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By Their Own Doing

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Throughout history, each new advance in technology has made the success of human endeavour more attainable. Some feel that technology brings us closer to perfection. But we are still human beings, prone to mistakes and misunderstandings that can lead to tragedy.

The Queen Mary/Curacoa Crash: Bigger than the Titanic, the Queen Mary was one of the most famous ocean liners of its time. During WWII she entered active duty as a troop transport. On October 2, 1942, as she rounded the coast of Ireland, 6 destroyers and the HMS curacoa joined her as an escort. The zigzag patterns of the destroyers caused heavy wakes and forced all 8 ships to make constant minor course corrections. Eventually these corrections, combined with the superior speed of the Queen Mary, proved disastrous. The Queen Mary first nudged in the Curacoa's stern and then ploughed right through it, cutting the smaller ship in half. 338 of the 429 people on board the Curacoa drowned as the Queen Mary continued on, under orders not to stop for any reason. A court of inquiry later placed the blame mostly on the Curacoa, although the lookout for the Queen Mary was also faulted.

The Newfoundland Sealing Disaster: The great sealing disaster of 1914 is a story of human error, elemental weather, and neglect. Caught in a sudden and punishing spring blizzard, 77 sealers died on an ice shelf off the northern Newfoundland coast. On March 30th the skipper of the Stephano sent 170 men onto the ice. That evening a ferocious spring storm struck as the men were heading back to their ship. Through a combination of bad luck and irresponsible decisions on the part of the skipper, the hapless sealers were stranded on the floe. They spent 2 nights exposed to howling winds and freezing sleet. 3 days later, the ship Bellaventure stumbled across the 38 desperate and frostbitten survivors. The Newfoundland disaster caused a storm of controversy in its wake.

2002, 46 min 45 s

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