Jack Thayer and Milton Long


Arun Vajpey

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For the last 33 years I have tried to get a mental picture of the final minutes of the Titanic sinking during which First Class passengers and friends Jack Thayer and Milton Long 'jumped for their lives'; and why the former survived and the latter did not.

It has been said that Jack was a strong swimmer while Milton was not. But I presume both were wearing their life jackets and so staying afloat would not have been a problem. As per most accounts, they stood near the starboard railing in the bow section and planned their escape. They must have been very close to the water level by then and so, taking into account the port list (and so higher corresponding starboard sides) and the fact that the actual bow and forecastle were by then underwater, exactly where were the two young men standing?

Reportedly, Long went first, facing outward and sliding down the now sloping starboard side of the ship. Thayer on the other hand, jumped backwards feet first and facing the ship. Did he use his feet and legs to gain leverage from the side of the ship so that he landed a bit further away? Could that be why Long got caught (in something?) and never resurfaced?

Also, how did Thayer manage to reach the overturned Collapsible B that was floating away from the port side. The sinking of the bow section would have pushed both further apart, as Thayer himself reported. Did he swim over to the capsized boat?
 
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This is from the article below. Supposedley quotes taken from J. Thayers book. I haven't read his book so if someone else has they can verifie it.
The vessel then reared up and, amid a rumbling roar and muffled explosions, he decided to jump. "I was pushed out and then sucked down. The cold was terrific. The shock of the water took the breath out of my lungs. Down and down, I went, spinning in all directions. Swimming as hard as I could in the direction which I thought to be away from the ship, I finally came up with my lungs bursting, but not having taken any water."

Falling debris dragged him under water again and when he fought back to the surface, he came up against an overturned lifeboat. Too exhausted to haul himself, the men already clinging to it pulled him up.
Vivid account of how the Titanic sank by survivor Jack Thayer, 17, resurfaces in time for centenary
 
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B-rad

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There are many factors involved that we don't know. Did milton hurt himself, did he hit debris, did the shock of the cold water cause him to have a heart attack, did he swim for safety but never made it in the dim lit ocean surrounding the ship (which was short lived cause the lights went out shortly after), did he get hit by a funnel? There are so many factors, I don't think we will ever know. I just think it shows the luck of the draw just like Phillips and Bride. Some survived under the same circumstances where others didnt. That's the tragedy, even at your best attempt didn't mean survival.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I agree, but it is interesting to speculate nevertheless. The way I look at it, Thayer and Long must have been fairly forward in a part of the bow section that was still above the surface. So, despite the port list at the time, the water level on the starboard side must have been fairly close to the rail where the two were standing for Long to believe that he could slide down the side of the ship. IMO he probably got caught-up in debris and was not able to surface in time or, like you say, might have surfaced but unable to find a lifeboat before he became immobilised due to exposure.
 

Harland Duzen

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Weren't Thayer and Milton reported to be standing parallel either to the second class staircase or the staircase to A-deck?

Not sure of the source used, but In "Titanic: Minute by Minute" (Page 228) it states:

"2.05am Titanic Bridge Time...
...Jack Thayer and Milton Long have move further up the sloping deck towards the stern and stepped inside, finding the top of a stairway. There are crowds of people in there, with the aim, it seems to Jack, of just keeping away from the ship's rail..."
Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 10.02.56.png
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Weren't Thayer and Milton reported to be standing parallel either to the second class staircase or the staircase to A-deck?

Not sure of the source used, but In "Titanic: Minute by Minute" (Page 228) it states:

"2.05am Titanic Bridge Time...
...Jack Thayer and Milton Long have move further up the sloping deck towards the stern and stepped inside, finding the top of a stairway. There are crowds of people in there, with the aim, it seems to Jack, of just keeping away from the ship's rail..."
View attachment 43689
I have that book too and it is the highlighted part that cannot understand. If their plan was to jump from the ship, would it not be safer near the bow where the railing was closer to the water level. Why move up the sloping deck further aft and make one's task more difficult?

Furthermore, the only remaining boats on the ship, Collapsibles A & B, were in the bow section.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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Weren't Thayer and Milton reported to be standing parallel either to the second class staircase or the staircase to A-deck?

Not sure of the source used, but In "Titanic: Minute by Minute" (Page 228) it states:

"2.05am Titanic Bridge Time...
...Jack Thayer and Milton Long have move further up the sloping deck towards the stern and stepped inside, finding the top of a stairway. There are crowds of people in there, with the aim, it seems to Jack, of just keeping away from the ship's rail..."
View attachment 43689
I can not see any mention of this in his 1912 account in which he stated that they were standing at one of the "davits of one of the boats that had left" and were "a little aft of the captain's bridge".
No mention that they moved aft instead he stated that they remained where they were. Most likely close at on of the empty davits of the forward starboard boats.
 
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Rob Lawes

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I think it's worth remembering that for most of the people who entered the water from the sinking ship, the most likely cause of death would have been the cold shock response. This is sometimes called 'hydrocution' as the effects are similar to being electrocuted. Even apparently healthy individuals can suffer a heart attack from the effects of the sudden cold on the cardio vascular system.

At the temperature of the water that night, most people would have been dead with a couple of minutes of entering the water.

Those who were able to physically and mentally ride out the first couple of minutes would have survived for around 30 minutes before succumbing to the cold.
 
A

Aaron_2016

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For the last 33 years I have tried to get a mental picture of the final minutes of the Titanic sinking during which First Class passengers and friends Jack Thayer and Milton Long 'jumped for their lives'; and why the former survived and the latter did not.

It has been said that Jack was a strong swimmer while Milton was not. But I presume both were wearing their life jackets and so staying afloat would not have been a problem. As per most accounts, they stood near the starboard railing in the bow section and planned their escape. They must have been very close to the water level by then and so, taking into account the port list (and so higher corresponding starboard sides) and the fact that the actual bow and forecastle were by then underwater, exactly where were the two young men standing?

Reportedly, Long went first, facing outward and sliding down the now sloping starboard side of the ship. Thayer on the other hand, jumped backwards feet first and facing the ship. Did he use his feet and legs to gain leverage from the side of the ship so that he landed a bit further away? Could that be why Long got caught (in something?) and never resurfaced?

Also, how did Thayer manage to reach the overturned Collapsible B that was floating away from the port side. The sinking of the bow section would have pushed both further apart, as Thayer himself reported. Did he swim over to the capsized boat?
The ship would have been rocking from side to side as the water rapidly rushed into all sides of her, especially when she began to buckle and break apart. e.g.


Miss Glynn
"We watched the Titanic rolling and bobbing like a cork."

Mr. Haggan
"The ship was shaking very much".

Mr. Hemming
"The captain was there, and he sung out: "Everyone over to the starboard side, to keep the ship up as long as possible."

Mr. Barkwork
"I remember somebody shouted: 'Go gently!' as if a sudden shift of weight would have disturbed the ship's position."

Mr. Lightoller
"The ship seemed to be heaving tremendous sighs."



Here are extracts from Jack Thayer's journal.


'She gradually came out of her list to port, and if anything, had a slight list to starboard.......Long and I debated whether or not we should fight our way into one of the last two boats.......'I argued with Long about our chances. I wanted to jump out and catch the empty lifeboat falls, which were swinging free all the way to the water’s edge, with the idea of sliding down and swimming out to the partially filled boats lying off in the distance, for I could swim well. In this way we would be away from the crowd, and away from the suction of the ship when she finally went down.'

'We were still 50 or 60 feet above the water. We could not just jump, for we might hit wreckage or a steamer chair and be knocked unconscious. He argued against it and dissuaded me from doing so. Thank heaven he did. The temperature of the water was 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Four degrees below freezing.'

'We then went up a sheltered stairway onto the starboard side of the boat deck. There were crowds of people up there. They all seemed to keep as far as possible from the ship’s rail. (balancing the ship as she continued to rock from side to side) We stood there talking from about 2 am on. We sent messages through each other to our families. At times we were just thoughtful and quiet, but the noise around us did not stop.'

'I only wish I had kept on looking for my father. I should have realized that he would not have taken a boat, leaving me behind. I afterwards heard from my friend, Richard Norris Williams, the tennis player, that his father and mine were standing in a group consisting of Mr. George D. Widener and his son Harry, together with some others. They were close in under the second funnel, which was very near to where Long and I were.'

'It was now about 2:15 am. We could see the water creeping up the deck, as the ship was going down by the head at a pretty fast rate. The water was right up to the bridge. There must have been over 60 feet of it on top of the bow. As the water gained headway along the deck, the crowd gradually moved with it, always pushing toward the floating stern and keeping in from the rail of the ship as far as they could. (still trying to balance the ship on a level keel as per the captain's orders "to keep the ship up as long as possible.")'

'We were a mass of hopeless, dazed humanity, attempting, as the Almighty and Nature made us, to keep our final breath until the last possible moment. The roaring of the exhaust steam suddenly stopped, making a great quietness, in spite of many mixed noises of hurrying human effort and anguish. As I recall it, the lights were still on, even then. There seemed to be quite a ruddy glare, but it was a murky light, with distant people and objects vaguely outlined.'

'The stars were brilliant and the water oily. Occasionally there had been a muffled thud or deadened explosion within the ship. Now, without warning, she seemed to start forward, moving forward and into the water at an angle of about 15 degrees. This movement, with the water rushing up toward us was accompanied by a rumbling roar, mixed with more muffled explosions. It was like standing under a steel railway bridge while an express train passes overhead, mingled with the noise of a pressed steel factory and wholesale breakage of china.'

'Long and I had been standing by the starboard rail, about abreast of the second funnel. Our main thought was to keep away from the crowd and the suction. At the rail we were entirely free of the crowd. We had previously decided to jump into the water before she actually went down, so that we might swim some distance away, and avoid what we thought would be terrific suction. Still we did not wish to jump before the place where we were standing would be only a few yards over the water, for we might be injured and not be able to swim.'

'We had no time to think now, only to act. We shook hands, wished each other luck. I said, “Go ahead, I’ll be right with you.” I threw my overcoat off as he climbed over the rail, sliding down facing the ship. Ten seconds later I sat on the rail. I faced out, and with a push of my arms and hands, jumped into the water as far out from the ship as I could. When we jumped we were only 12 or 15 feet above the water.'

'I never saw Long again. His body was later recovered. I am afraid that the few seconds elapsing between our going, meant the difference between being sucked into the deck below, as I believe he was, or pushed out by the backwash. I was pushed out and then sucked down.'

'The cold was terrific. The shock of the water took the breath out of my lungs. Down and down I went, spinning in all directions. Swimming as hard as I could in the direction which I thought to be away from the ship, I finally came up with my lungs bursting, but not having taken any water. The ship was in front of me, 40 yards away. How long I had been swimming under water, I don’t know. Perhaps a minute or less. Incidentally, my watch stopped at 2:22 am.'

'The ship seemed to be surrounded with a glare and stood out of the night as though she were on fire. I watched her. I don’t know why I didn’t keep swimming away. Fascinated, I seemed tied to the spot. Already I was tired out with the cold and struggling, although the life preserver held my head and shoulders above the water.'

'She continued to make the same forward progress as when I left her. The water was over the base of the first funnel. The mass of people on board were surging back, always back toward the floating stern. The rumble and roar continued, with even louder distinct wrenchings and tearings of boilers and engines from their beds.'

'Suddenly the whole superstructure of the ship appeared to split, well forward to midship, and blow or buckle upwards. The second funnel, large enough for two automobiles to pass through abreast, seemed to be lifted off, emitting a cloud of sparks. It looked as if it would fall on top of me. It missed me by only 20 or 30 feet. The suction of it drew me down and down, struggling and swimming, practically spent.'



.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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'Long and I had been standing by the starboard rail, about abreast of the second funnel.

'We had no time to think now, only to act. We shook hands, wished each other luck. I said, “Go ahead, I’ll be right with you.” I threw my overcoat off as he climbed over the rail, sliding down facing the ship. Ten seconds later I sat on the rail. I faced out, and with a push of my arms and hands, jumped into the water as far out from the ship as I could. When we jumped we were only 12 or 15 feet above the water.'

'I never saw Long again. His body was later recovered. I am afraid that the few seconds elapsing between our going, meant the difference between being sucked into the deck below, as I believe he was, or pushed out by the backwash. I was pushed out and then sucked down.'

.
Thanks for that. Obviously, my memory served me ill trying to remember from the book A Night To Remember. It was Long who tried to 'slide down' facing the ship while Thayer sat on the rail and used his limbs to leap away from the sinking Titanic. I got that mixed-up. :(

But if they had been standing abreast of the second funnel, that would still be just within the bow section and well forward of the point of break a couple of minutes later. So, they two probably did retreat from their original vantage point, keeping themselves beyond the flooding line of the bow but still forward enough to be close to the sea level.....before deciding to jump.
 
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SmileyGirl

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The ship would have been rocking from side to side as the water rapidly rushed into all sides of her, especially when she began to buckle and break apart. e.g.


Miss Glynn
"We watched the Titanic rolling and bobbing like a cork."

Mr. Haggan
"The ship was shaking very much".

Mr. Hemming
"The captain was there, and he sung out: "Everyone over to the starboard side, to keep the ship up as long as possible."

Mr. Barkwork
"I remember somebody shouted: 'Go gently!' as if a sudden shift of weight would have disturbed the ship's position."

Mr. Lightoller
"The ship seemed to be heaving tremendous sighs."



Here are extracts from Jack Thayer's journal.


'She gradually came out of her list to port, and if anything, had a slight list to starboard.......Long and I debated whether or not we should fight our way into one of the last two boats.......'I argued with Long about our chances. I wanted to jump out and catch the empty lifeboat falls, which were swinging free all the way to the water’s edge, with the idea of sliding down and swimming out to the partially filled boats lying off in the distance, for I could swim well. In this way we would be away from the crowd, and away from the suction of the ship when she finally went down.'

'We were still 50 or 60 feet above the water. We could not just jump, for we might hit wreckage or a steamer chair and be knocked unconscious. He argued against it and dissuaded me from doing so. Thank heaven he did. The temperature of the water was 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Four degrees below freezing.'

'We then went up a sheltered stairway onto the starboard side of the boat deck. There were crowds of people up there. They all seemed to keep as far as possible from the ship’s rail. (balancing the ship as she continued to rock from side to side) We stood there talking from about 2 am on. We sent messages through each other to our families. At times we were just thoughtful and quiet, but the noise around us did not stop.'

'I only wish I had kept on looking for my father. I should have realized that he would not have taken a boat, leaving me behind. I afterwards heard from my friend, Richard Norris Williams, the tennis player, that his father and mine were standing in a group consisting of Mr. George D. Widener and his son Harry, together with some others. They were close in under the second funnel, which was very near to where Long and I were.'

'It was now about 2:15 am. We could see the water creeping up the deck, as the ship was going down by the head at a pretty fast rate. The water was right up to the bridge. There must have been over 60 feet of it on top of the bow. As the water gained headway along the deck, the crowd gradually moved with it, always pushing toward the floating stern and keeping in from the rail of the ship as far as they could. (still trying to balance the ship on a level keel as per the captain's orders "to keep the ship up as long as possible.")'

'We were a mass of hopeless, dazed humanity, attempting, as the Almighty and Nature made us, to keep our final breath until the last possible moment. The roaring of the exhaust steam suddenly stopped, making a great quietness, in spite of many mixed noises of hurrying human effort and anguish. As I recall it, the lights were still on, even then. There seemed to be quite a ruddy glare, but it was a murky light, with distant people and objects vaguely outlined.'

'The stars were brilliant and the water oily. Occasionally there had been a muffled thud or deadened explosion within the ship. Now, without warning, she seemed to start forward, moving forward and into the water at an angle of about 15 degrees. This movement, with the water rushing up toward us was accompanied by a rumbling roar, mixed with more muffled explosions. It was like standing under a steel railway bridge while an express train passes overhead, mingled with the noise of a pressed steel factory and wholesale breakage of china.'

'Long and I had been standing by the starboard rail, about abreast of the second funnel. Our main thought was to keep away from the crowd and the suction. At the rail we were entirely free of the crowd. We had previously decided to jump into the water before she actually went down, so that we might swim some distance away, and avoid what we thought would be terrific suction. Still we did not wish to jump before the place where we were standing would be only a few yards over the water, for we might be injured and not be able to swim.'

'We had no time to think now, only to act. We shook hands, wished each other luck. I said, “Go ahead, I’ll be right with you.” I threw my overcoat off as he climbed over the rail, sliding down facing the ship. Ten seconds later I sat on the rail. I faced out, and with a push of my arms and hands, jumped into the water as far out from the ship as I could. When we jumped we were only 12 or 15 feet above the water.'

'I never saw Long again. His body was later recovered. I am afraid that the few seconds elapsing between our going, meant the difference between being sucked into the deck below, as I believe he was, or pushed out by the backwash. I was pushed out and then sucked down.'

'The cold was terrific. The shock of the water took the breath out of my lungs. Down and down I went, spinning in all directions. Swimming as hard as I could in the direction which I thought to be away from the ship, I finally came up with my lungs bursting, but not having taken any water. The ship was in front of me, 40 yards away. How long I had been swimming under water, I don’t know. Perhaps a minute or less. Incidentally, my watch stopped at 2:22 am.'

'The ship seemed to be surrounded with a glare and stood out of the night as though she were on fire. I watched her. I don’t know why I didn’t keep swimming away. Fascinated, I seemed tied to the spot. Already I was tired out with the cold and struggling, although the life preserver held my head and shoulders above the water.'

'She continued to make the same forward progress as when I left her. The water was over the base of the first funnel. The mass of people on board were surging back, always back toward the floating stern. The rumble and roar continued, with even louder distinct wrenchings and tearings of boilers and engines from their beds.'

'Suddenly the whole superstructure of the ship appeared to split, well forward to midship, and blow or buckle upwards. The second funnel, large enough for two automobiles to pass through abreast, seemed to be lifted off, emitting a cloud of sparks. It looked as if it would fall on top of me. It missed me by only 20 or 30 feet. The suction of it drew me down and down, struggling and swimming, practically spent.'



.
Hi. Did Jack Thayer actually write a book or can I see his full account somewhere online? Thanks very much.
 
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SmileyGirl

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Thanks for the article Aaron, I will give it a read. I was distracted for a moment by the beautiful face of Lindsey Buckingham :p
 

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