Did the lifejackets kill the passengers and crew

Inger Sheil

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I'd say it's a pretty strong argument for it, Michael - they had to go to an *extreme* effort to get Hoyt into the boat, as he was such a large man (several men in 14 described this). I think they would have made sure to ascertain that he was the right one before they struggled to pull him in!

I'm willing to listen to an alternative theory - i.e. that Hoyt was dead - but I don't see why the men in 14, given the urgency of the situation, would waste time on someone who wasn't showing signs of life. As there is evidence that he *was* showing signs of life (i.e. moaning), I'd like to see more supporting evidence for the idea that he was already dead.
 

James Smith

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I seem to recall reading once that as rigor mortis sets in, air can be forced out of the chest cavity past the vocal cords--causing the deceased person to "moan."

Any chance this is what happened to Hoyt?

Or is my memory scrambled?

Jim
 

Inger Sheil

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Interesting thought, James.

As I understand it, the onset of rigor mortis ranges from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on factors including temperature. Rapid cooling of the body, such as would have occured to victims of the Titanic, tends to inhibit onset. According to what I've read, the first part of the body to be affected are the facial muscles, the maximum stiffness is reached around 12-24 hours post mortem. The condition is caused by the skeletal muscles partially contracting - hydrolysis of ATP in the muscle tissues is the biochemical cause. As the muscles cannot relax, the joints become fixed in place. Facial muscles are affected first, with the rigor then spreading to other parts of the body, with maximum stiffness occuring 12-24 hours after death, lasting over all 1-3 days before tissue decay and leaking of lysosmal intracellular digestive enzymes cause the muscles to relax.

The variable factors in the onset of rigor mortis make it difficult to determine how long after death it will occur - strenuous exercise may induce it earlier (e.g. struggling in the water?), but given the temperature that night I suspect that it would have been, if anything, delayed. I haven't been able to find much on muscle contraction causing a moaning sound - such post mortem noises are usually associated with the escape of gasses during decomposition.

Even if the escape of air can cause a deceased person to 'moan' with the onset of rigor mortis (and I'd like to see the medical literature on that), given the cold that night and the fact that rigor mortis would take time to set in to the point that the chest cavity would be significantly affected I would think the moaning sound would be unlikely to be attributable to this reason.

I'm going to have a hunt around over the weekend in my unfiled papers to find some of the accounts of Hoyt's recovery that haven't been republished yet. Although the inquiry crew accounts don't give the reasons for believing he was alive, there is a remarkable degree of consensus that he was alive when taken into Boat 14, and - although efforts were made to loosen his collar and revive him - he died soon afterwards.

I can't recall off hand any source that mentions a foam at the nose and mouth of Hoyt - perhaps someone could direct me to that? This is one of the prime symptoms of drowning, but is not bloody. The froth is a fine white 'foam cone' created by the mixture of air, water and mucus.

There may be blood present in the middle ear, resulting from conspicuous haemorrhaging possibly caused by barometric pressure.

That Lowe mentions 'bleeding' also suggests that the injuries were inflicted ante mortem, not post mortem or during the drowning process. As he was 'bleeding' when picked up, he would be alive.
 

James Smith

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Interesting post, Inger!

And on that cheery note, I'm off to bed. Not sure if I'll get much sleep, though, with this stuff going through my head! ;-)

Jim
 
Dec 31, 2003
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Inger: Interesting, indeed. And detailed. And quite correct in every particular. From experience, I would only add that it is actually impossible to attempt to move a body and be unaware whether or not it is that of a person living or dead. Although it could be described better - certainly at even greater length! - and perhaps attempted scientifically, I'd put it thusly: The finest actor's - the most unconscious person's - performance as 'dead weight' is a light and shallow and superficial thing compared to that achieved by the authentically deceased. Which reminds me of the true story I sometimes tell of the elderly tenor who asked his oldest friend (and former agent) to write his obituary for 'The Stage'. The last - unauthorised - version included the sentence of death: "Perhaps his finest role was as The Corpse in 'Gianni Schicchi'.
 
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>>From experience, I would only add that it is actually impossible to attempt to move a body and be unaware whether or not it is that of a person living or dead.<<

Don't be so sure. A victim of hypothermia may very well exhibit no signs of life at all, yet still can be brought back from the abyss. Unfortunately, a lot of what we know about this now was a great unknown in 1912.
 
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Hi guys, nice to be here!
happy.gif
This is my first post. Thanks for accepting me, Michael. I just got your message.

First, a brief introduction: I am a 39-year-old writer/editor/graduate student who has been doing research on the Titanic for about twenty years. I have my own library and DVD/video collection, and enjoy discussing Titanic. I am working on a couple of ideas for a book on the Titanic, as that is one of my writing goals.

I just wanted to make a reference here. In the movie, "A Night to Remember," Thomas Andrews (Michael Goodliffe) advises the 2nd class couple how to get off the boat--by lowering themselves down the side via the ropes, then swimming away as soon as possible . . . The danger of jumping with a life belt could be why he tells them to lower themselves and not to jump. I have read in various sources that he had offered such advice in reality, so this danger could very well have been known at the time of the actual sinking. Some sources identify the interior material of the Titanic life belts as having been cork. This realization would likely to have contributed to Andrews' and Smith's apprehension as soon as they found out that the ship was going to sink. It is likely they knew that several people would be driven to jump into the water. In other words: they not only feared death by freezing, but also death by broken necks.

I also wanted to say that I noticed here that several people made a reference to W.F. Hoyt. I saw his profile on this site not too long ago, and it said that his body was not recovered. I sent a correction to the moderator, but I also wanted to point out here that W.F. Hoyt was one of the four that Lowe picked out of the water, so his body was not lost. Just wanted to make someone aware of the discrepancy in the profile. I know that it's a huge site, so things are bound to be missed.

One question: I can't seem to find anywhere the suite that Manuel Uruchurtu (pronounced "oo-roo-SHOOR-too") occupied. It isn't in his profile. Does anybody know?

Again, I'm glad to be here, and I look forward to getting to know everyone and learning more about the perpetually fascinating Titanic.

Take care

--Mark (Hoppy)
 
Dec 2, 2000
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W.F. Hoyt's body is listed as not recovered as it was buried at sea the same day from the Carpathia along with a couple others. There reallyu wasn't much choice in the matter since few ships in that day and age carried mortuary facilities and equipment.

I'm not surprised that you didn't find Mr. Urchurtu's cabin as no record of it survived. Any final and complete list of cabin allocations went down with the ship.
 
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Yeah, I know, Michael. All I am saying is that the profile appears confusing, despite your reasons for phrasing it as such. I appreciate your clarifying that for me, though.

As for Uruchurtu's cabin, it can easily be figured out to a choice few after establishing the cabins for everyone else. I know that there were various unused cabins, so the exact cabin that he occupied would remain speculation. But that's why continuous research is being conducted. ;)

Thanks again and take care

--Mark
 
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I wish figuring out which cabins people were in was easy, but even those that are documented hae turned out to not always be accurate. When there's so much room for error, a lot of times, a researcher ends up having to resort to a "best guess."
 
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Yeah, of course. The Titanic as a whole is filled with speculation. That not only keeps us intrigued, but it also stimulates further investigation, because people want to know, even if they know that they may never find the right answer. It's the process that's most exciting. It's interesting, though, isn't it?

Take care

--Mark
 

Wesley Burton

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Well if the lifejackets broke the passengers necks, it may be a good thing. It is far quicker than freezing to death or drowning. They didnt really stand much of a chance in the water with the lifejackets, or without.
 
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Wesley,

Tell that to those who were on Collapsible B and picked up by Lowe. They did survive. True, there weren't many, but being in ice cold water did not necessarily mean certain death. Consider Bride, who was stuck under the collapsible for some time before coming up. His feet were frostbitten. He certainly would have died had he stayed in the water for a considerably longer amount of time, but if we went by the logic that you present, then it would be better for a person to die instantly from a broken neck than to survive after experiencing pain and discomfort in frigid water. However, I do know what you mean. I'm not one for absolutes, that's all. I do not see one way as either absolutely better or worse than another; to me, it depends on the particular person and situation.

--Mark
 
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>>Tell that to those who were on Collapsible B and picked up by Lowe. They did survive. True, there weren't many, but being in ice cold water did not necessarily mean certain death<<

It did if you stayed there. The key to survival was getting out of the water as quickly as possible. In the bone chilling cold of the night, they were uncomfortable in the extreme, but they stayed alive.

>>Consider Bride, who was stuck under the collapsible for some time before coming up<<

Was he??? Mind you, I'm not in doubt of Bride's honesty on this part. He had no reason to lie about it. Bear in mind though that human time senses are far from perfect, especially in a crisis situation. He might have been under that boat for a minute or two, but when you're freezing, in fear of drowning, and in pitch black darkness, a few minutes can seem like an eternity.

You may find This Article by by Peter Engberg-Klarström and Tad Fitch to be of some interest when evaluating claims of people who survived being in the water. Some of them are of uncertain reliability.
 

Inger Sheil

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Minor correction to your post, Mark - Lowe rescued the occupants of Collapsible A, not B. Bride, Lightoller, Thayer, Gracie etc were on B. I do take your point, though. Re Bride - his estimate of the time he spent under B does vary in different accounts.

Thanks for your input, Donald. I don't profess to be a medical expert, though, and am quite willing to listen to an argument that convincingly puts forward the case that Lowe and the men in 14 could have been mistaken. I'm also curious about the references to 'foam' - I can't recall seeing them off hand (although am still looking to find time to excavate the piles of unsorted documents to find the accounts of Hoyt's rescue again), but if there is an account that mentions 'foam' it suggests a level of detail in the account that I would be very interested in.

Mike, I've often wondered how many of those people passed in the water might still have been alive, but deeply unconscious. At least one of the men in 14 mentioned this as a possibility, IIRC.
 
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>>Mike, I've often wondered how many of those people passed in the water might still have been alive, but deeply unconscious.<<

So have I. However as I pointed out in another thread, hypothermia was very poorly understood in 1912. IIRC, most of what we know about it now comes by way of some especially gruesome experiments on prisoners done by Nazi Germany during World War II. A lot of people could have been "alive" but would have shown no detectable signs of life, yet nobody then would have even known better much less had a clue how to deal with it.
 

Inger Sheil

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Quite right, Mike. It's still not an exact science, and in 1912 was even less so. The ethical dilemas of using data gathered in Nazi experiments adds another moral dimension to the discussion as well. I certainly wouldn't pass any sort of judgement on the men in 14 for not being able to detect who might still have been alive, albeit deeply comatose with their respiratory and metabolic systems profoundly suppressed. Even if they had been able to detect those alive under such circumstances, the chances of them being able to warm up the core body temperature of the victims safely and revive them was virtually nil.
 
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Inger,

Thanks for the input, but I am aware of the fact that Lowe picked up A and not B, and I know those who were in/on each collapsible. The assertion I made above is a misprint. It wasn't until after I had posted it that I discovered my error. Nonetheless, I thank you for pointing that out to me. It's appreciated.

Mike, I know that the actual amount of time he was under the boat was uncertain. That's why I carefully used the words "for some time." It was obviously long enough for his feet to have become frostbitten, which, in that cold, wouldn't have taken very long.

As for Lowe's rescue of the four from the water, I just a made post regarding that in the "lifeboats" forum. Please take a look. Lowe doesn't strike me as having been so dim-witted that he wouldn't be sure that he had picked up four people. He ought to know, as he was there. It is possible , considering the factor of unconsciousness, that Lowe's boat missed picking up several people who may have still been alive.

Best Regards,

--Mark
 
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>>Lowe doesn't strike me as having been so dim-witted that he wouldn't be sure that he had picked up four people. He ought to know, as he was there.<<

I agree. He wasn't. It's a bit unsettling to realize that he may have missed a few, but unfortunately, a lot of knowladge they needed simply didn't exist. Even if they had known enough to figure things out, I wonder if they would have been able to do much about it. Those lifeboats weren't exactly overloaded with medical supplies. (Unfortunately, they weren't exactly overloaded with people either, but that's another debate!)
 
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As Walter Hurst said: "If they're going to lower the boats, they have to put some people in them" (ANTR 38). That sums things up, don't you think?

The thing I admire about Lowe is that he went back, and he was the only one that went back. He, at least, tried, and no one can be blamed for that, especially when he/she is sailing around in a lifeboat in the pitch black Atlantic. You can't see or hear an unconscious person in the dark! He did save four (actually three, considering Hoyt's inevitable death) who wouldn't have survived otherwise.

--Mark