The effort to raise the Costa Concordia began on Giglio Island at dawn on Sept. 16 -- with a delay.
A fierce overnight lightning storm forced the technicians working at the daunting refloating operation to postpone by three hours.
The $800-million operation to right the ship begins, and is expected to last 12 hours. The first phase, one of the most delicate steps of the entire recovery plan, involves dislodging the hull from the rock onto which it has molded itself.
The refloating operation is carried out by engineers of the U.S. firm Titan Salvage and Italy's Micoperi. They operate from a control room aboard a barge near the Concordia's bow.
Two hours after the beginning of the operations, about 3 feet of the submerged hull is clearly distinguishable as a slimy, dark colored strip emerges in strong contrast with the exposed part of the hull.
The hull is detached from the rocks, report Franco Gabrielli, head of the civil protection agency, and project manager Sergio Girotto.
As a good portion of water-stained ship is exposed, salvage workers begin to clean and disentangle chains and other materials from the side of the ship that has been submerged for nearly two years.
"At the moment everything is going smoothly," says the civil protection agency's Girotto. "We have no issues to worry about, but this is a very complex operation and we are not going to rush."
The delicate operation is going to continue through the night and into Tuesday.
Franco Porcellacchia, the director of technical operations at Concordia's owner, Costa Cruises, denies a delay.
"We did not set up a date. Our goal is to get things done in the best possible way."
More than 10 hours after the beginning of the refloating of the Costa Concordia, the wreck barely reaches a 13-degree rotation, exposing about 13 feet of the submerged wreck.
The arrows show how much the Concordia has been lifted in about eight hours -- from 11 a.m. (right) to 7 p.m. (left).
As the day fades on Giglio, the island prepares for a long night. Engineers announce that the lifting of the Concordia will not be completed until dawn on Tuesday at the earliest.
A ghostly image of the Concordia wreck appears on the monitors in the press room as engineers and salvage crew work through the night. The Concordia's rotation steadily approaches the 24 degrees required for intake valves of 11 caissons to reach sea level.
Once the caissons are filled with water, gravity will take over helping the rotation.
The Concordia enters the last phase of the rotation, reaching the crucial 24-degree angle. It's a milestone. Now the wreck no longer needs to be pulled by the strand jacks, but can rotate under its own momentum and under the weight of the ballast water contained in the caissons.
The salvage master Nick Sloane controls the flow of water entering the caissons.
The capsized Concordia is now being totally pulled by the water-filled caissons. The wreck reaches a 35-degree rotation.
In the darkness of the night, a horrifying image of destruction emerges from the starboard side of the wreck. Parts of it appear to be literally mangled.
The Parbuckling Project
After 610 days on the rocky shore of Giglio, shortly after 4 a.m., a foghorn wails on the harbor signaling that the Costa Concordia is finally brought upright. The Giglio inhabitants erupt in a long applause.
The Concordia now rests safely on the specially built artificial seabed, at a depth of approximately 98 feet.
It took the 114,500-ton ship little more than a hour to partially sink when it capsized on Jan. 13, 2012, and about 19 hours to be raised during a complex, unprecedented re-floating operation.
More remains have been found at the site of the Costa Concordia wreck off the Tuscan island of Giglio, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency said on Wednesday.
It’s the second find after bones were recovered on the seabed last week by divers searching for two lost victims of the cruise ship disaster.
“Both sets of remains have undergone DNA tests. Before jumping to easy conclusions, we must wait for the results,” Gabrielli said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
The Concordia had 4,229 people from 70 countries on board when Capt. Francesco Schettino allegedly drove it on an unauthorized route too close to shore, ripping a huge gash in the hull.
As the ship tumbled onto its side on Jan. 13, 2012, it claimed 32 lives. Among them, two bodies — Italian passenger Maria Grazia Tricarichi and Indian crew member Russel Rebello — have been missing.
The findings come after the Concordia was pulled upright last month in an unprecedented salvage operation.
The righting of the 114,000-ton ship will make it possible to access areas of the vessel that were previously off limits.
“In the next days, the inspection of the seabed will be over and the wreck’s interiors will be examined,” Gabrielli said.
Although the search for the remains of the two missing victims is a priority, salvage officials also plan to recover various items from the 951-foot-long ship.
They plan to retrieve valuable statues as well as the cabins’ safety deposit boxes, the contents of which will finally be returned to their owners.
Image: Searching the Costa Concordia wreck. Credit: Rossella Lorenzi