Several movies have been made about the tragedy. You should be able to use this study guide with any of them. Here are three:
A Night to Remember (Titanic)—This 1950s film version of the April 14, 1912, calamity has been called one of Britain’s best cinema productions. Based on a best-selling book by Walter Lord. He contacted 64 survivors and poured 20 years of extensive research into his authoritative account of one of history’s greatest disasters. The film combines several characters to save time, but most of the events portrayed actually happened (unlike the fictional romances in the following two titles). It’s also only two hours long, so you’ll have time to discuss the film after watching it. (1958, drama/history. Black & white. About 2 hours. Kenneth More, Michael Goodliffe, David McCallum, Honor Blackman.)
Titanic—(James Cameron, Director) In April of 1912 the unsinkable Titanic sunk. This blockbuster of a fictional romance during the journey presents a picture of life in an era when blinding arrogance made people forget that humans are fallible. The film gives a great picture of many parts of the ship, and life on it for the passengers in each “class.” (1997; romance/drama/history; 11 Oscars, including Best Picture; about 4 hours LONG! Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane) #1 box office success in history (as of April 2006). (PG-13 for disaster related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality, brief language)
Titanic—This two-part miniseries was made for CBS TV in 1996 (my version said Hallmark). It’s almost as long as the 1997 blockbuster, and also features fictional romances (two, in fact), but it shows a few historical things the Oscar-winner missed. (1995; romance/drama/history; about 3.5 hours long; George C Scott, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Peter Gallagher, Tim Curry). (PG-13 for disaster related peril and violence, rape, adultery, sensuality, brief language)
Setting: April 1912, mostly on the ship
People and proper nouns (including “real” main characters):
- Note: Different films present different aspects of the tragedy, and may not show all of these
- Titanic officers & crew: First Officer Murdoch (died), Second Officer Lightoller (survived on an overturned collapsible); Fifth Officer Lowe (survived in one of the boats which returned for passengers, but they only saved six from the freezing water), Harold Bride and Jack Phillips (wireless operators; Bride survived)
- Cape Race: a place in Canada to which ships sent messages by telegraph/Marconi; the messages (called “Cape Race traffic” could be heard by other ships; the operator at Cape Race then sent the messages on to the US or Canada)
- Captain Smith: captain of the Titanic (died; how he died is uncertain)
- Captain Lord: captain of the Californian, a freighter about 10 miles from the Titanic at the time of the accident (it had stopped because of the ice, and had turned off its telegraph for the night)
- Captian Rostron: captain of the Carpathia, a passenger ship that steamed 4 hours north in response to Titanic’s distress signals
- Mr. & Mrs. Hudson Allison, Lorraine (age 2) and Trevor (baby)
- Alice Cleaver: nanny who took care of the Allison children (I believe she saved Trevor, but the rest of the Allison family died)
- Thomas Andrews: the ship’s designer/builder (worked for Harland & Wolff Shipyard) (died)
- John Jacob & Madeline Astor: JJ was one of the wealthiest men in the world; age 47, he had just married Madeline (age 19). In one movie, the Astor’s maid is called Marge Miller. (John died)
- Molly/Maggie Brown: a wealthy American who was raised poor and got rich because of a gold mine; she used a lot of her money to travel and enjoyed donating money and things to museums, schools, etc.
- Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon (though they signed onto the ship as Mr & Mrs Morgan, perhaps to hide from fans): She designed expensive dresses; he’d been an Olympic fencer (UK 1908); together they were on lifeboat 1, with only 12 people. Lady Duff is remembered for suggesting that they would be swamped if they rowed back for survivors, even though their boat had 20 empty seats. (both survived)
- Benjamin Guggenheim: a very wealthy man who was traveling with Ms. Aubart (who wasn’t his wife) (he died)
- Mr. Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star Line (owner of the Titanic) and son of the founder of the White Star Line (survived)
- Charles Joughin: the Chief Baker; he had been drinking whiskey that night (against the company’s rules), and simply stepped off the back when the ship sank (like Jack and Rose in one movie, but there was no suction). He was in the water an amazing two hours (without being hurt) before being pulled into a lifeboat. (Most of the people in the water died within 20 minutes.)
- The Lusitania: in 1907, another ship company launched this fast and luxurious ship; Titanic and her two sister ships were created to compete with the Lusitania. (It was sunk by a German submarine in 1915, during World War I.)
- Isidor & Ida Straus: co-owner of Macy’s, a famous New York department store (Mrs Straus refused to leave her husband; both were lost)
FICTIONAL CHARACTERS in some of the Titanic movies:
- (Cameron) Rose: wealthy young woman who feels that being “upper class” is a lot like being confined (she thinks life should be more fun and carefree)
- (Cameron) Jack: a young American artist who wins a ticket to the Titanic by gambling; later he saves Rose’s life (when she tried to kill herself) and then they fall in love
- (Cameron) Caledon Hockley: the rich man who wanted Rose to marry him (and later tries to kill Jack); in truth, Mr. Ismay stayed in the expensive room shown as Hockley’s in the movie.
- (CBS) Jamie Peirse (later called “Mr Dickie”): thief who boarded with a ticket stolen from a drunk named Merrian Dickie; Jamie is torn between his old desires as a thief and his new love for an immigrant named Osa
- (CBS) Mrs. Isabella Paradine; wealthy American who had visited England because of an aunt’s death (at first she wears black as a symbol of mourning); she is in love with a pre-marriage boyfriend named Wynn Park.
- (CBS) Wynn Park: Mrs. Paradine’s former boyfriend; he is on the Titanic to try to win her back.
- (CBS) Miss Osa Ludvigsen: from Denmark, immigrating to America with a group of Christians in the 3rd class part of the ship; they are probably moving to America for religious freedom (Osa is referred to as a “convert”).
- (CBS) Black-Billy & Clarinda Jack: family with 4 children immigrating to America (Osa a part of their “flock” of Christian believers)
- (CBS) Mr. & Mrs. Foley: wealthy and snobbish 1st class passengers, traveling with their granddaughter Lulu
- (Remember) Sir Richard and Lady: In A Night to Remember, this couple represents first class British passengers, but in particular Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon (see above)
- (Remember) Robert Lucas, his wife and children: representing families who watched a loved husband/father stay behind
- (Remember) Mr and Mrs Clarke: representing the many newlywed couples on the ship
These vocabulary terms are from various Titanic films or from this study guide; *key terms.
- *the bridge: the place where a ship’s officers control (steer) it, also called the helm
- CQD: “Come Quickly, Distress”; an older code used before “SOS” for an emergency (see Morse Code and SOS)
- *condition: “in your condition” or “in a delicate condition” was a way to say that someone was going to have a baby (Mrs. Astor was pregnant–going to have a baby)
- crows nest or look out: the place high above the ship where crew members watched for ice, land, and other ships
- diamond tiara: a small jeweled crown worn in rich ladies’ hair (one movie uses this as a symbol for wealth)
- *fate: a force that is believed to control your life, similar to destiny (the purpose of your life) and luck (aspects of life you have no control over) — “We are together again; it must be fate”
- *first class: the most expensive tickets on the boat; also the most luxurious section
- *a fortune: a lot of money — “her husband made a fortune from a gold mine”
- *gossip: a mixture of facts and guesses about personal matters (often more untrue than true)
- iceberg: a floating “mountain” of ice that had drifted from the north pole; remember that there is more ice under water than you can see, which makes icebergs very dangerous
- ice pack, field ice: terms related to the presence of icebergs and smaller pieces of floating ice
- *immigrant: someone permanently moving from one country to another (not for a visit, but to live there)
- infamous: well known for bad reasons or because of a very bad reputation (such as a famous criminal)
- lifeboats: small boats designed to help people get off a ship in case of emergency
- Marconi or Marconi-gram: a message or the machine used to send messages by code using radio signals (now called a telegraph)
- Morse code (the verb is morsing): a series of signals (dot and dash) used to send messages by radio or flashes of light
- *mourning: a time of sadness or respect for someone in your family that has died
- *mug: picture of your face, often taken by the police (“Your mug has been in the [news]papers”)
- *nightmare: a bad and frightening dream
- *pickle: literally a sour food (泡菜), but also used to refer to “an unpleasant situation” — “That left us in a pickle”
- *SOS: “Save Our Ship”; a new code (in 1914) for requesting help in an emergency (see Morse Code)
- slump: bad posture, the opposite of standing or sit up straight; “don’t slump”
- *statutes: laws — “we have complied with the statutes of the British Board of Trade” (that is, we have the required number of lifeboats on the ship)
- steerage: third class; the cheapest tickets on the boat (since many immigrants were crossing the Atlantic at this time in history, this was the biggest section of the ship)
Quotes to think about:
In small groups or with a partner, read these quotes (which may be fictional!) and ask the question.
- (from the CBS movie)
- Captain Smith: There is an interesting line quoted often in the newspapers: “God himself cannot sink this ship.” She [the Titanic] was appropriately named. The Titans dared to challenge the gods and for their arrogance they were cast down into hell.” QUESTION: Do you think Titanic was “appropriately named” after the mythical “Titans”? Why or why not?
- Officer Lowe (after being rescued): It’s good, ma’am, that we don’t know how things are going to end in the beginning. Or we would never make the journeys that we were meant to take in this life—journeys that make us who we are. QUESTION: Would you want to know how and when your life will end, or are you glad that God does not usually reveal this in advance? Explain.
- (from A Night to Remember)
- Second Officer Lightoller (in a lifeboat): There are quite a lot of “ifs” about it, aren’t there? If we’d been steaming a few knots slower, or sighted that berg a few seconds earlier, we might not have struck. If we’d carried more lifeboats, instead of just enough to meet regulations, things would have been different again, wouldn’t they?… I’ve been at sea since I was a boy. I’ve even been shipwrecked before. I know what the sea can do. But this is different…because we were so sure. Because, even though it’s happened, it’s still unbelievable. I don’t think I’ll ever feel sure again. About anything. QUESTION: Comment on how a war or disaster (natural or man-made) has shaken the world’s confidence, and/or about how the disaster changed us.
What were the class/status of those saved?
Note 1: According to “A Night to Remember,” the final passenger roster included 332 First Class, 276 Second Class, and 708 steerage; 2208 total with crew. (These numbers are not the same as the above, showing how difficult it is to arrive at exact numbers.)
Note 2: Fourteen lifeboats could hold 65 people each, two could hold 40, the collapables (only two of the four had been properly launched) could have held 47 each. Since no accurate record of passengers exists, the number of those lost is only an estimate. The figures in the chart (and some of the other facts on this study guide) came from 888.5 Amazing Answers to your Questions about the Titanic, Hugh Brewster and Laurie Coulter, 1998, Scholastic Inc/Madison Press (Toronto)
Some things to think about:
1. One of my students once summarized the cause of the disaster like this: “Too many people put their faith in the wrong thing.” Another student said: “The people should have listened to the warnings because people don’t risk sounding crazy unless the situation is really serious.” Indeed, faith and warnings are very important in life.
2. It is impossible to live without faith. For society to function, people must exercise faith in their loved ones, business partners, government leaders, laws, contracts/agreements, and much more. However, it is extremely important that people wisely choose what to put their faith in.
3. Because of arrogance and pride, many people were deaf to the warnings about possible problems on the “unsinkable” Titanic. This led to tragic choices: traveling too fast through dangerous ice fields; carrying too few lifeboats; choosing not to get into the first few lifeboats (because they believed the ship couldn’t sink). Radio messages, nightmares, and shouting officers warned people of the danger, but misplaced “faith” made people deaf to these voices; indeed, those who warned of doom were thought to be crazy.
4. Today, sometimes our friends and neighbors sound “crazy” when they try to warn us of unseen danger. “If you eat that, you will get sick later.” “If you marry that person you will soon be unhappy.” “If you take that job, it will hurt your career.” “If you don’t believe what the Bible says, you will never experience God’s love—and you will go to hell when you die.” “If you travel there now, you will be in danger.” Remember the Titanic, and at least listen carefully to what these people are trying to say. They risk sounding “crazy” only because they love you and because they believe the situation is serious. If you don’t listen, you may be risking much more than you realize.
5. As GK Chesterton (1874–1936; influential British writer) once wrote: “The sign of a healthy mind is knowing when to close it on something solid, like the truth.”
In “Night to Remember,” the iceberg collision happens at 33:04 (1/4 of the way through the film); 1:01:07 is a good mid-point to stop for discussion (just after the lifeboat is lowered, and another flare goes off).
Discussion (Part 1):
(intended to be used on a different occasion, such as during an English Corner after watching the movie)
A. Let’s begin by letting you say what you remember about the ship and what happened. When you saw the movie, what impressed you about this technological marvel for it’s time?
B. Several film and book versions of this event have been very popular. As of 2006, the 1997 “Cameron” movie version is ranked as the biggest box office hit in history. Even if other films take away this record, the Cameron film was a remarkable success. Tell your PARTNER why you think the movie (and the historical event) is/was so popular?
C. The workers on the ship made about $4-7 US per week. Those workers who built Titanic made 2 pounds per week (around $10). How much do you think a 3rd class ticket cost? How much do you think the first class cabins cost?* Interestingly, Captain Smith earned about $120 per week, while the next in command (Henry Wilde) only earned $28 per week. (There were six officers plus the captain on the ship, and a total of 899 crew members—685 died with the ship.)
*(answer: 3rd class: $30—all your wages for over a month; 1st class $430; but those like Rose’s and Molly Brown’s suites cost $4600.) This figure was given to me during a visit to Molly’s house in Denver (2004). Her all-electric house cost $35,000 at the time—and there were not many electric homes in Denver at the beginning of the 20th century.
This brings us to a very interesting person named Molly (or really Maggie) Brown. In the Cameron movie, Rose’s mother called Maggie “new money”—what do you think that meant?
Maggie was born poor, and was part of a large family. As a teenager she decided to marry a rich man, so she moved to a town where they mined silver. At age 19 she married a man in his 30s, and though he was not rich he worked hard and became a leader in a mining company. Not long after that the price of silver dropped, and times got very hard. But the Browns didn’t give up—they moved to a gold-mining area. The Browns didn’t own the mine, but Mr. Brown worked hard and his bosses liked him. When his company’s mine struck gold, the owners rewarded the Browns with both money and shares in the company, and they became VERY wealthy.
D. If you are a college student, you may be close to Maggie’s age when she was 19. Here are some things to talk about with your partner:
1) Would you marry a rich person just because he/she is rich? How much older (than you) could your spouse be? How much older is “too old”?
2) Assume that you have not had much education, and you are now over 30 years old. You have two young children. If you and your husband suddenly became rich, what would you do with the money?
3) People from rich families (who are raised to speak and act in “civilized” ways) often do not want to accept the “newly rich.” If you suddenly became rich, would you try to become accepted by the other wealthy people in your city? Why or why not? If so, how?
4) If you had the opportunity to travel, where would you go? How long would you stay away?
I don’t know how you answered the discussion questions, but Maggie Brown used her money to become educated and to educate others. She also liked to travel. As shown in the films, Mrs. Brown was outspoken and popular. For the most part, she was a welcome part of Denver society, and her main contribution on the Titanic was her ability to speak five languages—so she translated and helped the many immigrants aboard (especially on the rescue ship). She also adopted at least three of the destitute “wealthy” foreign women who lost fortunes that night. Maggie was an “Irish Catholic” and throughout her life she gave generously to many good causes, especially concerning education. She liked to give to museums, and although she lost $27,000 worth of stuff when Titanic sunk, she said she was most saddened by the loss of three crates purchased ($500) in Egypt for the Denver Museum. Incidentally, on her insurance claim for $27,000 lost on the ship, $20,000 was a single necklace!
Discussion (Part 2):
E. This was a time of great class distinction, especially in Europe. This distinction was a reason for so many Europeans trying to emigrate to America. The Titanic had about 329 first class passengers, 285 second class, 710 “steerage” (third class), and a crew of 899. How do you think the people aboard felt? (consider each class/type of people in turn)
(If you have an especially long class period, or if you are using multiple days for this lesson, look at the Role Play idea at the bottom of this page.)
F. When the 1st and 3rd class people saw each other, what do you think they were thinking—did their situations create any special feeling? DISCUSS THIS WITH A PARTNER: Today, when a person in the countryside sees pictures of Shanghai or a “modern” city in your country, what does he/she think and feel? What do people in “big cities” think/feel about poor people in the countryside? How do people feel about those who live in places like London, Tokyo or New York?
G. Some people think the Captain “threw caution aside” and sped toward New York in spite of numerous ice warnings, perhaps to set a new record. Can you think of anything people do today “throwing caution aside”? TELL YOUR PARTNER how some of the people you know or have read about are “throwing caution aside,” and why they do it.
If you saw the movie, try to remember what people were doing in the last hour as the ship sank. Survivors heard many people singing Church songs on deck—one in particular was “Nearer My God to Thee.” (Thee is old English, and means “you” when someone is talking to God.) In two of the movies listed above, the string quartet plays this song.
H. Now we will divide the class into three groups, and I will give some questions for each group to discuss. When time is up, I want a student in each group to report your group’s answers back to the class. (see the handouts below)
After the discussion/report, if there is more time, let students ask questions or make other comments.
I. In the time remaining, I want to open the floor to you (that means to let you have control of what we talk about). Do you have any questions about the Titanic or about this period in history? Do you have any comments about the ship, the tragedy, or the arrogant way of thinking that led to this disaster? In what ways have we learned from the past, and in what ways are we still too arrogant? What “disasters” might the world be heading for, and why—and what can we do to prevent them?
Three discussion groups (exercise):
Teacher: Randomly divide students into three groups. You could “make a big deal” of getting men and women to change places (moving men from Group 1 to Group 2.) Before class, make “discussion cards” for a “leader” in each group, and “non-leader cards” for other participants to look at during the exercise.
Group 1 (leader). You are the lucky ones. You are on a life boat, looking back as the ship sinks. (Some of the men in your group may have to trade seats with a woman from Group 2!) All of you have a parent, spouse, child, brother or sister on the ship. LEADER: Ask the following questions and try to get EVERY group member to answer.
A. Your boat is not full. Should you turn back and look for survivors? (LEADER: AFTER several people give answers, read this: “Historical note: some historians say that only one or two of the 20 lifeboats really did turn back, but not until it was almost too late. Why?”)
B. In your real life (today), what are some of the risks involved in helping others?
C. When you see the ship disappear, how do you feel? What do you think you will remember the most (for the rest of your life)?
D. If you could send a message to a loved one on the ship before it goes down, what would it be?
Group 2 (leader). You are not as lucky as group 1. You are standing on the ship after the last lifeboat has pulled away. LEADER: Ask the following questions and try to get EVERY group member to answer.
A. How do you feel?
B. With all lifeboats gone, will you give up hope of getting off the ship, or try to think of another way? There is also the possibility that a rescue ship will come quickly, or that the ship will not really sink. How long do you believe that this ship is unsinkable? What will it take to make you change your mind?
C. If your real life (today), what does it take to make you admit that you need help from others?
D. Once you are convinced that the ship WILL sink, what will you do until the last moment (you may have between 15 minutes to an hour left to live)? (LEADER: AFTER several people give answers, read this: “Historical note: the electricity stayed on until the very end; therefore, many workers in the power station stayed at their job, shoveling in the coal. Workers were also serving free drinks at the bar. Survivors also reported that some groups were singing hymns so loudly that they could understand the words from the life boats. What would YOU do with your last moments to live?)
E. As the water rises around you, think about your life. If you could go back and change one thing about your life, what would it be? (i.e., what kinds of regrets would you have–and you can’t say “I wouldn’t have bought a ticket on this ship”!)
Group 3 (leader). You are alive today, and you know what happened to the Titanic. LEADER: Ask the following questions and try to get EVERY group member to answer.
A. What do you think caused this tragedy? (Historical note: there is no single “right” answer, but there are several major contributing factors. Try to list as many factors as your group can think of.)
B. If you could contact the people in England one week before the Titanic sailed, what would you tell them? (list at least five things, and use English for making suggestions; for example: You should look out for icebergs all night. Tell the captain that he ought to…)
C. Everyone thought the Titanic was unsinkable. If you tell them it is going to sink, do you think they would believe you? Why or why not? If not, would you try to convince them anyway?
D. Some of the passengers had nightmares predicting the disaster. They tried to warn their loved ones, but no one listened. In your real life (today) have you ever had someone try to convince you of something you did not believe? What was it? How did it make you feel, especially if you thought he/she was crazy? Why do people try so hard to convince others about “unbelievable” things?
Note: In settings with international students, the answers to these questions have presented many opportunities for comments about some of the most important things about life. Manage your time so that group three can present their answers, for this seems to really open doors for a good discussion. Allow people in the other groups to participate and make comments. To (A), one student said “they put too much trust in something which was not trustworthy”; to (C) they said they would “have to” tell people, even though they knew many would not listen. Another student said that, as a Christian, this is how he felt (that is, even though he knows that not everyone will listen to his warning, his ethics say he “has to” try to warn people that those who don’t know Jesus are heading for eternal disaster.) Encourage students to express their own opinions in response to these questions.
Group 1. You are the lucky ones. You are on a life boat, looking back as the ship sinks. All of you have a parent, spouse, child, brother or sister on the ship.
- A. Your boat is not full. Should you turn back and look for survivors?
- B. In your real life (today), what are some of the risks involved in helping others?
- C. When you see the ship disappear, how do you feel? What do you think you will remember the most (for the rest of your life)?
- D. If you could send a message to a loved one on the ship before it goes down, what would it be?
Group 2. You are not as lucky as group 1. You are standing on the ship after the last lifeboat has pulled away.
- A. How do you feel?
- B. You have no way to get off, but there is always the possibility that a rescue ship will come quickly, or that the ship will not really sink. How long do you believe that this ship is unsinkable? What will it take to make you change your mind?
- C. If your real life (today), what does it take to make you admit that you need help from others?
- D. Once you are convinced that the ship WILL sink, what will you do until the last moment (you may have between 15 minutes to an hour left to live)?
- E. As the water rises around you, think about your life. If you could go back and change one thing about your life, what would it be? (i.e., what kinds of regrets would you have–and you can’t say “I wouldn’t have bought a ticket on this ship”!)
Group 3. You are alive today, and you know what happened to the Titanic.
- A. What do you think caused this tragedy? (Historical note: there is no single “right” answer, but there are several major contributing factors. Try to list as many factors as your group can think of.)
- B. If you could contact the people in England one week before the Titanic sailed, what would you tell them? (list at least five things, and use English for making suggestions; for example: You should look out for icebergs all night. Tell the captain that he ought to…)
- C. Everyone thought the Titanic was unsinkable. If you tell them it is going to sink, do you think they would believe you? Why or why not? If not, would you try to convince them anyway?
- D. Some of the passengers had nightmares predicting the disaster. They tried to warn their loved ones, but no one listened. In your real life (today) have you ever had someone try to convince you of something you did not believe? What was it? How did it make you feel, especially if you thought he/she was crazy? Why do people try so hard to convince others about “unbelievable” things?
Aftermath of the tragedy:
Rescue: It took over four hours to get everyone from the lifeboats onto the Carpathia. Men climbed up ladders, but women and children were slowly lifted in bo’sun’s chairs (a kind of sling) or canvas bags.
The depressed and inactive crewman in charge of Molly Brown’s lifeboat was officer Hichens, who had been at the wheel when the Titanic struck the iceberg. When they saw the Carpathia in the early light, he insisted that it was not a rescue ship. Against his orders, Molly eventually started rowing toward the ship and encouraged other women to do the same (and threatened to throw Hichens overboard if he interfered). Hichens had a hard time finding work afterward and eventually became a harbor master in South Africa.
On the rescue ship, first class passenger Molly Brown helped translate for the immigrants (she spoke five languages). She later raised money for Titanic victims, and took care of several of the wealthy widows who lost everything (including husbands) on the Titanic. Sadly, other first class passengers complained that no one from third class should have been saved since so many first and second class people died.
Loraine Allison (age 2) was the only first class child lost (both parents died too). Her nurse Alice Cleaver had taken her baby brother (Trevor) into a lifeboat. Some people believe Alice had spent time in jail for killing her own baby (this is uncertain). In New York, Alice lied about her name and (perhaps) tried to keep the baby, but officials turned the baby over to his uncle. Trevor died of food poisoning at the age of 18.
R. Norris Williams was one of 13 passengers who swam to half-sunken collapsible #A; they suffered from severe frostbite after having their feet/legs in the freezing water for several hours. Doctors on the Carpathia wanted to cut off his feet, but he refused. After lots of hard work Norris continued his tennis career and twice won national championships.
Violet Jessop survived disasters on Titanic and her two sister ships. She survived when the Olympic collided with a navy ship (Hawke) in 1911, then became a stewardess on the Titanic (1912). In 1916 the Britannic became a hospital ship, and she was a nurse when it sank (probably due to a mine or torpedo in World War I). When her lifeboat was sucked into the Britannic’s still-turning propellers, she jumped overboard but hit her head on the lifeboat while coming up for air. Someone grabbed her and pulled her into another boat.
Three small dogs were on Titanic’s lifeboats, including a Pekinese named after Sun Zhong Shan (Sun Yat Sen). At least six other pet dogs drown.
Records show that 663 people survived in the 18 lifeboats that were launched, but they were designed for 1084 people. Those saved: 290 men, 324 women, 49 children. Many men refused to get in, and the boats left half empty. This was especially true with the first six boats, one of which had only 12 (1:10 am) people and another had 19 (12:45 am). The last boat left at 2:05 am (collapsible D with 40 of 47 seats full). The ship disappeared at 2:20. On one side of the boat, the officers were strict saying “women and children only” while the other side obeyed the captain’s orders — “women and children first” — and encouraged husbands/fathers to get in if no other women were in sight. Two boats eventually returned and picked up nine survivors, but three of these later died. The boats had been told to row as far away as possible so as to avoid suction, so some were very far away when the ship went down over an hour later; oddly there was no suction. The water was 28 degrees (-2 C).
One woman and 42 men swam to the two un-launched collapsibles. #A was half-filled with water and had floated away; 13 later got in but two suffered from severe frostbite after sitting in the freezing water for hours; #B was upside down and 30 men eventually climbed onto its back, including Second Officer Lightoller, who is credited with saving many lives and providing invaluable testimony after the tragedy.
Records are imprecise, but around 2260 people were on the Titanic; only 706 were rescued. Over 1500 perished (died). After this disaster, the US Coast Guard started to watch icebergs more closely. After Titanic, no lives have been lost in the North Atlantic due to ice.
The wreckage of the Titanic was located at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 1985.
Interesting notes and role play idea:
Your favorite search engine (google/baidu/etc) will lead you to lots more information about the Titanic, but here is a link to the Titanic Historical Society: http://www.titanic1.org/. I have also visited a traveling Titanic exhibit connected to RMS Titanic Inc, which also has an online experience (fees involved): https://www.titanic.live.
Here is a link to a cartoon-like booklet about the Titanic (in Chinese); I think it is very interesting. http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0373/0373_01.asp
Role Play help: I like to assign students actual people on the Titanic, and tell them to mingle as if they were that person (perhaps on the first day of the cruise, waiting for a “useless” lifeboat drill). I play the part of designer Thomas Andrews. To get info about real people, visit www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-passenger-list/ (click on any name to learn about them). BETTER YET: assign students to choose someone before class (as homework)!
A really interesting “extra exercise” (for older students) can be found here: http://titanic.andersonkill.com/facts.htm or for teachers: http://titanic.andersonkill.com/teacher.htm. This is Anderson Kill & Olick’s Titanic mock trial site (designed for classroom use). They designed it for Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and it was so popular that they put it on line. In this mock trial, they staged the trial of The White Star Line, the operator of the R.M.S. Titanic. The site has information about sinking victim Hans Jensen, his fiancé Carla Christine Jensen who sues on Hans’ behalf, the defendant White Star Lines and the witnesses, the Titanic’s Second Officer Lightoller and Swedish military attaché Bjornstrom-Steffansson. A memoranda of law explaining negligence law and White Star’s defenses to negligence are on the website along with an exhibit showing where each party was as the ship was being evacuated. A set of links provides more information about Titanic, the U.S. judicial process and Law Day.
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