by counting, remembering poems, or thinking of your love dones.
Remember that in good weather, you could also suffer from dehydration, sunburn, and heatstroke. So, if you have some water supply, use it carefully, and cover yourself as well as you can. You may ask, “Do I really need to know this?” After all, the times of the Titanic are long gone, right? Not really – ships are still sinking nowadays due to weather conditions, human error, and many other factors.
Besides, better safe than sorry, you know. That’s why, before going on a voyage (or just taking a short ferry trip), you should understand how ships sail and, even more importantly, why they sink. Then you’ll be able to figure out what’s happening with your ship and find the fastest way to save your life.
Surprisingly, every ship sinks in a different way, depending on its center of gravity and size, the shape of its hull, and, of course, the cause of the accident. It was a bit unsettling to learn that it’s natural for most big ships to let water in through their bottom part. Admittedly, such ships also have large pumps that remove this water once its level is too high, but it doesn’t always work.
It already sounds scary enough to drive me away from water travel whatsoever! But wait, that’s not all: a big ship can sink after colliding with another ship, or just a massive object, such as an iceberg. Sound familiar?Or, as it happened with the Greek cruise liner MTS Oceanos in 1991, a rupture in its shell can lead to water coming inside through sinks, showers, and toilets! In this case, the pumps can’t deal with all that water – and the ship sinks.
As for smaller boats, the story is very different. Since they’re made of as buoyant materials as possible, their reasons for sinking are usually broken or incorrectly closed doors, absent drain plugs, or any other openings through which water can get inside. That’s what happened with the car ferry Estonia in 1994.
Shortly after the water got inside the ship through a broken door, the constant rocking,which you usually feel when the ship is in the open sea, stopped, and it was a bad omen. The thing is that a ferry that doesn’t rock can’t stabilize itself. And indeed, the Estonia lost its center of gravity, began to list, and sank in a matter of minutes.
So, although it sounds like a terrifying situation, at least now you have the best plan possible for getting out alive. And don’t be too afraid to cast out to sea, the chances that your ship will sink are still extremely low. Well I feel better…Do you have any other recommendations on how to escape from a sinking ship? Let me know down in the comments.