I was over at Less Wrong and came across a discussion of disaster books and the lessons to be learned. Many of them I had heard of, but as with any crowd of bright people there are some interesting finds.
One book noted was Tall Ships Down, a book that goes into details of the the sinking of five modern tall ships: the 316-foot bark Pamir in 1957; the 117-foot brigantine Albatross in 1961; the 117-foot bark Marques in 1984; the 137-foot schooner Pride of Baltimore in 1986; and the 125-foot brig Maria Asumpta in 1995.
[Discussing the noted book above: Tall Ships Down]
1) if you have a weakness (personally, in your competence or temperament, or structurally, in your vessel or equipment) and spend enough time in an unpredictable environment, it will eventually be exploited.
2) the fact that an environment is unpredictable does not relieve you from the responsibility of considering risks and working to minimize them.
3) we often have an inkling about our weaknesses, but if we've gotten by so far without major incident, we see no pressing need to address them.
4) if you're the captain/leader of an operation, know what the hell you're doing. if you're the equivalent of an ordinary seaman, make it a priority to become competent enough to identify a leader who doesn't know what the hell s/he's doing.
What I find interesting is that you could take those same proscriptions and apply them to many many human endeavors: the company you work for, your own company, Portugal, Greece, the United States, etcetera.
In the four lessons, Number 3, is a fairly strong explanation for a lot of our problems. It takes time, and effort to correct known flaws. Occasionally we may not have the resources to address the issue in the most thorough manner.
One issue noted in the book, is that during the 19th century, unlike modern tall ships sailing, there was no expectation that ships had a set schedule on which they needed to arrive. They could be sailed as conservatively as needed without concern for schedule. The ship showed up when the ship showed, so right there they had one less contributing factor to worry about: keeping to a schedule.
|Pamir - from its memorial page|