Cause of Death for RMS Titanic victims

>>The wreck is a hair under 2 miles down, right? It would have taken a couple minutes, at least, to reach the bottom. There would have been air bubbles rising to the surface for hours, too. <<

Actually, it would have taken closer to between 20 to 30 minutes to hit the bottom since the drag of the hull through the water column would have restricted her speed of decent. As to whether or not air bubbles would have been rising, this is hardly relevant I'm afraid. Not when the issue is the approximate time that the survivors reported hearing "explosions."
Also, self-correction. I thought the wreck was at a more shallow point (just under 2 miles) than it actually is, which is over 12,000 feet. My bad. Michael - your figure makes a lot more sense in light of that.

Ryan Thompson
Strangely enough, it may be something of a blessing that the ship lies in deep water. The sheer depths and location make access very difficult without specialized equipment and submersibles, to say nothing of expensive.

Had the Titanic gone down in really shallow in shallow enough so that tech divers could reach it...the ship would have been stripped down by salvagers ages ago, and what's left would be little more then rusted junk that would tell us nothing. The depths may be inconvenient, but it's worked for science and history.
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Again, belatedly: David, I agree with your points about the lifeboats’ real capabilities as rescue craft. Dave Gittins has also pointed this out, and the info you’ve both shared is important for people to remember. However, I still do feel there were plenty of people who could have been saved had circumstances and the human frailty of fear not been what they were that night.

A clarification: Ryan, when I said "low visibility" I was referring to the darkness, not a fog, so the term wasn’t the best for what I meant.
>Another reference shows a spread for 6C (43F) water listing time to unconsciousness from 0.8 to 2.6 hours for a lean person in light clothing. (see

True. But the water we are talking about was not 43F, but closer to 30, and perhaps 28. The difference is substantial. Check out the difference between the times given for 43F and 58F, which is the same 'split' between 28 and 43.

>So my point is that there will be a small percentage of people that will last much longer than the average. How long depends on body weight, clothing, and other factors. To assume that after 15 minutes all will be unconscious as in that particular chart is probably not correct.

Unconscious OR incapable of crying out or effecting escape is what we were discussing. Technically, many were still "living" when the Carpathia arrived on the scene, given that with modern treatment (2006) there was a chance that they could have been brought back (the hypothermia section of The Childrens Blizzard goes into excruciating detail on that point- and on all points of death by hypothermia for that matter). Yes, there would have been a few hardy persons who survived longer than the others, but what was being discussed, of course, is the legendary chorus of screams that allegedly went on for 45 minutes, and gradually diminished. it could not have happened like that, unless the laws of nature functioned differently in that particular shipwreck than they did in others. A great example of this that you can watch in real time is the footage of the attempts to rescue the passengers from the plane that crashed into the Potomac in January 1982. Ten minutes after the crash, at the point where cameras began "rolling" those who were in the water were incapable of moving their arms or swimming the 20 FEET to the unbroken ice onto which they COULD conceivably have crawled. The footage of them being pulled out by helicopter is hard to watch~ as you no doubt recall, at least one man gave up and sank with rescue only minutes away. Only ten minutes after being immersed in ice water none of the 7 in the film were crying out to the rescuers at hand, or even moving very much. There is a similarity of accounts between vessels that sank with a large number of people left on board in icy water- the Islander comes to mind for instance- and INVARIABLY those who were in the water fell silent and were not struggling after ten to twenty minutes had elapsed. Witness the Empress of Ireland. Even with her six lifeboats, plus those of the Storstad on hand and effecting rescue, after 20 minutes there was no one left to save~ and the water was between five and ten degrees warmer than that in which the Titanic victims were immersed. Heck- the Morro Castle victims were immersed in water that was as warm as North Atlantic water ever gets, and within 4 hours were beginning to die of shock.

If you like, we can discuss the various 'tricks' your brain plays as you freeze to death, all of which also make it impossible to cry out or do very much after your core temperature reaches a certain point. People who freeeze to death follow the same pattern~ after a relatively brief period, those in the water would not have CARED about being rescued as they went from being befuddled, to complete tunnel vision, to entirely incoherent and to hallucinating, followed by unconsciousness and a protracted death.

So, the prolonged chorus of screams, although a nice melodramatic touch to add to books and articles, seems to be contradicted by not only the charts but by accounts of every other ice water shipwreck I can find, plus studies of the film of the 1982 crash survivors immersed in ice water. Five to ten minutes of frantic struggle seems more like it. Of course, if it was your friends, co-workers or spouse screaming out for help like that it would SEEM like an hour. Time, or how we perceive, it is relative. Call it the Math Class Factor, if you will. We've ALL had the experience of sitting in a loathed class at school, looking at one's watch and thinking OH MY GOD IT HAS ONLY BEEN FIVE MINUTES! Then, after what seems like a half hour looking again and then thinking OH MY GOD IT HAS ONLY BEEN FIVE MINUTES! Well, I assume that listening to one's friends and loved ones dying a tortured death is much the same. And, without the benefit of a watch, and being cold and frightened it could only have been worse and seem inteminable.
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Treatment for hypothermia would actually be a tub of cold water, because warm or hot water will shock your body system. The cold water, while cold, is still warmer than the icewater and is supposed to gradually warm you up. Would they have known this back then?

I saw a special on the Potomac plane crash of 1982 on TV last year. They tried to take off without a high enough amount of engine power. I seem to remember it being pilot error, correct me if I'm wrong.

Ryan Thompson
Jim, with all due respect, you and I have made our points, and I agree that there is a difference between 0C and 6C on the time spread values to become incapacitated. It would be interesting if someone was willing to compile all eyewitness reports to get some bracket on the estimated times involved here. I wouldn't be so dismissive if many of these accounts suggest that some of the cries were heard as far out as 30 minutes after. Not all the people were lean and lightly clothed, and some must have gotten themselves up on crates and other floating debris as Gracie did.

Ryan, if I remember that incident correctly the plane sat on the runway quite some time since it was de-iced last, and a new layer of ice started to formed on the leading edge of the wings just before the plane started its takeoff roll. The result was that the wings were not producing the normal lift required and actually started to loose lift as more ice formed as it got airborne.
I agree the chorus of cries probably didn’t last as long as many remembered, though smaller unison and individual cries might been heard at 45 minutes, since some swimmers had pulled themselves out of the water onto the upturned and swamped lifeboats.

By the way, the Air Florida crash happened in extremely severe weather conditions; there was a snowstorm going on so the situation was far worse than when the Titanic sank. I’ve always been surprised that anyone made it out of that crash. The footage is hard to watch; you can almost feel the blasts of wind. I’m reminded of the heroism of one of the victims, a man who kept passing the helicopter’s lifeline to others who were more injured. Didn’t the city name that bridge after him, the bridge where the plane crashed?

Jason D. Tiller

Treatment for hypothermia would actually be a tub of cold water, because warm or hot water will shock your body system. The cold water, while cold, is still warmer than the icewater and is supposed to gradually warm you up.

Yes, I know from first hand experience. When the feeling starts to come back, it is very excruciating. They may not have been aware of it at that time though, but I could be wrong.
Thanks for the reference Michael. Certainly the passengers were not expecting to be under water, and those that did make it out were not dressed for the cold. I remember one flight that I was on from Newark, NJ to Allentown, PA on a business trip. It was during a snow storm and our plane, a turbo-prop aircraft, was de-iced twice. Still I was concerned probably more than most other passengers until we had climbed out and above the WX. As a private pilot I knew too much about icing and its affect on the wing surface. Sometimes its better on the nerves if you don't know anything. By the way, for those not too familiar with the problem, it not the weight of the ice that forms on the wings so much as the ice killing the smooth flow of air over the leading edge of wings thereby lowering the stall speed.
>>As a private pilot I knew too much about icing and its affect on the wing surface.<<

Amen to that! At least half of my flying time was in Iceland in a Piper Warrior that had nothing as far as any de-icing capability went. Needless to say, when considering whether or not to go up, I kept a close eye on the TAF/METAR.

Loss of lift and stall can really screw up your day.
It's a small world Michael. That Warrior must be the same plane that my son was flying when he was stationed up there. It is part of the flying club on the NAS base at Keflavic which you must have belonged to. You probably have seen the image below more than once while flying up there. This was a picture I took of some standing lenticular clouds over the mountains to the northwest when I came up for a visit. You can see the right wing of that Warrior in the picture. The picture is looking aft from the right seat. My son, an AG1, was flying at the time.
>>That Warrior must be the same plane that my son was flying when he was stationed up there.<<

I'm sure it is. They had to sell off one that they had before I arrived there back in '96 so that left them with the one and only. A nice forgiving aircraft with very tame stall characteristics. Wish I could say the same for the Cessna 150 I played with out of Pickens. That thing wanted to roll in a stall.

>>You probably have seen the image below more than once while flying up there. <<

Yep...sure have. And the bonus of flying up there was that I learned how to handle crosswinds and landing on icy runways real quick! I remember one day when my CFI offered to take me up for a lesson, we turned on the station TAF/METAR and we watched a revision where the mu readings on the runways went from "acceptable" down to "Slick 50!"

You should have seen the look on his face.

I went for it, didn't spooch even a single landing, and this was at night!

Ahhhhh...for the Good Old Days!

Miranda Martin

I was wondering how people died, especially children. Why didn't the stewards just grab them and throw them in a lifeboat? And why didn't the stewards at the third class gates let the women and children out earlier? And why did the children refuse to leave their mother, who refused to leave her husband, which caused the death of entire families like the Sages, the Anderssons, the Skoogs, etc...

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally posted as a separate thread under a different topic, has been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject. MAB]
First of all, the third class passengers were neglected to death because of the classist principles and values of the time. Secondly, it is quite understandable for a child to stay with his/her parents during a dangerous situation.
Finally the atmosphere on board wasn't really helpful in order to get into the boats: at the beginning the tilt of the ship wasn't too steep, the water didn't reach the first class facilities until 1 am, the band played, adding a party and strange feeling to the night, the ship was considered unsinkable, the steerage passengers on the stern section of the ship didn't have any idea of what was going on on the bow. And, besides it was a bitterly cold night! There are a lot of reasons that are able to explain why so many people died in this terrible catastrophe!
Half the Third Class passengers were quartered at the bow and, following the collision and fully aware that the ship was taking water, beat a retreat along the working alleyway to mingle with the other half at the stern. So the Third Class passengers knew better and sooner than any others what was going on at the bow. That knowledge was not, of course, necessarily of much use to them.
Maybe the steerage passengers knew that something was wrong, but they didn't know HOW BAD THE GENERAL SITUATION WAS. We also should consider that not many third class passengers understood the language. However we must agree that third class passengers in the bow section wouldn't have needed any co action to get into the boats at 12.35 pm.
>>but they didn't know HOW BAD THE GENERAL SITUATION WAS.<<

Don't be so sure. The Third Class accomadation up forward was the first passenger section which was flooded out. Kind of hard to not know how bad the situation is when the evidence is that graphic.