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NOVA: Why Ships Sink

Airs Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Computerised bridge simulator from NOVA's "Why Ships Sink."

High angle shot of ship architectural model submerged in water tank.
Enlarge this image

Above: High angle shot of ship architectural model submerged in water tank.

Courtesy of Chris Amess/WGBH

The Titanic Museum located in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Are you safe aboard a modern cruise ship? Twenty million passengers embark on cruises each year, vacationing in deluxe "floating cities" that offer everything from swimming pools to shopping malls to ice skating rinks. And the ships just keep getting bigger: The average cruise ship has doubled in size in just the last 10 years.

Some engineers fear that these towering behemoths are dangerously unstable, and the recent tragedy of the Costa Concordia has raised new questions about their safety.

In "Why Ships Sink," NOVA brings together marine engineering and safety experts to reconstruct the events that led up to famous cruise disasters, including the ill-fated Concordia, the Sea Diamond and the Oceanos. Are we really safe at sea — or are we on the brink of a 21st century Titanic?

This episode originally aired in 2012.

Past episodes of NOVA are available for online viewing. NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter.

Why Ships Sink Preview

Airs April 18, 2012 at 9 pm on PBS