Undoubtedly one of the brightest spots in the tedious, tendentious slog of the Republican presidential debates came in Jacksonville, Florida on January 26, when Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates which of their wives would be the best First Lady. The Twitt-O-Sphere went wild, howling at Gingrich’s gaffe that made him sound like he was evaluating all his wives for the job.
The still-unfolding story of the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship run aground off the coast of the Tuscan island Giglio, has reminded us of dangers, and remedies, nearly as old as seafaring itself. Reports of the thousands of passengers’ struggle to escape made us think of John Stilgoe, whose book Lifeboat is the definitive study of one of the fixtures of survival at sea. Stilgoe took a few minutes from his duties as Lois Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape at Harvard to answer our questions about the sinking ship and the enduring role played by the smaller boat you never thought you’d have to use.
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