At approximately 9:30 PM, Tuscany time, On Friday 13th January 2012, the $ 450 million luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia carrying more than 4200 passengers struck a rocky underwater reef tearing a massive 160-meter gash in the hull. The reef, located near a rocky outcrop called Le Scole, located a few hundred meters off the coast of the tiny island of Giglio in the Mediterranean Sea.
The vessel first listed to port, turned, and began listing heavily towards the starboard side. The ship was carrying 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members. An investigation was opened into the accident. Dutch salvage experts were called in to assess options for removing the ship, with 2,380 tons of fuel needing to be removed first, in order to prevent or mitigate an oil spill. Dutch company Smit International is responsible for removing the fuel, and offered to perform the salvage operation.
The sixth day of the week and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations said to date from ancient times. It seems their inevitable conjunction from one to three times a year (there will be three such occurrences in 2012, exactly 13 weeks apart) portends more misfortune than some credulous minds can bear. According to some sources it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today. Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t eat in restaurants; many wouldn’t think of setting a wedding on the date.
How many Americans at the beginning of the 21st century suffer from this condition? According to Dr. Donald Dossey, a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of phobias (and coiner of the term paraskevidekatriaphobia, also spelled paraskavedekatriaphobia), the figure may be as high as 21 million. If he’s right, no fewer than eight percent of Americans remain in the grips of a very old superstition.
Exactly how old is difficult to say, because determining the origins of superstitions is an inexact science, at best. In fact, it’s mostly guesswork. With the aim of mapping “the relation between health, behaviour, and superstition surrounding Friday 13th in the United Kingdom,” its authors compared the ratio of traffic volume to the number of automobile accidents on two different days, Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th, over a period of years.