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Sample of IELTS reading text

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Sample of IELTS reading text


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Lessons from the Titanic


A From the comfort of our modern lives we tend to look back at the turn of the twentieth century as a dangerous time for sea travelers. With limited communication facilities, and shipping technology stil in its infancy in the early nineteen hundreds, we consider ocean travel to have been a risky business. But to the people of the time it was one of the safest forms of transport. At the time of the Titanicís maiden voyage in 1912, there had only been four lives lost in the previous forty years on passenger ships on the North Atlantic crossing. And the Titanic was confidently proclaimed to be unsinkable. She represented the pinnacle of technological advance at the time. Her builders, crew and passengers had no doubt that she was the finest ship ever built. But stil she did sink on April 14, 1912, taking 1,517 of her passengers and crew with her.

B The RMS Titanic left Southampton for New York on April 10, 1912. On board were some of the richest and most famous people of the time who had paid large sums of money to sail on the first voyage of the most luxurious ship in the world. Imagine her placed on her end: she was larger at 269 metres than many of the talest buildings of the day. And with nine decks, she was as high as an eleven storey building. The Titanic caried 329 first class, 285 second class and 710 third class passengers with 899 crew members, under the care of the very experienced Captain Edward J.Smith. She also caried enough food to feed a smal town, including 40,000 fresh eggs, 36,000 apples, 111,000 lbs of fresh meat and 2,200 lbs of coffee for the five day journey.

C RMS Titanic was believed to be unsinkable because the hull was divided into sixteen watertight compartments. Even if two of these compartments flooded, the ship could stil float. The shipís owners could not imagine that, in the case of an accident, the Titanic would not be able to float until she was rescued. It was largely as a result of this confidence in the ship and in the safety of ocean travel that the disaster could claim such a great loss of life.

D In the ten hours prior to the Titanicís fatal collision with an iceberg at 11.40pm, six warnings of icebergs in her path were received by the Titanic's wireless operators. Only one of these messages was formaly posted on the bridge; the others were in various locations across the ship. If the combined information in these messages of iceberg positions had been ploted, the ice field which lay across the Titanicís path would have been apparent. Instead, the lack of formal procedures for dealing with information from a relatively new piece of technology, the wireless, meant that the danger was not known until too late. This was not the fault of the Titanic crew. Procedures for dealing with warnings received through the wireless had not been formalised across the shipping industry at the time. The fact that the wireless operators were not even Titanic crew, but rather contracted workers from a wireless company, made their role in the shipís
operation quite unclear.

E Captain Smithís seemingly casual atitude in increasing the speed on this day to a dangerous 22 knots or 41 kilometres per hour, can then be partly explained by his ignorance of what lay ahead. But this only partly accounts for his actions, since the spring weather in Greenland was known to cause huge chunks of ice to break of from the glaciers. Captain Smith knew that these icebergs would float southward and had already acknowledged this danger by taking a more southerly route than at other times of the year. So why was the Titanic traveling at high speed when he knew, if not of the specific risk, at least of the general risk of icebergs in her path? As with the lack of coordination of the wireless messages, it was simply standard operating procedure at the time. Captain Smith was folowing the practices accepted on the North Atlantic, practices which had coincided with forty years of safe travel. He believed, wrongly as we now know, that the ship could turn or stop in time if an iceberg was sighted by the lookouts.

F There were around two and a half hours between the time the Titanic rammed into the iceberg and its final submersion. In this time 705 people were loaded into the twenty lifeboats. There were 473 empty seats available on lifeboats while over 1,500 people drowned. These figures raise two important issues. Firstly, why there were not enough lifeboats to seat every passenger and crew member on board. And secondly, why the lifeboats were not full.

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