Last week Jenny was on a trip with fellow philosophy students and their lecturers from Henley College. It was only the second time in her life that she had been abroad and the first time she had flown. They were having a wonderful time, they had been to Athens and had gone on a cruise on the Sea Diamond, the largest ship in the Aegean.
On Thursday they were cruising to Santorini. Jenny was about to go for a swim in the indoor pool on deck 2 when she heard an announcement that it was a good time to go on deck to see the view. She and her friend , who are both studying photography, decided to go and take pictures.
Up on deck ten photographing the beautiful island they suddenly heard a loud scraping noise. It was the ship hitting rocks.
There followed announcements, the first along the lines of don’t panic (with a background of shouting crew members) and then they were asked to move over to one side of the ship which was already listing.
Then the ship’s horn sounded 7 times (they had been told at their brief lifeboat drill that 6 meant abandon ship). Lifeboats were lowered. Jenny saw one with only 3 people in it. She saw some of her friends in one with another above it. ,A rope broke on the upper boat and the crew member was thrown over the front of it and had to scramble back in. If he hadn’t, that boat would have landed on the other one. Another boat was dropped heavily.
Jenny was very lucky to be with two of her lecturers. All three of them cannot be praised highly enough. The third lecturer was at the other end of the ship, worried sick about Jenny and her friend, thinking they were on deck 2 where the breach occurred. Luckily he was able to contact the other two. The other students had not been in the pool either. Later Jenny saw someone who had been burned in the sauna.
Jenny and her friend were told to go down a deck but they didn’t like being without the teachers so the teachers joined them. Many of the American passengers were behaving badly, trying to get the lifejackets, in one case trying to pull a lifejacket off a student. Jenny asked one how it felt that a 19 year old girl had more balls than him. A lady then told her she hadn’t got a lifejacket because God didn’t love her!
Jenny was passing the lifejackets back to people above her and didn’t get one for 45 minutes. All the lifeboats had gone. She had to go down through the ship in a human chain, listening to things falling and sliding.The water tight doors were shut and it was dark. They smelt a strong smell of gas but someone was smoking.
Eventually they reached deck 3 and escaped through the luggage hatch, crossing on a pallet onto a small boat from the shore.
Meanwhile, the news in England was that a ship had “run aground” and all the passengers and crew were safely off the ship.A Greek politician said it was an “Easter miracle”and that no one had even got their feet wet. In fact two people were missing and the other two members of that family had had to swim ashore. Jenny is convinced there are more people missing, she said the crew were exploited, working 15 hours every day, away from home for 9 months and not able to understand each other in many cases as they were of different nationalities.
Luckily the passports were all in one place and they were taken off the ship.
After about 3 hours Jenny and her friends were taken for a meal .The people of Santorini were very kind. Then it was a coach journey. They’d been told that the ship was being towed to a dry dock in Egypt and that they would get their property back in two weeks but as the coach turned a corner, it’s lights shone on the ship which had been dragged round a corner and was visibly sinking.They knew then that everything was lost.
The Sea Diamond’s sister ship picked them up. They were offered cabins but opted to sleep on the floor in the piano bar, chosen so that Jenny could play the piano . Drinks were taken.
When they reached Athens they were given some money to buy essentials. Jen and her friends brought presents for the teachers. One of them had lost the presents he had got for his young daughter so they chose some more for her and gave them to him.
I had been kept informed by the college and I’d spoken to Jenny 4 times but wasn’t aware what she had been through. The English media didn’t give any news except to say that the ship had sunk on Friday. I don’t think they even knew there were any English people on board so they weren’t interested. (The two who lost their lives were a French man and his 16 year old daughter.)
Jenny came home on Saturday. She is very edgy. She cried her eyes out when our dear dog chewed up her beloved straw hat, purchased in Athens. She just wanted to be with the people she had been with on the trip because only they could really understand.
As the media were so ill informed, I rang what I thought was the BBC but turned out to be the Press Association. College also put Jenny up to talk to Meridian TV.
Jen and I were interviewed on GMTV.
Jen has declined an offer of a magazine article , turning down £500 , because she has integrity and she feels it would be unethical. She doesn’t mind local paper interviews, she wants people to know how wonderful the lecturers were.
Did I mention she lost 2 years worth of college notes?
Whilst we were at GMTV, Apache started to bleed. This has happened twice before, when she came into season. Last time she was scanned and a tumour was found but it was considered to be benign and hasn’t had any problem since. (About 3 years ago, I think.)
She has been bleeding ever since. She may get worse and , if so , we may lose her. I took yesterday and today off,(I don’t think I’m popular but I don’t care.) Go to go and mix up her antibiotics with water and strawberry yogurt soon.
Yesterday was a day and a half, watching over her, trying to get a jet wash to work so that Claire could clean out her stable, getting lovely bedding for her,encouraging her to eat. Claire and friends made Apache a lovely bed. We should get some blood test results today. There is nothing they can do to stop the bleeding .