The story of a disaster is, almost by definition, a survivor’s story: If there are no survivors, there is not much of a story. The Old Testament has its Noahs and Lots, figures that God spares so their tales of floods, plagues, famines and massacres can be told, their lessons absorbed by the living. In the final scene of “Moby-Dick,” Ishmael circles the sinking wreck of Captain Ahab’s Pequod, clinging to a buoyant coffin and a verse from Job: “And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.”
* Speaking of floods, they, too, are coming our way. They just take longer than one minute and forty-five seconds.