Hypothermia Probably not cause of most deaths

Status
Not open for further replies.

Bob Couttie

Member
Aug 8, 2008
9
0
31
I haven't yet seen it discussed but the most probably cause of death for those in the water is cold shock, rather than hypothermia. It kills very quickly, in minutes, an is often misdiagnosed as hypothermia, a far longer process.
 

Luke Owens

Member
Jan 18, 2007
87
0
76
Is there anywhere on the net I can find information on this? I may have to further revise my article....

Luke
 

Bob Couttie

Member
Aug 8, 2008
9
0
31
Basically cold shock typically kills in three-four minutes or less. One effect is sudden vasoconstriction which can lead to unconsciousness and subsequent drowning someone wearing a Titanic era life jacket would probably float face down when unconscious. The other effect of that is tachycardia — an already stressed heart faced with a lower blood pressure — heart attack.

A Titanic survivor, Lawrence Beasley, is one source on finding people in dead in lifejackets.

Most of us have experienced cold shock even when in moderately cold water and got the 'gasp' reflex and found it hard to control breathing, hyperventilation, which can also lead to drowning.

The temperature difference doesn't have to be extreme.

Hypothermia takes about a half hour to really get underway.

My papers on it died in a disk crash but try Googling Frank Golden and Michael Tipton. There's a PBS episode transcript link on The Case Of The Unfamiliar Mariner in which Golden appeared. Also look for the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps and a paper called “Accidental Hypothermia” by Davis and Byers. There's an excellent paper I think somewhere on the Canadian ATSB site but I haven't found it yet.

“Death from drowning following hypothermia” is a common but often questionable verdict.

Also, think about clothes of the period and how they would have effected survivability. Main heat loss is through the head, so wearing a hat would have helped and wearing hats under almost any circumstances was certainly de riguer, the armpits — so the jackets of the men and the women's undergarments might have helped, and the crotch (men and women) — so women's voluminous underskirts and bloomers would have helped.

There is a discussion on the boards about a baker who was said to have been drunk and survived because of it, a story that I think was well debunked. That said, it may be that the “affluence of incahol” might have depressed the effects of initial cold shock in much the same way that drunks seem to have a remarkable ability to survive falls and being hit by cars because they're relaxed, whilst a sober person would stiffen up for the impact.

Never, ever give alcohol to someone suffering hypothermia, or severe cold.

The other two effects I would look for occur after rescue. In hypothermia the core body temperature can continue falling even though external heat is being applied and cause death. So someone being pulled from the water is still in danger.

Even more heart-rending, no pun intended, is a heart failure after rescue. The heart adjusts to stress, that stress is suddenly relieved, blood pressure suddenly lowers and the heart fails. I know of a case in which this happened to an otherwise healthy 10 year old girl. British list members may recall the death of comedian Eric Morecambe after he came off stage for much the same reason.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,590
380
283
Easley South Carolina
>>There is a discussion on the boards about a baker who was said to have been drunk and survived because of it, a story that I think was well debunked.<<

It may have been debunked but you would be surprised at just how persistant it is. It crops up all the time on this and at least one other forum where I hang out. Some legends just won't die no matter how many inconvenient facts you throw out there for all to see.
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,114
14
198
That story can be debunked on multiple levels. However, like the Lusitania elevators, it is a beloved and integral part of the legend and even authors who ought to know better are loathe to relinquish it.

Now, a good rule for an aspiring researcher/author to live by is that the number of "fantastic" or "incredible" (using both words with their literal, not popular, meanings)details that appear in an account is inversely proportionate to the story's likelihood of being true.

Let me know when this begins to sound a bit outlandish:

~Joughin manages to maintain his balance while the stern rises vertical and everyone else is falling over.

~ He rides the stern into the water elevator style.

~The ship sinks so gently that he does not get his head wet.

~He manages to swim the distance between the huge mass of debris where the stern sank and Collapsible B.

~And then remains alive in the water until after sunrise.

Now, at what point should the researcher to whom this story was initially related have said "Uh...now wait a moment?"

It's not just that Joughin's body somehow managed to behave polar opposite to how a drunk's body invariably does in these situations: every winter here in the northeast brings more tales of drunks who tumble into shallow water ponds who could simply have stood up and walked out, who instead freeze to death.

It's not just that a sinking process that was violent enough to tear an ocean liner in half not only allowed him an elevator ride into the water but also allowed him to float free with a dry head.

And it's not just that instead of leaving him befuddled, the alcohol left him somehow mentally focused and physically coordinated enough to swim through a mass of debris and frantically struggling people who were reacting to conditions that might be described as akin to physical torture.

And it's not just that he swam further and faster than younger, stronger, and sober men.

And it's not just the coincidence that he managed to strike out, for no apparent reason, into the darkness in just the right direction to bring him to collapsible B.

And it's not just that everyone else on B seems to have been someone who was relatively close to it to begin with~ people who were washed clear of the ship, or jumped from her, at the start of the final plunge. It doesn't seem that anyone else rode with the stern into the water and then swam to B, unless new accounts have surfaced subsequent to my ceasing to care about all things Titanic.

And it's not just that he somehow remained alive in the water until after sunrise, again in defiance to what generally happens to drunks who are immersed in lethally cold water.

It's the cumulative effect of all of these details that SHOULD make researchers wary of using that particular Titanic story.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,590
380
283
Easley South Carolina
>>Now, at what point should the researcher to whom this story was initially related have said "Uh...now wait a moment?" <<

The first point, and that's presuming he's sober. I think it's worth noting that Joughin himself denied the story about getting drunk. Considering the physiology of drunkeness and hypothermia, I'm inclined to believe him if only because he survived.
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,114
14
198
> I think it's worth noting that Joughin himself denied the story about getting drunk.

Did he not tell it, himself, to Walter Lord? I don't think tyhat Mr. Lord fabricated that entire storyline- he HAD to have gotten it somewhere....

I think Joughin might have had a few drinks, but I also think that, like just about everone else on Collapsible B, he happened to be standing in close proximity to it when it washed off the ship and was able to climb atop it before the effects of extremely cold water interacting with alcohol could kill him.

And I think, in common with many old people, he wove a good, greatly elaborated, story about his big adventure. He related it to Walter Lord who...perhaps....was a hair too trusting and respectful.

If you want to see the effects of cold water on humans in horrible real time, try to find the unedited video of the 1982 Washington DC plane crash survivors becoming hypothermic on camera, in medium close up, while awaiting rescue.
 
Apr 16, 2001
441
1
148
Hi Jim and Mike,

I've always been fascinated with old Mr. Joughin, and have always wondered about the accuracy of his disaster reporting.

One point that I wanted to mention. Walter Lord never interviewed Charles Joughin for "A Night to Remember". Walter Lord related that he was so impressed by Joughin's testimony before the British Inquiry that he chose to devote much of the baker's account into one of the chapters of his book. After the book came out, Joughin contacted Walter Lord, thanked him tremendously for telling his story so well - all the while wondering how Walter could have gotten hold of his story without ever having met him. Walter replied that he had all the transcripts of the British Inquiry which he sent onto Joughin. Joughin went on to reply that Lord was absolutely correct in every detail he wrote in the book, and was so honored that his entire experience was the only one featured in the book from start to finish!

There is no mistake that Joughin was in the water but from just when and where he entered the drink is questionable. He did mention hearing the ship "breaking apart" but never came out directly and said the ship broke in two pieces. This is another reason why I feel the ship broke up under the sea, and certainly not the way as depicted in the James Cameron film.

If I'm not mistaken, and I wish I had my notes on John Maynard available, I believe the latter confirms much of Joughin's testimony and goes so far as to say that he managed to keep much of Joughin's body out of the water while holding onto his hand alongside the boat. Joughin was clearly in the water for an extended period of time.

Joughin's descendants claim he was not one to fabricate his story - in fact he freely admitted to them that he did have a few drinks in his cabin before leaving the ship. It was also no secret that Joughin and his mates routinely would gather in off-duty places aboard the Titanic and other White Star ship to "throw a few back!"

Interesting discussion.....I wonder if we will ever know the complete truth.

Best,

Mike Findlay
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,114
14
198
>Interesting discussion.....I wonder if we will ever know the complete truth.

At this point, no, because everyone who could confirm or refute it is dead. But, based on a perusal of cold water survival charts, a quick read through of the effects of alcohol on human survival in cold, and the now-accepted version of the mechanics of the Titanic's final descent, from perusing the following key details of the version of Joughin's story as told in ANTR, I feel safe in saying that the truth- whatever it was- does not lie there:


~Joughin manages to maintain his balance while the stern rises vertical and everyone else is falling over.

~ He rides the stern into the water elevator style.

~The ship sinks so gently that he does not get his head wet.

~He manages to swim the distance between the huge mass of debris where the stern sank and Collapsible B.

~And then remains alive in the water until after sunrise.

An interesting detail relating to that last is contained in the line:

>he managed to keep much of Joughin's body out of the water while holding onto his hand alongside the boat.

Now, the more of one's body that is out of the water, the longer one's survival time is. Check out the cold water survival sites for more information on that. I see a likely scenario here of Joughin being on, but not atop, B, with Maynard holding him in place and, perhaps, his lower legs remaining in the water for a few minutes.

But the rest, frankly, is garbage. The "didn't get his head wet" interlude is the point at which the story should have been deep sixed, or at least written with a lot of qualifiers added to distance the author from its contents.
 
May 27, 2007
3,916
3
0
I think Joughin did have a few drinks that night and probably did ride the Titanic down into the water during the final plunge but the rest is hokum or embellishment.
 

Tom McLeod

Member
Sep 1, 2005
186
0
86
The thing that strikes me most about Baker Joughin is maybe his intoxication kept him calm enough not make good choices; many he may not have remembered correctly.
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,114
14
198
No. Joughin, as presented in ANTR and many books since, is the Titanic equivalent of the Lusitania elevator story. Virtually every aspect of the story rings false~ in some cases ridiculously so ~ yet it makes a "good story" and so people cling to it. If you dig WAY back in the archives, to when I was a newbie here, you'll find a rather amusing thread in which I posted my doubts about the Joughin story and got dogpiled on by...someone who should have known better...oh well, find the thread, it's appalling yet funny. But, I digress...

Walter Lord, not having internet access and operating a half century plus ago, can be partially excused for not researching certain aspects of that story with the thoroughness they deserved. Contemporary writers cannot be excused this.

If, in fact, his head never got wet, it tends to imply that he washed off the ship already clinging to B.

I threw out or gave away my entire Titanic archive; save for one gift I cherish; a few years ago. I cannot check this first hand, but as of the point where I lost interest (coinciding with the post mentioned above) I had never found an account by someone who rode the fantail into the water and survived. Maybe someone did, but at the point at which I stopped looking....or caring.... I had found accounts by people who jumped, or were washed, from all points along the boat or promenade decks. But I hadn't found a first person narrative by anyone who categorically stated that they were on the ship until the last moment.

I bring that up because if Joughin DID, as he claimed, stay with the ship until the last second, he was a very rare bird indeed. If B truly was washed a great distance from the ship by the collapse of the funnel as is claimed, and that distance is the added to the possible distance between where the front end of the boat deck submerged and where the stern went under, it seems like Joughin's dry headed swim was nothing short of one-in-a-billion.

Frankly, I'm not buying it.

Years ago, under controlled circumstances, I immersed myself in 37F water (at night) for the very purpose of better understanding what those who sank with the ship experienced. Suffice to say, even with a slow lowering to prevent the possibility of reflexively inhaling cold water and immediately sinking, it was indescribably unpleasant. I came VERY close to tunnel visioning: within a minute ALL of my efforts zeroed in on getting the hell out of the pool.

From that, I can extrapolate outward a bit, and venture a guess that only someone with a VERY high level of concentration and a clear goal to swim towards could have mentally "held it together" for very long.

I don't think that being befuddled by drink would have HEIGHTENED one's chances in that situation.

Big point here:Don't ever purge an archive just because you've lost interest. It makes it hard to reenforce what you are saying, if you need to, a few years down the road.
 
May 27, 2007
3,916
3
0
I don't think that being befuddled by drink would have HEIGHTENED one's chances in that situation.
I said Joughin had a few drinks but what I forgot to add was that he might of had a high tolerance for alcohol. I don't think the alcohol helped him any although it might have soothed his nerves and kept him calm with out making him tipsy. Especially if he had a high alcohol tolerance.

Tom said basically the same thing. I think he was just lucky and wasn't in the water that long. But I think he probably rode the ship down on it's final plunge and made his way to collapsible B. But he could of jumped ship and swam for collapsible B before the ship sank.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,590
380
283
Easley South Carolina
>>I said Joughin had a few drinks but what I forgot to add was that he might of had a high tolerance for alcohol.<<

Don't be decieved by that. Higher tolerance, often as not, means that somebody is more adept at compensation for an impaired central nervous system. The base physiological reactions don't go away and are much the same for everybody.
 

Tom McLeod

Member
Sep 1, 2005
186
0
86
To me Jim gets the ultimate Titanic Scholar award for his deep freeze plunge. Could explain a few things about him (kidding of course). So how do we top that Michael and George and anyone else? Maybe wear period clothes, a 1912 WSL Baker's outfit, someone could try for a WSL Officer's uniform; my guess is Inger would opt for that going with the 5th officer model, a gentleman's of the period's clothes, we all get drunk, lower ourselves into water of that temperature and see who does the best! May be fun. (I can't put the little smiles faces in, but I would if I had them) Kudos to Jim for bucking the know facts in an earlier thread, that is where some of the most revealing information can lurk! Let alone the newer theory Jim talked about in the Lusitania thread about torpedo explosions, interesting indeed. Having reached the milestone of 50 posts yesterday and getting responses makes this Newbie feel pretty cool while we are on the subject.
 
May 27, 2007
3,916
3
0
Higher tolerance, often as not, means that somebody is more adept at compensation for an impaired central nervous system.
That's what I'm saying, basically.

The base physiological reactions don't go away and are much the same for everybody.
True. I never said the alcohol helped Joughlin in his reaction to cold water but it might of made him less panicky or prone to panic. But it really depends on the person.
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,114
14
198
>To me Jim gets the ultimate Titanic Scholar award for his deep freeze plunge.

My sidekick, Sacheen Littlefeather, has been directed to decline it on my behalf.

>Could explain a few things about him

No. My psyche was developed long before 2002. It explains nothing, but DOES illustrate the lengths one must go to when researching. I found myself questioning some of the extremely focused, detailed, stories later told by people who had been struggling almost shoulder deep in ice water in the dark.

I could not get access to ice water, but when the water temperature in my pool got close enough, measured by a darkroom liquid thermometer, in I went, to get a SLIGHT idea of what it might have been like.

The experiment was flawed because:

~I was lowered in, as opposed to dumped.
~The water was 4 feet deep. I could stand in it.
~My head was never under water.
~I knew that I could get out as quickly as I wanted, and had people standing by if I couldn't.
~The temp, 37F, was closer to 40 than 30. So, as bad as it was, it wasn't quite as bad as what the Titanic survivors and victims experienced.

But, what I CAN say is that I could not force myself to submerge my head, and I very quickly focused on getting the hell out of the water.

From that, my assumption is that the Titanic passengers who did not reflexively inhale water upon impact with it were probably soon in something akin to a blind panic induced by the painfully cold conditions. And if they could somehow see boats A and B, that was probably ALL they could see as what remained of their concentration focused in on reaching safety.
 
May 27, 2007
3,916
3
0
Years ago, under controlled circumstances, I immersed myself in 37F water (at night) for the very purpose of better understanding what those who sank with the ship experienced.
Your insane, Jim!
mad.gif
I just put my hand in a bucket of Ice. Well there was the Mississippi river in winter of 89 when I put my leg into the frigid water but I was 11 or 12 then and didn't know no better.

Can see what your saying about the only thing being on the passengers minds was to get out of the water as soon as possible.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,590
380
283
Easley South Carolina
>>So how do we top that Michael and George and anyone else?<<

I'll leave that to your good offices and watch from the sidelines. This old sailor got to be and old sailor by not taking any active part in such experiments. I'm content to leave that kind of courage to others. Thanks anyway.
wink.gif
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,590
380
283
Easley South Carolina
>>Your insane, Jim!<<

Maybe, but from the standpoint of a scientific approach to history, he's also on the right track.

Think about it a bit. It's easy to get wrapped up in a story and try to explain how it could have happened while operating on the assumption that it did happen, at least on some level.

Only did it? Could it have?

The question one needs to ask is whether or not a story like Joughin's could even possibly be real. Given the way hypothermia happens and how alcohol effects it's progression in the real world, I would have to say "Not damned likely."
 
Status
Not open for further replies.