Those without lifebelts


Doni McLerran

There is a lot of talk about the lifebelts (lifejackets), and how long those people were in the water before they froze, and who was found later, and all that...

My question is about those who did not have lifebelts on (besides those trapped in the hull): How long before they died after they ended up in the water when the ship sank? And in their case, would it have more likely been from drowning rather than hypothermia?
I suppose its hard to say, there are many factors involved. I'd much rather have been wearing a lifebelt than not wearing one, put it that way.
The bodies without lifebelts probably sank after death, or sadly before it. After suffering from exhaustion and cold the body of the person may have just gone under the surface of the water and not come back up.
Then there was the great wave which swamped the deck as the bridge sank. Colonel Gracie claimed his friend Clinch Smith vanished beneath the water and didn't come back up, suggesting he may have died by drowning from suction in that are of the ship. It would be interesting to know if he had a lifebelt on or not, and just because Gracie didn't see him come back up doesn't mean he didn't, I'm sure Gracie was probably too busy trying to save himself. So perhaps even those wearing lifebelt's could have drowned. In the same area however Lightoller managed too swim to the upturned boat, was he wearing a lifebelt does anyone knows?
I would say that in the end it really depended where you were as Titanic foundered. If you survived the ship sinking, and any suction that may have been involved (very little apparently as the stern sank) then regardless of wether you were wearing a lifebelt or not once you were in the water you had just about the same time as everyone else to survive, which tragically wassn't very long. half an hour at the most, and even that I think is if you were lucky. As for how long they lasted, I guess that was different for each person varying on strength, shape, age, clothing etc. A person without a lifebelt may have lasted longer than someone with one.
There are lots of ways to die on a sinking ship ranging from drowning or freezing to death in cold waters, to being steamed alive if a boiler or a steam line bursts and even blunt force trauma if you happened to be in the region of the breakup or the falling number one smokestack.

The problem here is that most all of the people who weren't wearing a lifebelt were never recovered and you can't do an autopsy on a body that you never get back. All we can do is speculate.
Some years ago I had the mis-fortune to be in situation where I was drowning. Although the life guards got me out of the water and brought me back to the land of living, it has made me very nervous in water, particularly if water enters / splashes into my mouth. As soon as you go under the water you naturally close your mouth tight, but when you start gasping for air, then you open your mouth, even when you know it's just water. I won't describe the rest, but it's a very unpleasent experience.

Doni McLerran

Goodness, yes, I know something of that feeling. I had a bad experience like that in a swimming pool when I was 10 or 11. I remember panicking, and that my older sister got me out. I still remember how painful it was to breath in water (and chlorinated, at that). To this day I'm terrified to go near a pool or a lake or any deep water. Unfortunately, because of all that, I never learned how to swim either. I'd hate to think after all that, that someday I'll end up drowning anyway.

Yes, a very "unpleasant" experience, and yours sounds like it was probably worse than mine, but still....


I don't think the life jackets really helped people survive longer in the water - after a couple of minutes in the water the people started to develop symptoms of hypothermia. After about 30 minutes, the people in the water would be dead or unconscious (in which case they would subsequently drown).
Were the bodies truly autopsied? (Examined both inside and out?) It seems that it was just a description of what the body looked like as well as it's effects and then a general "assumption" of what was the probable cause of death. Did they actually look at the lungs and see they were full of water?
10 minutes without oxygen flowing to your vital organs especially the brain would result to permanent brain damage. I think you can base the answer here! :)