In my never-ending quest to stave off worktime boredom, I came across a website that truly lives up to its name: Damn Interesting. They posted a story on the Halifax Disaster a few days ago. This piqued my interest for two reasons: 1) Who doesn't love an exciting story involving two captains staring each other down, men jumping overboard, and exploding chemicals? and 2) Lack of bilingualism resulted in higher casualties:
"As [the crew] rowed to shore they cried warnings at the people gathered there to watch the bright flames and oily black smoke erupting from the Mont-Blanc. But none of the Frenchmen spoke English, so their warnings were not understood."
What I think this should have said was, "None of the Nova Scotians spoke French, so the crew's warnings were not understood." I think there is just no excuse for that--a Canadian province's residents not being able to understand basic communications in one of their country's official languages! If I saw a sailor abandoning ship and then coming ashore screaming Spanish at me, I would probably get the hint. I don't understand Spanish, but I would think the body language would give itself away. Maybe the fumes from the burning benzol rendered these people temporarily unable to save themselves. I guess we'll never know.