Epirotiki: the cruise line of death!



I took this shot in a thrift store during my (failed?) quest to find good art in the coastal hamlet of Waldport earlier this month. The tile was on the bottom shelf of the china section, tucked near the back. Its depiction of an ancient Roman boat and that thunderous name, Jupiter, pulled me in for a second.

The picture lay forgotten until today, when I was flipping through art photos and started puzzling over the tile. Who left it here? Where is the Jupiter‘s home port? A Google search brought me to the Wikipedia page of the MS Oceanos, an Epirotiki cruise ship that sank in 1991 after an explosion in the engine room blasted a hole in the ship. Intriguing.

The drama started at dinner time in the incredibly rough waters off South Africa, which happen to be SOME OF THE MOST SHARK-INFESTED WATERS IN THE WORLD. Are you preparing yourself for a gruesome shark attack story? The denouement is a little less exciting, but a bit more despicable. The captain started packing to leave and didn’t clue in any of the passengers, who were busy dropping their dishes and getting seasick in the mess hall. They didn’t notice anything was wrong until the sinks and showers started shooting water and the lower levels of the ship flooded.

A couple hundred helicopter flights later (there were 16 helicopters and 571 passengers), everyone was saved, mostly with the help of the entertainment crew. Unlike the captain, the singers stayed with the ship until the last helicopter load departed moments before the ship sank.

So, what about the Jupiter? At the very end of the article it says:

“Although perhaps only a coincidence, Epirotiki Lines had within three years preceding the sinking, lost two other ships: the company’s flagship Pegasus only two months before, and the MTS Jupiter, three years before.”

Oh, that was NO coincidence. This cruise line be cursed, mateys! A further search lead me to cruisebruise.com, which chronicles the even more dramatic demise of the Jupiter. The ship was filled with schoolchildren and teachers when it was rammed by a tanker ship in the Mediterranean. Four people died, one of whom was a young child. Chilling.

Lessons learned about cruise ships:

1. Don’t trust your captain.

2. Make sure to occasionally check whether your room is flooding.

3. If your ship is sinking, the same annoying cheerful man who sang “Puttin’ on the Ritz” at the show last night will be the one trusted to save you.

4. Watch out for approaching tanker ships, and alert your captain just to make sure he’s not napping.

5. Don’t EVER actually go on a cruise, and DEFINITELY don’t work for one.

As for the tile, it remains a mystery. How did it end up in Waldport, Oregon? Was it bought in the ship’s gift shop before it sank? If so, are the blue symbols completely surrounding the ship an omen of its eventual watery demise?

Ugh, art-thropology makes my brain hurt. I need a vacation… maybe Carnival is safer?

  1. Debra Harris said:

    funny thing , i was playing on the net after watching the tv and the scenes of the italian ship in the harbour and i wondered if this was a common happening as, when i was a child my grandparents took me on a med cruise arond the Greek isles and I remember the ship hitting the harbour wall prior to us entering the corinth canal and watching the Capt being escorted off into a police car. The cruise continued with a greek naval officer at the helm. The ship Mts jupiter i think the year was 1978 easter. The crew also went on strike so we had an extra day in Jerusalem and the ship was not allowed into Crete harbour ???????????why. The ship was owned by epirotiki lines and I think your tile was a copy of one one the dining room wall. debra harris

  2. Hi Debra,
    Thanks so much for you response! It seems that the MTS Jupiter was truly doomed to fail. Were you scared for your life at the time? I wonder how the tile ended up in Waldport. If I ever go back there, I’m definitely going to buy it.

    • Debra Harris said:

      no not at all- was amused to see the captain getting into the police car on the dock- it didnt really occur to me re the serious nature of what had happened.( the bow of the ship had just driven straight into the wall- my grandfather and I were on deck watching as we slowed to allow the Pilot on- only we didnt slow down and hit full on causing a dent in the bow- dont remember any one injured. The funny thing was no one believed us when we returned home- my Grandfather was annoyed as we lost another day of the cruise. Im now ondering why we couldnt go to Crete- we anchored off santorini- which did worry me as I had been told it was an under sea volcano. Interestingly i have never been on another cruise and have no plans to.

  3. Richard Morris said:

    can i just say- they werent all crew that died – there was one teacher and my friends 14 year old sister- died and i was on it

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