By Max Rossi
4 o’clock on a Saturday morning, a confused call told me a cruise ship had run aground near the island of Giglio in the beautiful Italian region of Tuscany. My first reaction was “I can’t go!”, Pope Benedict was waiting for me to take pictures of him shaking hands with the new Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in his private library at the Vatican. No way could I leave that event uncovered but the bad thing was that I was the only staff photographer in Rome – just 150 km (90 miles) from the ship.
A stringer photographer, Remo Casilli, was sent there immediately and he was able to get pictures of the survivors still covered in their blankets at Santo Stefano harbor and the first images of the ship lying on its side near the island. I spent the hours before the meeting with the Pope trying to get in touch with some photographers on the island, and finally, thanks to Facebook, got the phone number of a member of local news agency Giglio News to provide us with the first night images of the ship in the Giglio Harbour.
In the meantime chief photographer Stefano Rellandini was also searching and filing to to our global desk in Singapore whatever images we found. Saturday afternoon was spent coordinating and editing our stringer pictures from the island. I left Rome on Sunday morning and arrived on the island around 3 in the afternoon due to a long waiting list for the ferry in Santo Stefano harbor. I had the only car on the ferry. The rest were rescue vehicles.
After half an hour at sea I saw the ship for the first time. From a distance it looked like a cigarette lost by Polyphemus (the son of Poseidon and Thoosa in Greek mythology) after taking a bath in the crystal clear waters of Giglio island! When the ferry swung close to the ship as it turned into the port, I found myself taking pictures and speaking to myself at the same time: “Man, this is incredible! Who was the captain of this ship? Mickey Mouse?” Looking at this 300-meter-long ship lying on its side along the rocky shore was an unforgettable scene.
My Canon wireless device was spooling to our editing software Paneikon and Stefano edited the photos as my car was still parked on the ferry. I just kept going all day and part of the night.