I imagine spending thousands of dollars to board a rickety craft – uncertified by engineers, unregistered with maritime agencies – to sail into dark unknown international waters, with a very real risk of death… Why would you?
Well, if you’re a billionaire with a spare million dollars, perhaps it’s to look at the remains of an unsinkable ship that sunk 100 years ago. Then, when you disappear, the world will stop to watch, agog. Ships and aircraft will rush to find you, bringing sonar, deepsea equipment and manpower, bringing the eyes of the world.
Or maybe you’ve spent your extended family’s life-savings of $8 000 on a life-changing trip, and now you’re on a rusty old fishing vessel with over 700 other people, sailing into the darkness in the hope of finding a better life.
Until the boat goes down in the deep Mediterranean.
At first, the focus is on those rescued: swarthy young men of fighting age. Then we hear that the women and the children were in the creaking belly of the boat. They never stood a chance.
Awful, we say. But we move on because five millionaires on a Titanic excursion are missing.
I know the faces of the five onboard the submersible. I know about their jobs, their families, their lives. Those drowned in the Med? Not so much.
Yes, it’s a blatant double standard, but it’s too easy to say we were only fascinated by the five because they were rich.
It’s not true either. Their story was compelling because of a ticking clock: they had 96 hours of oxygen.
Equally, the world’s attention was gripped for 69 days in 2010, as 33 trapped miners were rescued one by one from 700m underground in Chile.
Then there were the 12 Thai boys stuck in a flooded cave in 2018, making headlines until they were rescued 20 days later. All of these caught the global imagination. All had the drama balanced with hope.
That is why desperate migrants and refugees drowning en masse don’t get the attention it deserves. We’ve seen it so many times, on repeat.
Over 20 000 migrants have drowned crossing the Med in the last decade. Still they come. And the only hope left is their own.