Discrepancies in survivors' accounts of the breakup


Hey, I'm new to the forum and have joined because of a lingering question I have had lately and have not been able to find any information on. Question is:

Why was the account of the breakup so different between survivors? For instance Lightoller adamantly claiming that the ship sank intact. Thayer's drawings of what appears to be a V-breakup. I've been spending the past 2 weeks reading over both the American and British inquiries and it seems most of the witnesses that claim to have seen the breakup say that the ship rose to an almost vertical angle before breaking.

I just wonder if the breakup was in such a way that it was relatively un-dramatic. Possibly an extremely low angle break up?
Is there any strong evidence that explains these discrepancies in survivors stories?

Kyle Naber

A big thing to remember that every survivor had a different viewpoint from the ship. If someone were facing the propellors, they could easily mistake 23 degrees (the angle of maximum stress) for completely perpendicular.

Also, darkness. The 1997 film shows everything far too brightly lit. In reality, once most of the lights had gone out, (emergency generators remained on for a few more moments) the Titanic would have been nothing but a black silhouette and it would have been pretty difficult to trace its movements against the stars. It would look something like this with the lights still on:

Also, Jack Thayer isn't the one who drew the pictures. It has been argued, but not confirmed, that he drew the outlines and then an artist did the shading (doesn't really make sense to me). I believe that he said "The ship split apart" and the artist sketched it as he would have imagined. The bow didn't rise back up. Physics or forensic analysis in no way support the V Break Theory. If Jack did indeed draw the outlines, because he was so close to the ship near the second funnel and grand staircase dome, I think he would have seen the stairs shoot out of the dome opening in a mass of air bubbles. But that's just my opinion.

Lastly, survivor trauma. I'd like to think that if my loved ones were stuck on a massive, rapidly sinking ship, my first thought wouldn't be to remember the angle of how the ship sank or if it broke apart. Survivors are often incredibly wrong, but they are important because they were the only ones there to survive to tell the story. During a car or airplane crash, the survivors tell their side of the story, and when the wreck is analyzed, it turns out that what they thought they experienced, never could have happened and their minds naturally and incorrectly filled in the blanks.
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I don't think the darkness can completely explain it. Lightoller was only feet from the ship when it sank. Maybe he was covering for the White Star Line? As for the other passengers and crew, I would think that a ship breaking up as dramatically as in the 1997 movie would leave a searing memory of the event in my mind.

Kyle Naber

I also think Lightoller also might have been covering for the company. He and only a couple others INSISTED that it sank in one piece. Most people weren't quite sure. In my opinion, he was too close to the ship to be 100% certain.

The thing with the movie is that is shows the stern at double the actual elevation and brightly set. If you imagine the stern at half the height in the movie, turn off the lights, make the atmosphere darker, and then have the ship break apart, it would be very difficult to see.
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Kyle Naber


The sinking scenes are a work in progress, but the breakup really isn't that dramatic compared to the movie.
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I've been following Honor and Glory they have done an amazing job. I've watched their real time sinking.
Joughin's account of the sinking is very interesting. If I remember correctly he was in the bakery when the ship broke up and he knew it had broke up while being inside. He still had the time to reach the boat deck and get to the poop deck where he claimed to have walked along the outside hull of the ship.
Joughin was in the lounge pantry on A Deck (just aft of the 3rd funnel) when he heard something like the tearing of metal. He went out and run along A Deck.
According to a newspaper interview he gave, he jumped off the ship before it sank.

Regarding the "drawing done by Thayer" it was actually done by Carpathia passenger Skidmore. We do not know what Thayer told him, also he might have talked to other people too. The break as in the drawings might be the artist impression to show the ship breaking.


Testimony of Joughin at the British Inquiry

6048. Did you see them clambering down to get on to the A deck so as to get further aft?
- Their idea was to get on to the poop.

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.

6053. That was when you were in the well, was it?
- I was not exactly in the well, I was on the side, practically on the side then. She threw them over. At last I clambered on the side when she chucked them.

6054. You mean the starboard side?
- The starboard side.

6055. The starboard was going up and she took a lurch to port?
- It was not going up, but the other side was going down.

6056. It is very difficult to say how many, I daresay, but could you give me some idea, of how many people there were in this crush?
- I have no idea, Sir; I know they were piled up.

6057. What do you mean when you say, "No idea." Were there hundreds?
- Yes, there were more than that - many hundreds, I should say.

6058. (The Solicitor-General.) You said this vessel took a lurch to port and threw them in a heap. Did she come back; did she right herself at all?
- No, Sir.

6059. She took a lurch and she did not return?
- She did not return.

6060. Can you tell us what happened to you?
- Yes, I eventually got on to the starboard side of the poop.

6061. (The Commissioner.) Will you point out to me where you got to?
- This is where I eventually got to. (Showing on the model.)

6062. You got on to the poop, did you?
- Along here (Showing.)

6063. (The Solicitor-General.) What you said, I think, was that you got to the starboard side of the poop?
- Yes, on the side of the ship.

6064. On the side of the ship?
- Yes.

6065. Is that on the bulwark itself?
- I do not know what you call it, Sir. It is the side.

6066. (The Commissioner.) "I got on the side of the ship by the poop"?
- Yes.

6067. (The Solicitor-General.) You see on the model that part of it is painted black and part of it is painted white. Do you mean you were on the part that is painted black or the part that is painted white?
- I got along here (Showing.), and eventually got hold of the rails here. This side here was like this. This side, instead of being like this, was like that. (Showing on model.)

6068. You got hold of the rail. Let Mr. Wilding turn the model up till you say how far you think it had gone. (Mr. Wilding turned the model.)?
- I should say about that, but then the forward part is sloping. (Showing on model.)

6069. The forward part is down by the head?
- Yes.

6070. Did you find anybody else holding that rail there on, the poop?
- No.

6071. You were the only one?
- I did not see anybody else.

6072. Were you holding the rail so that you were inside the ship, or were you holding the rail so that you were on the outside of the ship?
- On the outside.

6073. So that the rail was between you and the deck?
- Yes.

6074. Then what happened?
- Well, I was just wondering what next to do. I had tightened my belt and I had transferred some things out of this pocket into my stern pocket. I was just wondering what next to do when she went.

6075. And did you find yourself in the water?
- Yes.

6076. Did you feel that you were dragged under or did you keep on the top of the water?
- I do not believe my head went under the water at all. It may have been wetted, but no more.

6077. Are you a good swimmer?
- Yes.

6078. How long do you think you were in the water before you got anything to hold on to?
- I did not attempt to get anything to hold on to until I reached a collapsible, but that was daylight.

6079. Daylight, was it?
- I do not know what time it was.

6080. Then you were in the water for a long, long time?
- I should say over two, hours, Sir.

You were right about him being in A deck in the pantry but where did you get the information that he jumped overboard? I was under the impression that he rode the stern down like an elevator and step off into the water as the ship went under. I find it extremely interesting that he claims to have walked along the starboard side of the ship along the hull. As far as I'm aware he is the only survivor that was on the ship until the very end. Also any idea of how he survived in the water for so long?


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.

What could have caused this sudden lurch to port? Was it the further breaking of the ship? Maybe it was the bow pulling after finally filling completely with water? I think this may be vital to understanding the breakup. It almost seems like the ship may have suffered multiple breakups. The first was the buckling he heard while in the pantry and the 2nd was the lurch to port. The sudden listing would have been nearly instantaneous if it caused almost everyone in the well to be thrown. Is it possible that the ship broke just forward of the 3 funnel and then shortly after breaking just aft of it?
"I remained on board until the Titanic began to sink. Then I jumped." New York Evening Journal, April 19, 1912.

Also Walter Nichols told the newspapers that Joughin jumped into the water before the "big explosion".


So basically he changed his story. But then again I'm not so sure I would trust a newspaper report over his own words during the inquiries. One of the fascinating things about the titanic is you're only able to come so close to the facts of the actual sinking before testimonies begin to contradict each other