Nearer My God To Thee, Autumn, etc


George Behe

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Hi, Noel!

>Why then this absurd preoccupation with >"unsinkability"?

I imagine it was merely a form of 'good publicity' that crewmen of the largest ships in the world made a habit of bandying about. ("My ship is better than that little ship over there -- mine's unsinkable" etc.)

>The term has no credibility in naval architecture

I don't know any reputable researcher who believes that it does.

>The 'Shipbuilder' reference was in the 'trade >press' and obscure accordingly

The New York Times, however, was not obscure.

>Furthermore its application to Titanic stems from >all vessels equipped with command-operated w/t >doors being similarly described. At which falls >away any purported 'uniqueness' apropos Titanic.

However, we've already established the fact that the Titanic was not unique in being regarded as unsinkable.

>How come "practically unsinkable" gets abstracted >from the trade press and propelled into the
>popular domain PRIOR to the disaster?

I suspect it probably got abstracted from the New York Times instead of from the obscure trade press -- although many seamen undoubtedly read the trade press, too, since there is not the slightest doubt that the Titanic's crewmen assisted in promoting the myth of Titanic's unsinkability.

All my best,

George
 

George Behe

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Hi, Noel!

If you'll search the ET forum you'll find a past thread listing a number of big passenger liners that were described as being practically unsinkable before the Titanic sailed on her maiden voyage.

All my best,

George
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Surprisingly, you'll find very few after that....<<

Well, maybe not due to human carelessness maybe, though you might want to read Mark Warren's two book collection of the Shipbuilder articles and specials. Quite a number of the ships fell victim to human melevolance during the war. Oh...and somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there also some noise about the Andrea Doria being 'practically unsinkable'?

Guess where you can find her!
 
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My personal recollection, growing up after WW2, is that the quest for an "unsinkable ship" was alive and well throughout the 1950s and probably into the 1960s -- at least, with some of the nautical wannabes living in my area.
 
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First of all, sorry for bumping this thread.

Now, to the subject. I do believe that Nearer My God To Thee was played that night, either as the final song or not, but the problem is that so far, I have found 8 different tunes for it, and it's a bit hard to decide which one has been played.

First, we have "Bethany", the American tune, composed by Lowell Mason in the 1856 (some other sources say 1859 though). This was the tune which can be heard in Atlantic (1929) with the passengers standing on the decks and singing to it, Titanic (1943) as Philips releases his bird, in Titanic (1953) with a similar scene to that in Atlantic (1929), in S.O.S. Titanic (1979), and in Titanic (1997), which shows the ship tilting and Captain Smith dying with the tune in the background.
Second, we have "Horbury", the British tune, composed by John B. Dykes in the 1861. Thus was the tune which can be heard in A Night To Remember (1958). Eva Hart claimed not only that she heard this tune being played on the Titanic as she sank, but she also rushed out, distressed, of a choir some months later, because this tune was being played.
Third, we have "Propior Deo", the Methodist tune, composed by Arthur S. Sullivan in the 1872, and it uses a modified refrain. I don't know if there was any movie about the Titanic that used this tune, but somehow, having read that Wallace Hartley was a Methodist, I believe that it's very much possible for this one to have been played.
Fourth, we have "St. Edmund", from the same author as "Propior Deo". I don't know which people use this tune, so I don't know whether Hartley could have possibly known or played it.
Fifth, we have another "American" tune, from an unknown author.
Sixth, we have the "Liverpool" tune, composed by John Roberts (1822-77).
Seventh, we have the "Rothwell" tune, composed by Geoffrey T. Shaw in the 1915 - 3 years after the Titanic sank, so this one is unlikely to have been played on the Titanic.
And eighth, we have the "Communion" tune, composed by Samuel S. Wesley, for the European Psalmist 1872.

So in fact, 7 out of the 8 tunes could well have been played on the Titanic as she sank.
Does anyone of you guys here have any idea on which version could have been more likely played on the Titanic as she sank?

I myself will also try to find one or more of those 7 remaining tunes, which would resemble the Episcopalian hymn Autumn the most (I have to find a MIDI of Autumn first though). If I manage to find one or more, then maybe those would become the best candidates for tune which was heard to have been played as the Titanic sank.

Sources for information: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/m/nmgtthee.htm;
http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/806.html;
http://www.snopes.com/history/titanic/lastsong.asp;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nearer,_my_God,_to_Thee;
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/nearer_god.html (the links to the RealAudio/.WAV files there are broken for some weird reason, though);
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5672/668.html?970331866.
 
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Let's take a look at where the original stories came from that said "Nearer My God to Thee" and "Autumn" were played as the Titanic sank. Reporter Carlos Hurd was aboard the Carpathia (on his way to the Mediterranean) when the Titanic passengers were rescued. Hurd interviewed passengers and was the originator of the "Nearer My God to Thee" story he published in the Pulitzer newspapers including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The "Autumn" story originated in the New York Times when one of their reporters got aboard the Carpathia in dock and interviewed Harold Bride. Now to Wallace Hartley. He was a Methodist and also a Master Mason, so probably the version of "Nearer My God to Thee" that he allegedly played as the ship went down would have been the Methodist hymnal version, which is sung during every Third Degree initiation ceremony by the Masons. Robert H. Gibbons
 

Dave Gittins

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I don't see why Hartley couldn't have played Bethany. Many British passengers would have known it because it had been taken to Britain by evangelists like Sankey and Moody. The opening bars are engraved on a memorial to the band in Broken Hill, Australia. In those days, Australia was a branch office of Britain and if we we using the tune, so were the British. The Salvation Army would have been one user, because of its enthusiam for the hymns collected and published by Sankey.
 

John D. Hays

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An exhaustive musicological analysis of this topic by J. Marshall Bevil, Ph.D. can be found at the following URL:

http://home.earthlink.net/~llywarch/tnc02.html.htm

The site includes MIDI files for the hymn tune "Autumn," as well as the "Bethany," "Horbury," "Propior Deo," and "Liverpool" settings of "Nearer, My God, to Thee."

Dr. Bevil concludes that "...it appears 1) that "Songe d'Automne" was heard by Harold Bride as he was abandoning ship; 2) that, shortly afterward, there was more than ample reason, adequate improvisational ability on the part of the musicians, and sufficient, although barely sufficient, time for at least some of them to regroup and play the "Propior Deo" setting of "Nearer, My God, to Thee"; and 3) that "Propior Deo," if played, was mistaken by some for "Bethany," to which it bears more than enough similarity to account for that error under the conditions that existed both at the time and in the aftermath of the event."

John
 
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- Robert H. Gibbons: Yeah, indeed I agree that "Propior Deo" (which is the Methodist hymnal version) could have been most probably the one that Wallace Hartley would have preferred to play and played on the Titanic as she sank.

- Dave Gittins: Actually, from what I read on the Wikipedia, "Bethany" is not known in Great Britain, but known in the rest of the world. I read that the British mostly only know "Horbury", and the Methodists among them also know "Propior Deo", but only a few of them know "Bethany".
I think Australia has been influenced a lot by the United States. I'm thinking that because I see that even your currency is called Australian Dollar, while if Australia's only influence was Great Britain, it would have probably been Australian Pound.

- John D. Hays: Nice article you found there. It proves that I'm not the only one who found a similarity between "Bethany" and "Propior Deo".
However, I was struck by one idea, posted in that article - the idea that the band might have played a setting to Nearer My God To Thee after the ship broke up.
However, if the break-up sequence happened as it was depicted in that History Channel documentary - this is, the ship breaking up 90% at the angle of 11 degrees, then sinking a bit more, then at 30 degrees starting to bend the other way, this would mean that the after reaching a steep angle, the ship would never have fallen back to a shallow angle, not even for a second, so the band couldn't have played Nearer My God To Thee after the ship reached 30 degrees.
Also, that article forgot to analyze some other settings for Nearer My God To Thee, namely "St. Edmund" (from the same author as "Propior Deo"; this one resembles "Bethany" as well as "Propior Deo"), "Communion", and the other, unknown "American" tune ("Rothwell" is out of question because it was composed in the 1915, 3 years after the Titanic sank).
However, it's still a good article with a lot of evidence shown, and I agree with its conclusion.

However, there's still the Eva Hart problem. According to the Encyclopedia Titanica member Scott Blair: "The late Eva Hart said in interview that Nearer My God to Thee was played and the setting was "Horbury".This was the setting used in A Night to Remember.
Eva was a musical child and in adult life became a professional singer.Her musical credentials might be a little better than some of the other survivors.
A few months after the disaster she had to leave a church service in a very distressed state. Why? The Horbury setting was played to a hymn.
This causes me to believe it was played to this setting , although whether it was the last piece played , is unclear from what Eva said."
This was posted here: https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5672/668.html?970331866.
So, this makes it more probable that the setting, played on the Titanic as she sank, was "Horbury."

Also, I have yet another question now - regardless of which setting of Nearer My God To Thee was played, at which tempo was it played? It's that most of the MIDI's I found have a tempo of 120 per quarter note, the version in Titanic (1943) has a tempo of 90 per quarter note, and the version in Titanic (1997) has a tempo of 75 per quarter note.
And I forgot what were the tempos in Titanic (1953) and A Night To Remember (1958) (this was the only movie to have used "Horbury" instead of "Bethany").
So, anyone here could have an idea of what tempo was Nearer My God To Thee played on the Titanic?

By the way, in my yesterday's post, I forgot to mention one source. It's this: http://ingeb.org/spiritua/nearermy.html, and it's the only site I have found until now, that has a MIDI of the "St. Edmund" setting.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Dr. Bevil concludes that ...<<

Dr. Bevil, I would point out, wasn't there and the people who were there could never really come to any real agreement on what it was the band played last.

>>that "Songe d'Automne" was heard by Harold Bride as he was abandoning ship;<<

When Bride was abandoning ship, she was already *rapidly* on her way down to the bottom. If the band was still playing at this point while everyone else was looking for a place to run to, I would have to credit them with having more guts then anyboddy around to say nothing of the ability to belt out a tune in record time with the ship literally coming unglued beneath their feet.

In other words, before wondering what the last tune was that they managed to play, it might be a good idea to consider whether or not they even had time to play it at the time they were supposed to be doing so.
 

Tad G. Fitch

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This is another one of those areas where we will probably never know for certain what the truth is, although I have always believed that one of the settings of Nearer My God to Thee was played at some point that night, given the shear number of accounts (some appear reliable, others not so much)that mention it, but whether it was the last song, we'll never know.

Harold Bride mentioned "Autumn," which many researchers have assumed to mean "Songe d'Automne." This may, or may not have been the case. It is possible that both songs were played. While it is impossible to know how well she could have heard the band from quite a distance away in Lifeboat #6, Helen Candee once stated that they played Autumn followed by Nearer My God to Thee. If this is first-hand information, it would explain this seeming contradiction. Some, including Steward Brown, never heard them stop playing. Too bad he didn't note the last tune he had heard.

Take care guys,
Tad
 
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Walter Lord thought the song "Autumn" described by Harold Bride was the Episcopal hymn. In the Kraft TV version of "A Night to Remember", that's the song the orchestra played and it was on the long-play record album of Music from the Kraft TV Theatre. Robert H. Gibbons
 

John D. Hays

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Hi Mike -

>>Dr. Bevil, I would point out, wasn't there and the people who were there could never really come to any real agreement on what it was the band played last.<<

Well, that certainly hasn't stopped the members of this forum from speculating about all variety of subjects relating to Titanic, has it? ;-)

>> In other words, before wondering what the last tune was that they managed to play, it might be a good idea to consider whether or not they even had time to play it at the time they were supposed to be doing so.<<

I agree that Dr. Bevil's interpretation of the time line in regard to the band’s playing is, to be generous, a wee bit suspect. This is a secondary issue, however, and does not negate his primary thesis which addresses the question João raised regarding which setting of "Nearer, My God to Thee" may have been played. He does bring a level of musicological expertise to the subject that most of us lack. His comparative analysis of the different settings, while not complete, does include most of the major candidates, and may help to explain some of the disagreement in the accounts of the survivors. Tad is correct that we will never know with certainty what songs were played, or when. Dr. Bevil’s analysis is just one more data point to be taken into consideration in any discussion of the matter.

John
 
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>>He does bring a level of musicological expertise to the subject that most of us lack.<<

Yes he does. What he doesn't bring to the table is first hand knowladge or witness to the events in question. The people who did couldn't agree and that's the big problem from the historians point of view. His conclusions may very well be correct, but he can't know this as an absolute fact.

The most we can do is speculate, or even overthink the problem.

And if we're going to overthink the problem, we might as well think about whether or not some of the stories make any sense. We know that the band played that night. Mostly ragtime and any other upbeat tunes in order to help keep the passengers calm. They may well have played some comforting hymns at the last, but I'm skeptical of Bride's claim that they were still at it when he went out on deck. The reason for this was because Bride and Phillips barely made it out of the Marconi Room ahead of the floodwaters, and that points to the ship going rapidly into her final plunge.

Did the band play most of the night?

Sure.

Were they still playing when the ship was as far gone as it was when Bride and Phillips were supposed to have made it out on deck?

Not damn likely.

>>Dr. Bevil’s analysis is just one more data point to be taken into consideration in any discussion of the matter. <<

Actually, no, it isn't. What it is, is one more researcher's take on the matter...which may or may not be correct...but which suffers from the fundemental flaw of uncertain evidence from uncertain sources. It also suffers from the assumption that what's being discussed isn't more a part of the legend then the reality.

Note that the provenance of the initial reports was in the news media of the day, and like anything else which ends up in the papers, legends like that tend to take on a life of their own.
 

Tad G. Fitch

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For what it's worth (and as I stated previously, I believe that a setting of Nearer My God to Thee may have been played at some point that night given the sheer number of accounts that claim this, although we will never know the timing, which I agree with Michael about), the problem with this, as with most other controversies surrounding the Titanic, is that there is is so much flotsam and jetsam that was introduced into the story at an early stage, that it is hard to know what is real and what isn't.

Certainly, many people swore up and down that Nearer My God to Thee was played and that they heard it (i.e. Eva Hart, Helen Candee), while other accounts attributed false quotes to passengers (i.e. Bertha Mulvihill, who was quoted in papers as saying she heard the hymn, but actually denied to her family having heard *any* music for most of the night). Trying to separate them can be next to impossible, and we will never know for certain, although it's still worth taking a look at. There is still evidence to be uncovered or connected.

Take care guys,
Tad
 
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- Michael H. Standart: >>Dr. Bevil, I would point out, wasn't there and the people who were there could never really come to any real agreement on what it was the band played last.<<
Yes, but then, Robert Ballard also wasn't there and the people who were there could never really come to any real agreement on whether the ship broke up and how, but yet when he provided a theory on how the ship broke up (that the ship broke up is a 100% fact, due to the state of the wreck), it was widely accepted as a fact.
And the History Channel researchers weren't there as well, but their new break-up theory has basically been accepted as a fact as well.
Not that I'm putting those theories in question, actually I agree with the History Channel theory, but it was just to point out that even if the author of the theory wasn't there, this doesn't mean for sure that the theory is wrong.
Plus, Dr. Bevil's conclusions have stronger foundations than the break-up theories, since a lot of people at least claimed to have heard Nearer My God To Thee, and Wallace Hartley himself stated that he would play it, were he on a sinking ship.

Yes, you're right, there's no way that the bad could have played music after the break-up, but if the bridge-being-submerged sequence as depicted in Titanic (1997) is correct (I'm using that as a reference because I don't remember well how it was depicted in A Night To Remember (1958), and I'm only 19, so I was NOT on the Titanic as she sank), then when Philips and Bride left the Marconi room, the band would have still been playing - until the water reached the housing right before the housing of the forward Grand Staircase.
Now, at home, I have the measurements of the sinking speed and acceleration, based on the images on marconigraph.com, until the ship reached the angle of 30 degrees (the whole sinking sequence until the break-up is common to all theories), and if someone could tell me at which time Philips and Bride left the Marconi room, then I could try to make a picture of roughly how the Titanic would have been at that moment.

- Tad G. Fitch: >>This is another one of those areas where we will probably never know for certain what the truth is, although I have always believed that one of the settings of Nearer My God to Thee was played at some point that night, given the shear number of accounts (some appear reliable, others not so much)that mention it, but whether it was the last song, we'll never know.<<
Well... it could be that Nearer My God To Thee was indeed played after Songe D'Automne.

Also, could it be possible that the band was not the only to have played music that night? I mean, there could have been some passengers who could play the violin or viola, or a similar instrument, and had the instrument with them, and as they knew they wouldn't survive anyway, they decided to play something on their instrument, probably Nearer My God To Thee.
Is this possible?

>>While it is impossible to know how well she could have heard the band from quite a distance away in Lifeboat #6, Helen Candee once stated that they played Autumn followed by Nearer My God to Thee. If this is first-hand information, it would explain this seeming contradiction.<<
Indeed this would explain a lot. So, having read this, in my humble opinion, the sequence went like this:
- Philips and Bride abandon the Marconi room, Bride wents to a collapsible boat (I don't remember which one right now), Bride hears the band playing Autumn (the hymn).
- The band starts playing a setting of Nearer My God To Thee (probably either "Propior Deo" or "St. Edmund"), but Bride, not paying attention, assumes they're still playing Autumn, probably because he couldn't care less about what the band was playing at that moment, and was more worried about saving his life, so he didn't even hear the tune, but just assumed they were still playing Autumn
Not to mention that, according to Dr. Bevil, some settings of Nearer My God To Thee are in some small parts similar to Autumn, so this may have contributed to the fact as well.
- The band only plays Nearer My God To Thee twice, or once and a half, and then the water reaches the housing before the housing of the forward Grand Staircase, and that makes them stop playing, and rush towards the stern.

- Robert H. Gibbons: >>Walter Lord thought the song "Autumn" described by Harold Bride was the Episcopal hymn. In the Kraft TV version of "A Night to Remember", that's the song the orchestra played and it was on the long-play record album of Music from the Kraft TV Theatre. Robert H. Gibbons<<
Nice to know that. However, if Walter Lord thought that Autumn was the last song played that night, then why does the movie version of A Night To Remember have the band playing the "Horbury" setting of Nearer My God To Thee instead?
(NOTE: I'm NOT putting your claims into doubt, I'm just asking why the director changed A Night To Remember a bit.)

- John D. Hays: >>I agree that Dr. Bevil's interpretation of the time line in regard to the bandí¯Â¿Â½s playing is, to be generous, a wee bit suspect. This is a secondary issue, however, and does not negate his primary thesis which addresses the question Joí¯Â¿Â½o raised regarding which setting of "Nearer, My God to Thee" may have been played. He does bring a level of musicological expertise to the subject that most of us lack. His comparative analysis of the different settings, while not complete, does include most of the major candidates, and may help to explain some of the disagreement in the accounts of the survivors. Tad is correct that we will never know with certainty what songs were played, or when. Dr. Bevilí¯Â¿Â½s analysis is just one more data point to be taken into consideration in any discussion of the matter.

John<<
I agree with you on all the points here.
However, Dr. Bevil still forgot to analyze three other settings of Nearer My God To Thee. What if one of those other settings resembles "Bethany", "Horbury", AND "Propior Deo" (note that I'm VERY far-fetched here)? If that's so, then that is most probably the setting that was played that night (IF a setting like that exists, which is a very remote possibility).

- Michael H. Standart: >>Yes he does. What he doesn't bring to the table is first hand knowladge or witness to the events in question. The people who did couldn't agree and that's the big problem from the historians point of view. His conclusions may very well be correct, but he can't know this as an absolute fact.<<
And never did he claim that his conclusions are an absolute fact.

>>The reason for this was because Bride and Phillips barely made it out of the Marconi Room ahead of the floodwaters, and that points to the ship going rapidly into her final plunge.<<
But yet Titanic (1997) shows the band playing until the water reached the housing before the housing of the forward Grand Staircase.
And I know that Titanic (1997) is NOT the best source for information, but I don't remember when the band stopped playing in A Night To Remember (1958), and I'm only 19, so not only I was NOT on the Titanic as she sank - I was born basically a year and a half after the wreck was discovered by Ballard.

- Tad G. Fitch: >>For what it's worth (and as I stated previously, I believe that a setting of Nearer My God to Thee may have been played at some point that night given the sheer number of accounts that claim this, although we will never know the timing, which I agree with Michael about), the problem with this, as with most other controversies surrounding the Titanic, is that there is is so much flotsam and jetsam that was introduced into the story at an early stage, that it is hard to know what is real and what isn't.<<
Actually, we know that some of "events" of that night, as portrayed by the press, weren't real. I'm referring to Murdoch's suicide and the third class passengers being locked behind the gates. None of these two is true. And I blame Titanic (1997) for depicting those events, even if they never happened.
But about Nearer My God To Thee, even if only half of the claims that it was played that night are true, there are still more than the claims that it wasn't played, so, just like you, I believe as well that it was indeed played that night.
There are just two questions about it - was it the last song played? And which setting of it was played?
 

Tad G. Fitch

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Hi João, how are you? Good I hope.

You wrote:
"However, if Walter Lord thought that Autumn was the last song played that night, then why does the movie version of A Night To Remember have the band playing the "Horbury" setting of Nearer My God To Thee instead?"

I cannot recall exactly, but I am pretty sure that Walter Lord's mind changed about what the last song may have been, between writing "A Night to Remember" and "The Night Lives On." One important thing to keep in mind is that while the A Night to Remember movies were based on his book, many liberties were taken in the film, such as Second Officer Lightoller being given the tasks that other officers had actually done, etc. It is probably the most accurate film version, but it still has its factual problems, as any film will. (That being said, I love that film, and think it's a real classic)

João wrote:
"Actually, we know that some of "events" of that night, as portrayed by the press, weren't real. I'm referring to Murdoch's suicide and the third class passengers being locked behind the gates. None of these two is true. And I blame Titanic (1997) for depicting those events, even if they never happened."

I would be careful in labeling either of those two unknowns as falsehoods, or for blaming James Cameron for those particular stories, although one could argue I suppose that he gave them new legs. As far as the suicide, there are a good number of people who did claim (a few seemingly reliable, many more not) an officer fired on passengers and then killed himself. Concluding which officer it may have been, if anyone is a huge part of the controversy. These rumors were going around onboard even prior to the Carpathia reaching NY, James Cameron was not the first to talk about or depict it on film, although his is the most controversial portrayal for obvious reasons. If you're interested in this topic, Bill Wormstedt and myself wrote a detailed article about it in the last Titanic Commutator.

The same level of uncertainty extends to the stories of the third class passengers being held below. There is testimony in the inquiries that indicates some passengers were held down, and many others mention this in their accounts. What is false about many of the movie versions is that it is made to look as if every third class passenger was held down until the last second, which was clearly not the case. Also, while there were locked gates on the well deck, there is very little evidence that proves there were gates like those depicted in the movies which held the third class passengers back. Cathy Akers-Jordan has done a good deal of research into this aspect of the sinking, and has found little to support the below-deck closed-gate scenario as portrayed in movies. Some were definitely held back for a time though, how long and why is a different matter, but it certainly appears to be quite different from the A Night to Remember, James Cameron's Titanic and other film portrayals. Those versions are much-more sensational than what the actual evidence indicates.

When it comes to Titanic, there are many things we will never know for certain, and these three topics are just a few which illustrate that point. Hope that you're doing well!

Kind regards,
Tad
 

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