Charles Joughin Hypothermia Survival


Jul 9, 2000
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I think you'll find that the survival times in all the official pulications and the like are averages, not iron clad absolutes. There are a lot of differing factors at work which determine how long a given person could survive. In the instance of the people on the Titanic who were in contact with the water, survival tended to depend on how quickly they got out of it because they would lose body heat a lot faster in the water then they would in the air.

As to the article from Readers Digest cited above, I regard that story with a massive amount of skepticism. I wouldn't go so far as to call it impossible...exceptional cases exist...but Readers Digest has a habit of publishing material as fact without always checking to see if it is. An example would be the condensed version of Colin Simpson's book on the Lusitania which is notorious among Lusitania researchers for it's errors in fact.

Just a little something to for everybody to think about there.
 

Eloise Aston

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I know the times are averages, but the average one Thomas gave was higher than all the others I've seen. I can believe that there might just be one or two exceptional cases where someone does survive 1h 20 mins or more, but as an average it just seemed too long. Joughin's time, especially with adjustments as suggested in this thread, would be more believable with that average, but much less so if you took the 45 minute figure, which in the tables I've seen is supposed in any case to be calculated for water 35 F - this was about 7 degrees colder!
I'm not an expert on this by any means, but my information is based on air/sea rescue websites on hypothermia which I'm assuming are reliable.

Interesting article I was directed to here:

Do gravity holes harbour planetary assassins? .200-superhuman-the-secrets-of-the-ice-man.html

This guy has really pushed the envelope, but he trains, especially before he goes in.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Joughin's time would be more believable if the water was warmer and the time scale itself wasn't completely jacked. If he had been pulled out of the water after three hours, daylight would have long broken and the Carpathia was already on the scene. Anyone who came out of the water alive and stayed alive did so long before the sun came up.

That article is interesting but it may not be all that useful in this context. Lewis Gordon Pugh...the subject of that article...is thoroughly trained and conditioned for that sort of thing and there's evidence that he has some voluntary control over his matabolism which is a lot more then may be said for anybody on the Titanic.

It shows there are exceptions but not necesserily that anybody on Titanic was one of them.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Much of Joughin's time 'in the water' was actually spent with his upper body out of the water on the upturned collapsible. That makes a big difference.
 
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Hello to all and especially Eloise,

I’m delighted to find this thread about Charles Joughin continuing. Yes — as pointed out, I haven’t logged in since 2006 — but recently stumbled across this discussion once again.

I’d like to try to address Eloise's thoughtful comments and questions about survival predictions and tables.

For the prediction of approximately 1 hr and 20 min average survival, I used the classic work by the Canadian investigator, John Hayward, which was used for years by the US Coast Guard and is still used by many hypothermia investigators today (Hayward JS: The physiology of immersion hypothermia. In Pozos RS, Wittners LE eds: The nature and treatment of hypothermia, Minneapolis, 1983, Univ Minnesota Press.). More recent prediction models, I think would also give a similar estimate (see for example Tikuisis P: Aviat Space Environ Med 1997; 68:441).

So why the discrepancy compared to the figures Eloise cited? To be honest, I’m not sure and I’d welcome the specific references if available. But I don’t doubt that differences are possible.

My use of the sources above for the estimate of 1 hr and 20 min. was based on many factors.

First and perhaps foremost, the sources I quote above all assume that the victim is wearing a personal flotation device (life jacket). Without flotation, survival is GREATLY decreased. Because life vests were available on Titanic, I think it is reasonable to assume that the majority of victims had them. In water 28 F, with flotation, survival for an average individual would be (using the sources above) approximately 1 hr and 20 min. Likely the victim would be unconscious much sooner — perhaps 45 minutes (or sooner). But WITHOUT FLOTATION, survival time would be dramatically less — perhaps 10 minutes or less depending on swimming ability, strength and other variables.

Secondly, the sea state was minimal the night Titanic sank. Thus, the conditions, in my opinion, matched fairly well with experimental conditions, especially those in Hayward’s studies. With rougher seas, survival time would have been less.

Lastly, some might argue that the prediction models I used are a bit optimistic — used by search and rescue personnel to give victims the benefit of the doubt and continue searches until no reasonable hope of survival remains. But given the mild sea state, and the use of flotation, I still think 1 hr and 20 min is a fair estimate.

My hunch is that Eloise's sources were perhaps more general and less specific than the ones I used - perhaps included a variety of sea states (not just calm), perhaps applicable to both victims with and victims without flotation, and perhaps just more conservative overall. Again, I’d welcome the references — obsessing over the differences in studies, after all, is what many would say we investigators do best…..

But now back to Mr. Charles Joughin. Do I still think the same as I did back in 2001? Well….yes…but maybe with a little less certainty. I still think it unlikely that he spent three hours in the water. The sunrise data seem to suggest that he didn’t. And I think most survival data also make it unlikely.

But after several more years of research, I’m a just a bit less sure. Over the years, I’ve reviewed some absolutely remarkable survival accounts, and there is considerable variability in individual responses to cold. Despite my doubts, maybe, just maybe, Charles Joughin, did last that long in extremely cold water. Regardless, I think it’s fair to say he beat the odds.

TJN
 
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>>Wasn't Charles John Joughin wearing raccoon fur coat also?<<

Not that I'm aware of. The trouble here is that we're trying to explain something without having any seriously credible evidence that there is anything here to explain.
 

Thomas Ozel

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Hello all

Should it be noted that Joughin was not the only survivor who claimed he was in the water for several hours? Frank Prentice (one of the survivors rescued by Lifeboat No. 4) says in this 1966 BBC interview that he was in the water for 4 hours before a lifeboat picked him up. However this cannot be possible because No.4's search for survivors occured within roughly the first half an hour of the Titanic sinking, as No.4 later joined a flotilla of boats who took on No.14's passengers to enable Lowe to look for more survivors, and Lowe's rescue attempt occured 1 hour after the sinking. If 30 minutes (at the very most) seemed like 4 hours to Prentice, is it possible that Joughin made the same miscalculation?

Thomas.

BBC - Archive - Survivors of the Titanic - Today from the South & West | Sinking of RMS Titanic
 
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Human beings do not have a good sense of time. Sure, we all know "about" how long an hour lasts -- but not directly. What we know is how much can be done during that period of time. If humans were good at measuring time in their own heads there would have been much less need for clocks, pocket watches, etc. During a lifetime in broadcasting I've run into few announcers who can self-measure more than 60 seconds. Then, when you add to this the effect of hypothermia on the sensation of time, things get dicey for eyewitness accounts. Research has shown that when people are really cold their sense of passing time slows down. The old phrase, "minutes seemed like hours" seems to apply. Bottom line -- survivors in the water undoubtedly did not lie about how long they perceived they were in the water. But, someone standing nearby would have measured a much shorter period of time.

-- David G. Brown
 
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To summarise, Joughin got bread into the lifeboats, imbibed intoxicating drink, threw potential flotation devices into the sea, had more intoxicating drink, made his way to the stern, rode the ship into the sea, made his way from where he entered the sea towards collapsible B, hung around 'til he was picked up by another lifeboat, got into the Carpathia and breathed a sigh of relief.

Is there anything I missed?
 

chrismireya

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Greetings!

I thought about creating a new thread about Charles Joughin; however, it may be better to simply add a few thoughts to this one (which I find fascinating).

My first question (as a skeptic) is to ask whether or not there are any survivors who corroborated Joughin's story. Obviously, he was a survivor of the sinking. However, did anyone rescued from Collapsible B ever mention anything about Joughin?

Joughin's testimony about Collapsible B is quite accurate. He mentions that fellow cook Isaac Maynard recognized him and held out his hand to him. He claimed that he held onto the side of the boat until another lifeboat arrived. However, I've never found an interview with Maynard describing this.

For all we know, Maynard might have been standing on Collapsible B all along. In fact, he says something strange later in his testimony. He says to the British inquiry:

6104. And you supported yourself by your lifebelt. I do not want to be harrowing about it, but was the water very cold?

- I felt colder in the lifeboat - after I got in the lifeboat.

6105. You were picked up, were you, by a lifeboat later on?

- We were hanging on to this collapsible, and eventually a lifeboat came in sight.

6106. And they took you aboard?

- They got within about 50 yards and they sung out that they could only take 10. So I said to this Maynard, "Let go my hand," and I swam to meet it, so that I would be one of the 10.

6107. Did you swim to it, and were you taken in?

- Yes, I was taken in.

6108. You have said you thought it was about two hours before you saw this collapsible, and then you spent some time with the collapsible. How long do you suppose it was after you got to the collapsible that you were taken into the lifeboat?

- I should say we were on the collapsible about half-an-hour.

I found the words "on the collapsible" to be interesting. My skeptical mind makes me wonder whether Joughin embellished part of his testimony and was on Collapsible B from nearly the beginning. He would have only gotten his feet wet (like many of the others) -- until he may have swam over to the approaching lifeboat.

This would make much more sense about his seemingly miraculous tale. Until we find other testimony to corroborate Joughin's tale, I will remain quite skeptical.

As for his potential testimony about the breakup, consider the following questions and responses:

One disappointing point about Joughin's recollections: he doesn't go into any detail concerning the ship breaking in two. I always believed he would have been one of the key eyewitnesses to this dramatic event. Standing on the stern, Joughin would have had a clear view of the ship breaking up under his feet. He does not say anything about it during the British Inquiry but he apparently confirmed this with his family many years later.

I think that it is possible to read-between-the-lines with his testimony of the final minutes before the sinking. Here are a few of the questions and his responses:

6040. Tell us what happened?

- I went to the deck pantry, and while I was in there I thought I would take a drink of water, and while I was getting the drink of water I heard a kind of a crash as if something had buckled, as if part of the ship had buckled, and then I heard a rush overhead.

....

6049. You say that you heard this sound of buckling or crackling. Was it loud; could anybody in the ship hear it?

- You could have heard it, but you did not really know what it was. It was not an explosion or anything like that. It was like as if the iron was parting.

6050. Like the breaking of metal?

- Yes.

6051. Was it immediately after that sound that you heard this rushing of people and saw them climbing up?

- Yes.

6052. What did you do?

- I kept out of the crush as much as I possibly could, and I followed down - followed down getting towards the well of the deck, and just as I got down towards the well she gave a great list over to port and threw everybody in a bunch except myself. I did not see anybody else besides myself out of the bunch.


I suppose that someone could interpret this as to a firsthand testimony of the breakup by a possibly intoxicated man aboard Titanic. From his testimony, we can surmise that Joughin wasn't near the breakup -- but a bit further back in the ship. He would only hear the sounds and then describe the experience. He seems to have heard the frantic panic of those who were in the "rush overhead."

I've often wondered if the subsequently described "great list to port" might have actually been describing the final part of the ship's breakup -- when the aft-part was finally separated from the forepart. Joughin doesn't describe the ship righting itself; however, he does mention that (in the moments after) he was able to make his way at least to the starboard poop deck railing.
 

Arun Vajpey

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I found the words "on the collapsible" to be interesting. My skeptical mind makes me wonder whether Joughin embellished part of his testimony and was on Collapsible B from nearly the beginning. He would have only gotten his feet wet (like many of the others) -- until he may have swam over to the approaching lifeboat.

As a (recently retired) doctor with 41 years experience including a stint in Emergency Medicine, I can categorically confirm that Charles Joughin certainly embellished at least one part of his story - about swimming in those freezing waters for 3 hours. It is simply not possible for even the healthiest and hardiest human being to survive for more than 20 to 25 minutes under those conditions; in fact one would soon lapse into stupor that would make them stop moving and so accelerate effects of hypothermia.

If Joughin was indeed inebriated at the time as is alleged, it would make matters worse, not better. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does NOT protect a person from cold; quite the opposite. The feeling of warmth associated with a sip of brandy occurs due to cutaneous vasodilation, whereby the blood vessels of the skin that would have been constricted by the cold now open-up, allowing increased blood flow. But in doing so, the blood is diverted away from vital organs like the heart and kidneys, making them more susceptible to effects of hypothermia. In effect, alcohol cancels out nature's way of protecting those vital organs in severe cold and so being inebriated can actually kill faster under those conditions.

It was not just Joughin - several other male survivors, both passengers and crew, made similar claims later. They were obviously suffering from classic "survivors' guilt" and given the social norms of the day, it would have been much worse for them than in the present times.
 
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Paul Burrell

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As a (recently retired) doctor with 41 years experience including a stint in Emergency Medicine, I can categorically confirm that Charles Joughin certainly embellished at least one part of his story - about swimming in those freezing waters for 3 hours. It is simply not possible for even the healthiest and hardiest human being to survive for more than 20 to 25 minutes under those conditions; in fact one would soon lapse into stupor that would make them stop moving and so accelerate effects of hypothermia.

If Joughin was indeed inebriated at the time as is alleged, it would make matters worse, not better. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does NOT protect a person from cold; quite the opposite. The feeling of warmth associated with a sip of brandy occurs due to cutaneous vasodilation, whereby the blood vessels of the skin that would have been constricted by the cold now open-up, allowing increased blood flow. But in doing so, the blood is diverted away from vital organs like the heart and kidneys, making them more susceptible to effects of hypothermia. In effect, alcohol cancels out nature's way of protecting those vital organs in severe cold and so being inebriated can actually kill faster under those conditions.

It was not just Joughin - several other male survivors, both passengers and crew, made similar claims later. They were obviously suffering from classic "survivors' guilt" and given the social norms of the day, it would have been much worse for them than in the present times.
I agree with this. Many crew survivors embellished their stories, clearly due to the guilt they felt as a result of surviving when so many perished. Other than those who were on Collapsible A and B or those who swum to Lifeboat 4, everyone else just stepped in a lifeboat.

Furthermore, for the same motive, many crew overestimated the total amount of people in their lifeboat, whilst underestimating the number of crew in the lifeboat.

I expect Joughin spent as much time in the water as Frank Prentice. I have no doubt that it felt like hours in the water but was probably a short time. Even that short amount of time was at the limit of human endurance.
 
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chrismireya

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Good points.

Considering Occam's Razor as a guide, it seems that the most plausible and likely explanation to me is that Chief Baker Charles Joughin was on Collapsible B all along. During the British Inquiry, Second Officer Charles Lightoller was asked by the Solicitor General:

14118. (The Solicitor-General.): I have the evidence of the chief baker, a man named Joughin, who kept afloat in the water till dawn and he had told us at dawn he saw an upturned boat and made his way to it, and I think someone gave him a hand and kept him up in the water for some time. Is that the collapsible boat you are speaking of?

- I do not remember his being there.

In fact, Lightoller was more-or-less oblivious to the identities or even number of men crowded upon Collapsible B. He went on to further explain himself via questions in the British Inquiry:

14119. (The Commissioner.) How many were on this collapsible boat when you were transferred to the lifeboat?

- I did not count them, My Lord, but I have been given to understand since from the men who saw it and the men on the raft, that there were 28 or 30 on there.

The Solicitor-General: May I give your Lordship the reference. Joughin, on page 142 tells you what his view is of this boat.

The Commissioner: That is the baker.

....

14125. (The Solicitor-General): I daresay you will remember he (Chief Baker Joughin) said there was not room for him, and somebody recognized him. I think one of the cooks was on it, and held out his hand and helped to keep him afloat for a bit, and later on there was a lifeboat which approached and according to Joughin called out that there was room for 10 people. Do you remember that?

- No.

14126. (The Solicitor-General.) Your Lordship sees Question 6106 (quoting Chief Baker Joughin), "They got within about 50 yards and they sung out that they could only take 10. So I said this to Maynard, 'Let go my hand,' and I swam to meet it, so that I would be one of the 10?"

- The only reference to numbers was this; when I saw the boats I could faintly distinguish them. I had my whistle in my pocket. I whistled by way of showing it was an Officer that was calling, and I asked them if they could take some of us on board, and I said if they could manage to take half-a-dozen - because we were sinking then - it would lighten us up so that we could continue afloat. That was the only reference to numbers I heard.

Thus, Second Officer Lightoller could not corroborate Chief Baker Joughin's story. I suspect that, due to the overwhelming delicacy of the moment, Lightoller was more concerned with survival than the identities or even specific number of men upon the overturned Collapsible B.

However, Charles Joughin does offer detail about Collapsible B that was undoubtedly true. So, I do suspect that he was present on it (rather than sitting in a different lifeboat) before making his way into the first rescuing lifeboat. Otherwise, it would have only made sense that he was in the rescuing lifeboat when it arrived to Collapsible B.

Even if he embellished parts of his testimony, I do think that parts of his testimony are sound. He was one of the witnesses in the British Inquiry that substantiated the breakup of Titanic. During a discussion at the British Inquiry, the Solicitor-General and the Commissioner mentioned Joughin's testimony (which contradicted Lightoller's testimony) as possible evidence of the ship breaking apart:

The Solicitor-General:
Your Lordship knows a lot of Witnesses have said their impression was the afterpart settled on the water.

14094. (The Commissioner.) I have heard that over and over again. (To the witness.) That you say is not true?

-(Lightoller): That is not true, My Lord. I was watching her keenly the whole time.

The Commissioner:
I had a difficulty in realizing how it could possibly be that the afterpart of the ship righted itself for a moment.

The Solicitor-General:
Your Lordship may remember, perhaps, that the baker, who was on the ship at this moment we are now dealing with, and was climbing aft, said he heard the rending of metal - of metal breaking.

The Commissioner:
Yes, he was the man who got to the poop.

Charles Joughin's firsthand account of Titanic's final minutes (albeit from his own particular perspective) coincide with a breakup scenario that wasn't fully understood until after the discovery of the wreckage.

So, after reading his testimony (and those on Collapsible B), I am more inclined to believe the following sequence of events about Chief Baker Charles Joughin:
  • He was aboard Titanic in the final minutes of the ship.
  • He went to the deck pantry momentarily but suddenly heard the sounds of the ship buckling and the metal breaking apart. This was followed by an immediate panic (he called it a rush) on the deck just above.
  • He quickly hurried out onto the deck in an effort to get to the stern.
  • A sudden jolt (he described it as a " great list to port") occurred. It caught people off of their feet and threw many people into a pile. This was probably the final moment of the breakup.
  • Joughin made his way to the poop deck along the starboard railing.
  • He was somewhere along the starboard rail between the stern and the poop when the stern finally went under. He stepped into the water as it did so.
  • He swam frantically until he saw the Collapsible B. He made his way to it and climbed aboard (while others were frantically doing the same). They were less concerned with one another and more concerned with keeping the overturned boat afloat as they climbed aboard (trying not to slip off).
  • Eventually, 25-30 men accumulated onto the boat -- possibly turning one or two others away.
  • Some time later, Lightoller used his whistle to call other lifeboats to rescue them. One eventually made its way to them. At this time, Joughin may or may not have jumped into the water to get into that boat.
  • The lifeboat was eventually picked up by Carpathia.
  • Due to survivors' guilt (or simply a "big fish" tale of survival), Joughin's story is embellished to recount hours of paddling in the water and holding onto Collapsible B until rescue.
Now, I don't know with any absolute certainty that this is the scenario. It simply seems like the most likely scenario for how Joughin survived the sinking apart from some sort of miracle that defies medical science.

I expect Joughin spent as much time in the water as Frank Prentice. I have no doubt that it felt like hours in the water but was probably a short time. Even that short amount of time was at the limit of human endurance.

Haha. A friend of mine mentioned that he began watching Downton Abbey with his wife because of the current COVID-19 shelter-in-place.

After watching the first three episodes, his wife said, "Wow, those three episodes passed by so quickly! It felt like just thirty minutes." He replied, "It felt like twelve hours to me."

:)
 
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His earlier version is a little different from what he mentioned at the Britihs Inquiry. In a newspaper account of April 29 Joughin mentioned that he remained on board until Titanic began to sink and then jumped. He then swum and several times lost consciousness. There he also estimated the time in the water to have been an hour and a half.

Another survivor mentioned that the baker jumped into the water before the "big explosion".

I do not believe Joughin spend much time swimming in the water. He most likely was at the "aft" part somewhere behind Lightoller close to Bride on Collapsible B. Bride was not able to stand up and when wind came up the water was washing over the boat. Its is very likely Joghin was among those close by Bride and was also afected by the waves.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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In those kinds of freezing waters, if someone keeps moving their limbs by swimming ----- NOT an easy task to keep up for long without limbs getting tired ------ a very fit person might remain alive and conscious for about 20 minutes. But if they slip into unconsciousness, the limbs stop moving and heat generated my muscle metabolism and consequent improved blood flow disappear rapidly. That means effects of hypothermia accelerate, unconsciousness deepens and they''ll be dead within minutes.
 
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His earlier version is a little different from what he mentioned at the Britihs Inquiry. In a newspaper account of April 29 Joughin mentioned that he remained on board until Titanic began to sink and then jumped. He then swum and several times lost consciousness. There he also estimated the time in the water to have been an hour and a half.

Another survivor mentioned that the baker jumped into the water before the "big explosion".

I do not believe Joughin spend much time swimming in the water. He most likely was at the "aft" part somewhere behind Lightoller close to Bride on Collapsible B. Bride was not able to stand up and when wind came up the water was washing over the boat. Its is very likely Joghin was among those close by Bride and was also afected by the waves.
Yeah I agree. I don't think he was deliberately lying about it. Like you said, I'm sure he was probably convinced it was that long. Icy water, full of alcohol, panic situation, blacking out...probably in his mind it was that long. Many say that alcohol make a hypothermia situation worse. And I agree, it does. Some researchers believe that most were dead before hypothermia set in. They died from cardiac arrest due to thermal shock. Maybe all that booze in him helped to dampen that. But that would just be postulating. Everybody reacts differently. Anyway he made it so good for him.
 

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