Friday, June 20, 2014

Titanic: Hindsight

Hindsight: the ability to understand, after something has happened, what should have been done or what caused the event.

I. Work with a partner:

1. What do you know about the Titanic?

2. Why is it such a famous shipwreck?

3. According to the definition of hindsight, what can we understand about the accident, making use of hindsight? Read the chronology and facts below before you answer this question.

II. Read the chronology of the happenings concerning the sinking of the Titanic:

Taken from:


    April 11th - Titanic departs on her first Atlantic crossing. Calm clear seas.
  • April 12th - Calm clear seas, fine weather. Ice warnings are given by other ships.
  • April 13th, 22.30 - Heavy ice warning is given by a passing ship Rappahannock which already
    reported some damage from ice. In total, Titanic receives 6 such warnings.
  • April 14th - Captain Smith delays a scheduled change of course by 30 minutes.
  • Scheduled lifeboat drill was cancelled by the Captain. Reasons are unknown but some people think it was to allow passengers to go to church. Lookouts were sent to the crows nest. Apparently the lookouts had no binoculars. At that time, some ships captains approved the use of binoculars whilst others did not.
  • April 14th at 23.40 - Titanic is 5 miles south of where she should have been had she been perfectly on course. Titanic and the iceberg collide some 1,500 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

The iceberg photograph below may have been the Titanic sinking iceberg
taken on the morning of April 15,1912 by a passenger on the German ocean
liner SS Prinz Adalbert, unaware of the disaster on the previous night.

The water temperature on the night of the Titanic sinking was thought to be about 28 degrees Fahrenheit, just below freezing - lethally cold for all those passengers who had been forced to take to the open water to
escape the sinking ship. There were insufficient lifeboats to hold all the passengers and crew, they totalled only 20, comprising of 16 wooden, 4 collapsible. Harland And Wolff wanted 64 lifeboats. By the end of 1912, or sometime in 1913. In all likelihood, the iceberg that sank the Titanic was itself doomed to dissolve imperceptibly in the waters of the North Atlantic.

II. Discuss:

What do you think that could have been done to prevent it from happening?

III. Divide the class into four groups. Each group reads about one of the four most important characters of the Titanic disaster listed below. Then reorganize the groups so that each student works with three other students who read about the other characters. Students tell each other about their characters' stories and why they were held responsible for the accident. Finally, they have to negotiate and decide who is the person who had the greatest responsibility for the accident and be able to justify their answers.

It was Captain Smith's fault:

This was Captain E.J. Smith's retirement trip. All he had to do was get to New York in record time. Captain E.J. Smith said years before the Titanic voyage, "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”

It was the Shipbuilder's fault:

When the ship hit the iceberg, the force of the impact caused the heads of the rivets to break and the sections of the Titanic to come apart. If good quality iron rivets had been used the sections may have stayed together and the ship may not have sunk. About three million rivets were used to hold the sections of the Titanic
together. Some rivets have been recovered from the wreck and analysed. The findings show
that they were
made of sub-standard iron.

It was Bruce Ismay's fault:

Bruce Ismay was the managing director of the White Star Line and he was  aboard the Titanic. Competition for Atlantic passengers was fierce and the White Star Line wanted to show that they could make a six-day crossing. To meet this schedule the Titanic could not afford to slow down. It is believed that Ismay put pressure on Captain Smith to maintain the speed of the ship.

It was Thomas Andrew's fault:

The belief that the ship was unsinkable was, in part, due to the fact that the Titanic had sixteen watertight compartments. However, the compartments did not reach as  high as they should have done. The White Star Line did not want them to go all the way up because this would have reduced living space in first class. If Mr Andrews had insisted on making them the  correct height then maybe the Titanic would not have sunk.

 III. Watch the movie segment and discuss the questions: 

1. Describe the scene.

2. What were some of the problems that you saw in the segment that should have been dealt with differently, now that you can use hindsight?

3. Why is the use of hindsight so important in the case of the Titanic sinking?

4. What has changed in traveling security after the accident?

5. Think about a situation (or situations)  in your life in which you would have acted differently if you had had the chance to use hindsight?


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