Morning After: Where were the bodies?

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Richard Paola

Member
apologies if this has been discussed already...but i always wondered why the Carpathia didn't see any bodies floating at the wreck site the morning after .. did they drift away ? When officer Lowe went back on what i'm sure was a nightmarish scene he would never forget..he must have discovered hundreds of bodies..it was only a mere 3 hours later that Carpathia would arrive...how far could they have drifted ? Also, the McKay Bennet arrived weeks later..they found about 300. Were they dispersed over a large area ? Why the discrepancy ?
i would appreciate any experts input on this..thanks for your help.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
You might be amazed at just how thorough the ocean is in removing any and even all signs of disaster, including and especially bodies. Even today, very large ships break up and sink and leave little sign of their demise beyond a drifting oil slick and a few trace bits of wreckage. The Derbyshire comes to mind here as does the Edmond Fitzgerald. Anyone cruising the disaster area looking for bodies would have to account for the wind and the wave and it's effect on randomly scattering bodies and wreckage alike over an ever growing area...to say nothing of hungry sealife looking for a meal.

One must also account for the fact that the lifeboats were not stationary throughout the night. Even adrift on the current, they would move away from where the Titanic actually sank.

Then there is the fact that a human body is a mighty small object to try and find in the vast expanse of the ocean. I've been involved in SAR ops...at night no less...and even in the immidiate area, one could search for hours and even days and see a whole lot of nothing. All things considered, I'm amazed that as many bodies were found as there were.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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John M. Feeney

Member
Hi, Richard:

The Bremen and Rhein sightings -- shortly before the MacKay Bennett arrived -- were actually only about 5-1/2 days after the sinking (April 20). Nevertheless, the positions where they discovered the wreckage and bodies were approximately 32 and 37 NMi., respectively, northeasterly of the true wreck site. That's an average drift of about 6-1/4 miles per day -- assuming a linear track, which is by no means assured. Considering that the normal drift induced by the Gulf Stream in that region is about 1/2 knot (12 Nmi. per day!), those particular distances aren't even very sensational. As Michael pointed out, it's a pretty big ocean, and search and recovery operations can require extensive time and effort..

While ocean currents alone might not lead to any significant separation, differential wind resistance in the various pieces of wreckage and bodies could result in widespread scattering. Relatively dense or low-profile objects (like the corpses, generally) would be far less affected by wind than low density and/or high-profile objects (like the lifeboats). Since a wind sprang up from the north even *before* Carpathia arrived at 4:00 am, this differential separation had likely already begun early on -- hence the outcome that Captain Rostron might well not see any bodies (other for that one) unless he himself performed a broad search.

Cheers,
John
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
John Feeney said, "As Michael pointed out, it's a pretty big ocean, and search and recovery operations can require extensive time and effort.."

Yep, and to give an idea of just how long this took, check out the List Of Recovered Bodies and some of the bios linked to there. Body 330, that of Mr. James McGrady was recovered on 25 May 1912! The recovering ship was the Algerine and was ten days searching befor she found just that one.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Jan C. Nielsen

Member
No, I don't buy Michael and John's "big ocean" theory. My view is that they didn't see the bodies because they didn't want to . . . "they" referring to Captain Rostron and the British Steamship Companies' management.

In fact, Captain Rostron saw at least one body. He also saw the overturned collapsible, which was later found by Bremen and by Mackay-Bennett near the bodies. Rostron expresses concern in his testimony that he didn't want Titanic's survivors to see any bodies (most of whom were in a chapel service, at the time). So, Rostron manuevered Carpathia around so that the one body he saw, at least, wouldn't be seen by anyone else. Rostron also did not bother to pick up that body. Why wouldn't he pick up one solitary body out there? He had picked up other dead bodies, and buried them? I think he may have done that because he knew there were hundreds more bodies within sight.

John Collins mentions seeing Carpathia lowering boats to pick up bodies. But others on this board contend that he mistook that for Carpathia recovering Titanic's lifeboats. My response is that Collins must have known that Carpathia picked up Titanic's lifeboats, but that he still said, in the Senate hearings, that Carpathia lowered lifeboats to pick up bodies.

Additionally, I think that someone communicated to the shore so that Mackay-Bennett was sent out early to pick up bodies. I also think that the German ships, Bremen and Rhein, passed by the disaster site in order to embarass the British steamship companies, their competitors. Bremen was the first to get the word out that "fields of bodies" were floating out on the North Atlantic. This must have been embarassing to White Star, Cunard and Leyland, to name a few.

Almost no one else accepts these theories openly, on this board. Some do off the board. Further, when the subject is brought up, some members contend that Captain Rostron shouldn't be criticized. He couldn't pick up bodies as well as survivors, and his first responsibility was to the survivors. I don't have any qualms with that view. I just think that he should have been upfront with the public and told them that. Instead, he pretended that he saw just "one" body, and that because of Titanic's survivors' pathos, he couldn't even pick up that one body. Also, Rostron's communications with the shore from Carpathia are deliberately vague, and as such, buttress the likelihood of his participation in the steamship companies' cover up.
 
B

Bill Wormstedt

Member
Final body recovered - Steward W. F. Cheverton, recovered by the ship Ilford in June 1912.
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
The bodies were probably not in the spot where the Carpathia picked up the lifeboats for many different reasons ranging from differential drift to the self-propelled (oars) nature of the lifeboats. My guess is that many of the boats pulled away from the bodies just because...

Rostron would not have been wise to start a body recovery operation. He had over 700 survivors on board. Once he started recovering bodies, he would have had 700+ hysterical survivors. His responsibility was to the living, to get them safely to land.

As I have said in another thread, none of the vessels on scene April 15 were properly suited for recovering bodies. To do so would have required putting crew members at risk with no possibility of saving lives. That's frankly immoral. The recovery had to wait for vessels with lower freeboard from which recovery work could be done with reasonable safety. And, that's what happened.

With regard to Rostron being "upfront" with the public...to what end? True compassion for the survivors required maintaining a certain aesthetic distance from the horror of the night. Making a public pronouncement that he steamed away from bodies -- no matter how necessary that action was -- would only have increased the emotional trauma of the widows and orphans. Nobody could possibly have benefitted from such an admission, so why make it? There are times when keeping one's council is wise and proper.

-- David G. Brown
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
Hi Jan, I hate to burst your bubble, but the vastness of the ocean mentioned by John and myself is a quantifiable and easily observed fact. It's not a theory and I have personal experience in what it is to try and spot objects of any size...even ships depending on the distance involved...on the ocean.

A human body, especially one that is mostly submerged, is exceedingly difficult to spot, especially if there are waves or objects for it to get lost in. During man overboard drills on various ships that I served on, I would often go topside to see how things were going. It would often take me several minutes to spot a lifering and a float, even when I had a good idea where to look. Were it not for a float generating smoke or a light of some kind, I would easily miss it. Nor did it ever stand to reason that one could spot the man sized dummy tossed in the water even knowing the general area to look. I've tried and failed to spot it every single time despite knowing where to look.

Dave Brown has mentioned some other hard realities so I need not go into them in any great depth. Suffice to say, this is one of those things that few people ever understand the difficulty of without experiencing it first hand. I have.

You asked; ". Why wouldn't he pick up one solitary body out there? He had picked up other dead bodies, and buried them? I think he may have done that because he knew there were hundreds more bodies within sight."

Dave has already covered that ground, but I would have to ask further, what would be the point? The one that was recovered as well as the ones who died in the lifeboats were buried at sea that afternoon and had to be as there was no way the Carpathia could have dealt with them. They had no facilities for dealing with corpses, no undertaker, no embalming fluid, no coffins, and no place to store the bodies. All else aside, the corpses would have posed a very real health hazard on a ship not equipped to deal with them. This was not a matter of cover up, but quite bluntly, of health and sanitation.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Colleen Collier

Member
I completely agree with David, and Michael, and would like to add this thought, which I believe is just an elaboration on what was already said.

What additional pain, trauma, horror and anguish would the survivors had to endure if the Carpathia stayed there and haphazardly contended with the bodies? Think of the huge task at hand. Had they started, they would have had to stay, as the rich and influencial would not have allowed them to NOT find their loved ones. Had they decided to stay and bury some of the bodies, the widows (especially of first class passengers) would want to be sure that their loved ones were not just buried at sea, and that would mean they would have had to attempt to identify them right then and there, as well as look at the bodies of friends, acquaintances, children, and those mangled in the break up. Had they not already been through enough? If I remember correctly, the 705 survivors doubled her passenger load, making it way overloaded, and captain Rostron had a duty to get them safely "home."

In Eva Hart's book, she recalled there was a bad storm later that day, and had they still been out in open lifeboats, they would have most certainly been in bad trouble. Maybe Rostron knew of this storm due to hit, and knew that things can get nasty in no time, so he decided that the middle of the Atlantic was not a place to hang around when the chances of finding another live person was nill. It was already going to be a crowded, emotional and trying three days back to New York, why make it four?

What about Rostron's OWN paying passengers? They needed some consideration, and were already being put out quite allot. I don't know a whole about the superstitions of 1912, but a load of corpses in a ship would be a bit eerie, even in todays standards. That added to the pure fact of not having any room to put the hundreds and hundreds of bodies for 3 days, let alone the necessary materials needed, as Michael points out, health and sanitation played a very key point.

Very terrible aftermath, but I do believe that he realized the history being played out, and made the right choice. I thank God that I have never been faced with such a terrible decision in my career.
Sincerely:
Colleen
 
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Jan C. Nielsen

Member
Respectfully, guys, you are missing my point. I have no disagreement with anyone about whether Carpathia (or Californian, for that matter) should have stayed to pick up bodies. If you may recall, the Bremen's Captain Wilhelm said the same thing, i.e., that he didn't have the facilities to recover the bodies. I wouldn't have expected these rescue ships to pick up bodies.

P. Franklin, had ordered Leyland's Californian to stay on the scene, but Stanley Lord left anyway. That's when they sent out Mackay-Bennett. Notably, Franklin was to send a train to Halifax with a 700 person capacity on Monday, April 15, 1912. Thus, there were communications here that are not of record, in my opinion. The official communications that we are aware of, don't tell the full story. You pick up hints of things here and there, that suggest that some unknown communications were taking place.

Regarding the disclosure of bodies left floating out in the North Atlantic. I agree that this would be distressful for families of victims to learn. However, the Germans had already managed to get the word out, via Wilhelm and Bremen's passengers. Ismay even officially announced that Mackay-Bennett was sent out to pick up bodies, on April 21, 1912. So why did Rostron keep quiet about the bodies when he testified, much later on? Believe me, Rostron aligned himself with management to hush the bad stuff up. Leaving the bodies might have maligned his image as a hero, too. Maybe Rostron did not personally care about that, but the Steamship Companies certainly would have wanted to foster the image of a hero, just as they did that of an anti-hero, Captain Lord.

But regardless of the public's sensitivities, I think that when people testify under oath, they should always tell the truth. Viewing the transcripts of the British and American inquiries, it appears that there is a lot of lying going on. Frankly, hero or no hero, in my estimation Rostron appears to have been part of it, with his "one body" story.

Regarding Michael's point, I readily accept that spotting bodies at sea is very difficult. But you need to read Rostron's testimony. He admits he manuevered around so that no one would see the one body. He sent everyone inside for a chapel service. He saw the overturned collapsible. Then he and Ismay sent some really vague communications to the shore. Further, in this instance, the bodies were wearing lifejackets. According to at least one source, these lifejackets were visible from a considerable distance -- according to eyewitnesses aboard the Bremen.

I'll make it very clear: I'm not very sympathetic to the management of these steamship companies. The worst part of all this is that Oceanic Steamship Navigation Company walked away from an incredibly horrendous disaster, by hushing things up, utilizing favorable maritime liability laws, and focusing blame on Stanley Lord, and to some degree on Captain Smith and fate.

What do I think? I think the company should have gone out of business, its steamships sold, the proceeds paid to victims' relatives, and J. Bruce Ismay should have been indicted. The perpetrators of a disaster of this magnitude simply shouldn't go unpunished. And they did.

I don't expect anyone on this Board to agree with me, and it doesn't matter anyway. But frankly, there is very little that's redeeming about this story.

It's worth pointing out that so many of the survivors didn't want to talk about the Titanic disaster. These people must have felt oppressed. There were many suicides, and ensuing psychoses among them. Think about it, we have no idea what that experience was like. If we truly felt the disasster, we probably wouldn't have much to say, other than to look at it from an overall perspective, cry out loud, and express complete and unequivocal disgust for the robber barons that perpetrated it.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
Uh...Jan...your point was...verbatim quote: "No, I don't buy Michael and John's "big ocean" theory...") as a reason that it was so difficult to spot any bodies, and after which, you tried to justify the cover up angle. To re-iterate a point I've made several times in the past, Cunard had no reason to take part in a cover up that would only benefit a competitor. To that, I would have to add that Captain Rostron had more pressing concerns then to concern himself with corperate damage control. He had just picked up 712 passengers in mid-ocean who had been shipwrecked, and who had nothing except the clothes on their backs. The priority was to get them safely landed and as quickly as possible.

There was no advantage to staying around to search for bodies...none...and no means to properly care for them if they did pick them up...hence the reason for the rapid burial at sea of the few they already had. If there were any bodies about...and for the reasons David Brown mentioned, this is extremely unlikely...he left them behind because he had to. There's nothing sinister about that. just good sense.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Jan C. Nielsen

Member
Michael,

Sorry for my kind of cranky, previous post. Obviously, given your experience on the sea I don't disagree with the point that bodies are difficult to see, or that Rostron had to leave the bodies there. But it seems to me that the conversation is focusing on whether the bodies were seen at all. Quite aside from the difficulty of viewing bodies at sea, I'm relying on inferences and the like to deduce that Rostron did see them. Further, as pointed out above and previously, passengers aboard Bremen reported that the bodies were visible from a distance because of the life jackets. They reported seeing "fields of bodies." It seems to me that the bodies would have been more widely dispersed, and harder to see, on April 20, 1912 (when Bremen's passengers saw them) as opposed to April 15, 1912, when Carpathia was there.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
The kicker here is where the bodies were as opposed to where the lifeboats actually went. The bodies would have drifted with the current, the wind and the wave. Some would have remained in clusters, some not. The sea is as fickle as it is unpredictable and always will be in this regard.

Regarding the lifeboats, those not drifting were certainly rowing around, and Lowes boat was under sail, and they all went to meet the rescue ship.

Bottom line, the boats and the Carpathia were ultimately in a different place as the bodies, and you can't see them unless you go where they are at. Rostron was not concerned with that sort of thing either, which point he made explicitely clear in the Inquiries when he said his concern was with the living and not the dead, the latter of whom were beyond his ability to help.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Jan C. Nielsen

Member
Michael,

Your bottom line ("the boats and the Carpathia were ultimately in a different place as the bodies") is what I disagree with. I understand your point that the wreckage moves around, and that, as such, the bodies moved differently from other wreckage. But in this instance, the bodies and certain of the wreckage appear to have moved together. For example, the overturned Collapsible "B" was seen by Captain Rostron. At that time, Rostron only mentions "one" body. But the same Collapsible was later seen by both Captain Wilhelm of the Bremen, and Captain Lardner of the Mackay-Bennett, in the vicinity of "fields" of bodies.

Consider, too, that Rostron was trying to account for every lifeboat. He scoped the area looking for the one unaccounted for collapsible "C." Then, he admits he saw the one body. Survivors and passengers started walking out from the chapel service to the deck. Rostron steamed off (he also instructed Lord to look for the remaining collapsible). He left the "one" body behind.

I think that if there weren't other bodies out there he would have stopped, and picked up the one body.

I think Rostron saw the bodies. Lord probably did, too.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
Excerpted from the U.S. Seante Inquiry Report;

"The committee directs attention to the fact that Captain Rostron, of the Carpathia, although four hours in the vicinity of the accident, saw only one body, and that Captain Lord, of the Californian, who remained three hours in the vicinity of the wreckage, saw none. The failure of the captain of the Carpathia, of the captain of the Californian, and of the captain of the Mount Temple to find bodies floating in that vicinity in the early morning of the day following can only be accounted for on the theory that those who went down with the ship either did not rise to the surface or were carried away or hidden by the extensive ice floe which during the night came down over the spot where the ship disappeared, while those bodies which have been found remote from the place where the ship went down were probably carried away from the scene by the currents or by the movement of the ice."

These conclusions were made after taking testimony from the men who were actually on the scene, and who really had no reason whatever to lie about it. Three different ships and three different masters. Were they all in collusion? Rather difficult to see how that's possible as they wouldn't have even seen each other until the inquiry itself if at all. In order to support your hypothosis, you'll have to present substative evidence which conclusively demonstrates why your right and they are wrong.

With all due respect, I don't see how you can do that.

>>For example, the overturned Collapsible "B" was seen by Captain Rostron.<<

Seen where? How much manuevering had the Carpathia done by then and at what times?

>>But the same Collapsible was later seen by both Captain Wilhelm of the Bremen, and Captain Lardner of the Mackay-Bennett, in the vicinity of "fields" of bodies.<<

Seen where and when after being influanced by currents, ice floes, wind and wave in what manner and after how many days? All of this can bunch things together or break up collections of bodies and wreckage in any number of odd and random ways...or wipe out any trace whatever.

It's not as simple as you may have been led to believe. And in all of this, the question still goes begging, why bother covering up something like this at all? In any indictment of White Star, the issue would be the lines culpability and how far it went. The presence or absence of bodies wouldn't add or take away from that as the important fact...that being the deaths of 1500 people...was already known. Covering up the presence of bodies is utterly pointless.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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