BOSTON — The captain of the Queen Elizabeth 2 said Thursday that he could not believe the luxury liner had hit ground when it suddenly started shaking during a nighttime trip from Martha's Vineyard last week.
In his first public statement, Capt. Robin A. Woodall told investigators he was initially dumbfounded because ocean charts showed there should have been plenty of clearance for the ship.
"Grounding was the last thing that crossed my mind because I knew there was sufficient water in that area for the ship," he said.
Woodall was the first witness at a Coast Guard hearing on last Friday's accident, which left a gash in the ship's hull and prompted the evacuation of 1,815 passengers.
Woodall, with more than 40 years of experience at sea, said that about an hour after the ship left Martha's Vineyard he felt a "very heavy vibration," which stopped and then began again.
Woodall said he first assumed that the ship had either hit something on the water's surface or there was a mechanical failure. After crew members ruled out those possibilities, he said his mind raced through "a moment of wondering what the hell's happened."
"I could not believe that we could have touched the bottom," he said.