2006/10/08

Wreck of the Giant Step

Dateline: Kashima City, Japan
by Pandabonium and K

We went out today to find the wreck of the Giant Step (see previous post) and found her just south of Kashima Port, and north of the wind turbines of Kamisu City in what was formerly Hasaki Machi.

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Looking north from the wreck area. The buildings and smoke stacks in the distance are at Kashima Port


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Looking south - a young boy with a telefoto lens captures the wreck for posterity with the Hasaki wind turbine energy farm in the background.

The surf was big and pounding against the concrete barriers along the road with enough force to cause one to doubt the safety of the cars parked there (such as ours). Occassionally the waves would strike with such power as to send spray over the barriers and onto the highway as if to emphasize the power of the seas over man's feable efforts to tame it. Note to self: wash the car tomorrow.
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The stern section with the bridge is on the left, the bow - pointing left - is on the right. A Japan Coast Guard vessel (out of view) was on duty nearby.

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From a sand dune above the highway the wreck of the Giant Step was an obvious gaping sore. The iron ore cargo stained the waters in the area of the wreck a rust red. An unused bright orange lifeboat hung at its davits on the stern section. What was once a proud, useful machine lay broken in two before us like a toy spurned by a spoiled child - a glaring reminder of the power of nature and the fragility of human endeavor in her grip.

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At a closer vantage point, one sees details more clearly, though the spacial relationship of the two sections is perhaps less clear.

When viewed in a newspaper or on TV or the internet such a picture is just an abstract object and event and one can easily maintain an emotional detachment. But in person, the very sight of it takes on visceral meaning and one thinks of the dread of those aboard as the ship came aground and was torn apart in violent, agonizing death throws on the reef. One can but imagine the the jarring motions, the horrendous sound of steel being ripped apart as the wind, rain, and ocean lashed at every inch, and the knowledge of the end of the ship, perhaps of one's own life. It becomes real.

We followed the road to where it ended near the wreck. People were climbing the dunes to take a look, to take pictures. Most stood in silence. Many were taking pictures or looking through binoculars as were we.
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I wondered what drew us all here, if their thoughts were as mine. Is it just a ghoulish curiousity? Or do we humans instictively seek a kind of reality check, to see first hand that what we suspect about our technological superiorty is true? That in reality, our supposed superiority over nature and our certainty of it, hangs by a mere thread, and that we need to take heed. We need to be reminded now and then of how tenuous that thread really is. In short, we need at times to be humbled.

"The sea - this truth must be confessed - has no generosity. No display of manly qualities - courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness - has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power." - Joseph Conrad

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

A family member was one of the crew members and his body is still missing. We are all waiting anxiously......Do you have any details on what caused this to happen?

Pandabonium said...

My sincere condolences on your loss. I live about 10 miles north of the port. The weather on that day was dreadful. We received 3 months worth of rain in one day and winds were over 30 mph gusting to over 50. On that same day, a 98 ton fishing ship to our north was capsized with loss of all 16 hands, and another fishing vessel south of Tokyo was lost. It was very rough weather to say the least.

As to direct cause, the only things I've read are that the Giant Step radioed that a fire had broken out on board and the ship drifted aground and broke into two pieces.

I read in the Sydney Morning Harold newspaper online that there was an investigation pending into the loading of the ship as well. Apparently, careful loading of such a large cargo requires great care so as not to strain the ship. Whether that has anything to do with the wreck, or not, I do not know.

Again, my sincere condolences.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Pandabonium. I guess we will all be questioning all this for a long time....

Pandabonium said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for your email and comments. I hope what little information I have been able to provide is of some help. As there are 16 survivors, we can hope that they will fill in the blanks as to what caused this accident.

Warm regards, Pandabonium

Anonymous said...

My God...Ive only just found out about this incident, as I now know someone who was on that ship...your post really puts things in perspective...

Pandabonium said...

Anonymous,

It was a terrible tragedy. 'Hope these pictures and post help in the understanding of it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Do u have any update on this incident..? I still have no news on a friend who was aboard...

Pandabonium said...

Sorry Anonymous, but I don't. I heard through a family member of one of the two missing men that DNA test confirmed the identity of the all the bodies which were recovered.

shobha said...

Hi i am relative of one of the crew memeber. They have not found still two person's body. Can u tell me is there any chance of their existence?

Pandabonium said...

Dear Shoba,

I am so very sorry for your loss. I have no way of knowing the chances of finding the bodies now, over four months since the tragedy.

If they were in the ocean, I doubt that they would be found now. The currents here are very strong.

I wish I could be of more help to you.

Shahnaz said...

I have just come to know that my estranged son Hasnain Nasser was also one of the crew on the Giant Step. Would you be having a list of the survivers or any information about his survival or any kind of information.

Pandabonium said...

Shanaz - I am very sorry, I do not have that information. I would suggest that you contact your country's embassy in Japan or the Mitsui O.S.K. lines (which operated the ship) for information. Best wishes to you.