In fondo al mar

Picture credits: Capannelle

about (under the sea) is a data-driven journalism and information-visualization project that aims at offering on the Web an investigation toolkit regarding a series of sinking incidents happened in the Mediterranean Sea during the last 30 years - involving ships suspected of having carried toxic and radioactive waste.

Bringing poisons afloat

They have been called "poison ships", "toxic ships", "disposable ships". They are dozens of commercial vessels, which misteriously sank during the last thirty years in the Mediterranean sea. The Aso foundered in 1979, off the city of Locri in Calabria, in Southern Italy; the Rigel deliberately sunken off Reggio Calabria in 1987, the Marco Polo foundered in the Canal of Sicily in 1993, as well as tens of less known incidents which took place in more recent years.

The suspicion that hovers over these accidents is disturbing. The ships would have been deliberately sunk by a network of mafia groups, scruple-less entrepreneurs and white collars scruples to cheaply dispose of tons of toxic, chemical and radioactive waste and make impressive profits on the public health. Apart from such figures, in this traffic Western governments and secret services would have also participated.

The website publishes for the first time all the official data on the incidents obtained through an extensive research conducted on the Lloyd's Register of Shipping in London, alongside archival information gathered from press clippings, dossiers produced by environmental organizations, and specialist websites, in order to produce an open dataset on the case, to be freely downloaded by its users and employed for other projects.

Maps, chronologies and other forms of information-visualization, provide the instruments to make sense of this mass of data and identify analogies in the locations and modalities of the incidents, in the declared cargoes and in the routes, the ports of arrival and departure of the suspected ships, thus providing a springboard for further investigations. In face of the inertia of national and international institutions on this case, aims at initiating a grassroots and participatory inquiry about toxic and radioactive dumping in the Mediterranean Sea.

It invites citizens to intervene in the construction of a grassroots map of the scandal to clarify the extent of this practice and envisage the possible consequences for public health and the environment. Users can submit information about suspicious naval incidents and add information on cases already displayed by the website. Users' submissions are then filtered by a desk made up of journalists and maritime researchers who are responsible for verifying users-generated content.

The collective database on the scandal obtained through this two-step process is displayed through maps, timelines, stats pages, and other complex forms of information visualisation, which allow to make this complex scandal understandable also by lay people with no prior knowledge. is a work-in-progress project which welcomes the contribution users and experts:

Invited conferences & exhibitions

Ars Electronica 2010
H + Digital
Digital Heretics 2010
JavaMuseum 2010 - Celebrate!

Press clippings - Twitter