Of all the images that emerged after the Costa Concordia ran aground and partially sank off the coast of Italy on Jan. 13, the photo of rescue divers swimming past the ship’s bell has come to symbolize the lengthy search for those who died on the cruise liner. At least 25 people were killed, with another seven still unaccounted for. Now that bell has vanished, though the ship was under 24-hour surveillance by authorities and was being monitored by a web of lasers measuring every movement of the 290-m vessel, lying on an underwater shelf.
Bells, made largely of brass or bronze, have been on ships for nearly 600 years, used to signal each half-hour to the ship’s company. They still occupy pride of place on many vessels, though digital clocks have taken over their once essential work. Because of the heft of the Costa Concordia’s bell, police suspect a team of thieves, likely divers authorized to work on the liner. Whether or not authorities recover the stolen bell, it appears that the ship itself is beyond hope, deemed a “total loss” by owner Carnival Corp. Since the cost of refloating the liner is in excess of $150 million, it could be cut up for scrap.