How many people went down inside Titanic


George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, all!

This evening Bob Godfrey and I were discussing a portion of an interview granted by John Snow Jr. (the undertaker on the Mackay Bennett.) While perusing the interview in question I stumbled across an important tidbit re: the question of why so many bodies were buried at sea. Interestingly, the bodies do not seem to have been re-committed to the deep because they were in a poor state of preservation.

The interview said:

"John Snow Jr., undertaker on board the Mackay Bennett, said that a mistake in wireless orders had caused so many bodies to be buried at sea. The 116 sunk to their final resting place in the Atlantic, he said, were as well preserved by the cold water and ice as those brought to port.

" 'The bodies had suffered greatly by being washed against ice cakes and wreckage,' said Snow. 'That was the only thing that made identification difficult. Some of them had broken arms, legs and skulls, caused after death by the action of the waves. Captain Lardner was distressed by the contradictory wireless orders. First he would be told to do one thing and in a short time would be commanded to do something else. Finally he did not know what to do.' "

On a separate note, the following statistics were quoted earlier in this thread:

>if you were First Class, the probability of your >body being found was 39/130 = 30%. For Second >Class, that number falls to 32/166 = 19%, and for >Third Class, 76/536 = 14%.

Mr. Snow apparently told the reporters something that might have a bearing on the above statistics; the reporter said:

"...Inasmuch as a majority of those cast again into the sea were members of the Titanic crew and second and third class passengers, their relatives were not on hand in Halifax in great numbers."

If the above info is accurate, it seems possible that more (unidentified) Second and Third Class bodies might have been recovered than the actual statistics suggest -- which would of course have a bearing on the question of whether or not large numbers of Second and Third Class passengers really went down inside the ship.

Comments are welcome.

All my best,

George
 
Dec 6, 2000
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Thanks for the info, George.

A question arises though. How would Snow know that the bodies had been damaged by the action of ice & wreckage (on the surface?), vs. being damaged inside the ship, as the ship split apart?

I guess the above account must be balanced against the following:
"In a statement published in the Halifax Morning Chronicle for May 2nd, 1912, the Mackay-Bennett's ship's surgeon Dr. Thomas Armstrong, related "With the exception of about 10 bodies that had received serious injuries, their looks were calm and peaceful", (related in Ruffman's Titanic Remembered - The Unsinkable Ship and Halifax)."

The above is a statement from my site.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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George Behe quoted "First he would be told to do one thing and in a short time would be commanded to do something else. Finally he did not know what to do."

Typical SNAFU, eh O.M.? Can't say as I'm even remotely surprised.

Interesting stuff overall and thanks for posting it. It certainly puts to rest the assertions of sinister motives I've seen assigned to the burial at sea situation.
 
T

Tom Pappas

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Hi, George!

The "bodies recovered" numbers I used include those buried at sea. The only thing I can think of that might skew the statistics would be the mis-identification of an unidentified corpse's class of travel. But even that might cancel out, too.

73

Tom
 

Bob Godfrey

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George, those extra details from the Snow interview may be relevant to the JJ Astor corpse saga. I've just posted some comments in that thread.

Regards, Bob
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Interesting info, George! Many thanks for sharing!

Based on the evidence that Edwin Keeping's body, when found, was among the most disfigured, I would surmise that most 1st and 2nd class passengers buried at sea were disposed of in this manner because of injuries rather than identification (or lack thereof), while 3rd class and crew were given a sea burial because - as George's evidence suggests - their relatives would not have been "on hand" to retrieve their relatives once the ship reached Halifax.

Tom--Of the unrecovered bodies, all but 22 wore clothing and carried effects (stateroom keys etc) indicating that they belonged to the ship's crew. Of the 22 others, it is highly unlikely that many (if any) were 1st or 2nd class. Only unidentified #39 was apparently from 1st class. Hence, the statistics are pretty much accurate, at least as far as the passengers are concerned, IMO.

All the best,
Ben
 
Nov 22, 2000
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Just a thought, but is it possible that the recovery crew were furnished with a hastily constructed passenger list by WSL? That would have enabled them to identify the victim by class as opposed to just name when recovered. I assume that many people would have something with their name on, whilst few would carry a WSL ticket.


Geoff
 
T

Tom Pappas

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I figured out why Phillips and Bride were counted in the Victualing Department.

The counter thought they said Macaroni operators.
 

Dave Gittins

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Just for that, Tom, have you read the recent book by a psychologist who re-examined Bride's evidence in the light of his likely mental state after the sinking?

It's called Bride's Head Revisited.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Tom, this is important new evidence, especially if the real macaroni operatives were mistakenly assigned to wireless duty. At once we have an explanation not only of deficiencies in the Silent Room, but also a reason for the large numbers of disgruntled Italians encountered by Lowe on the boat deck.

Bob
 
Feb 13, 2002
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Trouble is, I don't think the California thread will reach this one in time

Thank Goodness humor isn't the "first" thing to go!

BTW Michael, Congrats on your "hammer" status...even if it was on a voluntary basis!
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Oh no you don't! I think I'll say a few words before this thread dies.

I think this is from Ruffman's book, but the Mackay-Bennett was not prepared for the amount of bodies they recovered, simply because they didn't think there would be that many to find. This is either because they believed that most of the people went down inside the ship, or because they knew that the sea is a hostile environment that could do unknown things to a large mass of bodies on the surface.

Geoff, re: passenger lists, yes it is quite possible that the White Star Line furnished the ships with some sort of a rough list. Even if it did not, the bodies yielded plenty of things for that purpose. Cave's body had a partial and preliminary list of 1st class passengers, there was a 2nd class list found as well, and some of the 3rd class passengers had their green boarding passes on them ... if not the dress often gave it away that they were 3rd class.

As for the lack of 3rd class passengers recovered (considering that no favoritism was shown during recovery) could possibly be attributed to lack of lifebelts. There were even 1st class passengers who could not find their lifebelts. Countess of Rothers gave up looking for one with her cousin; Lambert Williams couldn't find one in her cabin either, and it was not 'til a steward came along that he yielded two belts from under their beds!

Third class passengers, especially those not being able to speak English, did not have the luxury of one steward per 9 cabins. If they could not find their belts or ventured out of their cabins without one, they may very well never ended up getting or finding one and those that sank with the ship (but not inside it) would of course have drowned.

Daniel.
 

Ben Lemmon

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Oct 9, 2009
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I thought this was the best place to house this question, though I do admit the question is a bit strange. Would it have been physically possible for a body that had been trapped in the Titanic to escape as the ship broke apart? And if so, would it have been in a recognizable condition? In other words, would someone who had lost a loved one within the bowels of the ship have any chance of recovering their loved one's body? Any help with this question would be appreciated.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>In other words, would someone who had lost a loved one within the bowels of the ship have any chance of recovering their loved one's body?<<

No way to know. It would depend on just how much trauma the body was subjected to before or as a consequence of being ejected from the wreck, as well as how far the ship had decended through the water column before the body was ejected. It would also depend on wheather or not the victim even had a lifebelt on.

While most of the shoes seen on the bottom were probably just incidental debris, the way some of them lie hints at the owner still being in them. If this is the case and said owner was inside the hull, then he s/he continued on down to the bottom after being ejected from inside.
 
I'd agree, Michael. I think that a lot of the human remains would have been inside the wreck.

One thing that Cameron's film did was illustrate just how many people were in the water after the ship went down. I don't think that any other Titanic film indicated that. Until I saw that, it never dawned on me that everyone didn't go to the bottom with the ship. There were swimmers in other versions, but the shot that starts at the water line and raises up to show hundreds of struggling people helps put it in perspective.

It also helps one grasp that the majority of the dead that were on deck drifted and didn't necessarily end up on the bottom with the wreck. Maybe they hit the bottom elsewhere.

But I don't think that the Titanic wreck is the mass grave that everyone thinks...at least on the magnitude that everyone thinks. I'm not AT ALL saying that it doesn't deserve to remain a memorial. But the amount of human remains that ended up down there was probably much smaller than most people think.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I think that a lot of the human remains would have been inside the wreck.<<

I think any surviving human remains would be inside the wreck. This would probably include people who realized their time had come and thought going up on deck not worth the bother. I don't think that this would have been a very high number. Going up may not have been seen as much of a chance but it was better then no chance at all.