Titanic Tall Tales


Arun Vajpey

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I thought it might be some lighthearted fun to start a thread about the silliest and most improbable stories that came from survivors of the disaster.

While there are several conflicting and mutually exclusive witness statements, many have at least some possibility of being factual. I am asking about those that are outright ridiculous.

The one that comes to mind for me is that of Saloon Steward Thomas Whitley. While there is some uncertainty about which lifeboat he was rescued on, his own story of survival is sheer lunatic fringe. He claimed to have jumped overboard and swum for 5 hours in freezing water (creating all sorts of world records, no doubt) before coming upon a full boat. When he begged to be helped on board, they refused and someone made the point clear by hitting him on the head with an oar. He hung on nevertheless and waited for someone on board to die; when one did die, he was pushed overboard and Whiteley was hauled in.

But he had swallowed so much water during the ordeal that doctors had to remove his stomach and replace it.......the story does not specify replaced with what. o_O

Any other similar stories? Survivor accounts only please, not media or third party conjectures.
 
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Dave Gittins

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Just a quick couple from my collection. Both from Edith Russell.

Californian was so close that a man could be seen walking on her deck.
A woman threw her baby in a waste basket before leaving the ship. One of the crew rescued it.
 
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Cam Houseman

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Just a quick couple from my collection. Both from Edith Russell.

Californian was so close that a man could be seen walking on her deck.
A woman threw her baby in a waste basket before leaving the ship. One of the crew rescued it.
I have one. From "Titanic: First Accounts" page 213, regarding Collapsible A: ",from first-class passenger R.N. Williams, Jr., and from an account William J. Mellors, a second -cabin passenger as related by him to Dr. Washington Dodge. Steward Brown, it will be observed, testified that he was washed out of the boat and yet, "did not know whether he went down in the water." "

Another from the same page: "I am forced to the same conclusion in young Williams' case after an analysis of his statement that he took off his big fur overcoat in the water and cast it adrift while he swam twenty yards to the boat, and in some unaccountable way the fur coat swam after him and also got into the boat."

I hope y'all find these funny.
Oh and the Steward couldn't swim, too
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Another from the same page: "I am forced to the same conclusion in young Williams' case after an analysis of his statement that he took off his big fur overcoat in the water and cast it adrift while he swam twenty yards to the boat, and in some unaccountable way the fur coat swam after him and also got into the boat."
:D :D :D :D :D :D
 
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Cam Houseman

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Here is some more. I'll also reread my survivor account book so I can find more crazy stuff.

A Passenger says she the iceberg "An hour before the collision."

According to Charles Pelligrino's "Ghosts of the Titanic" :

- Thomas Andrews went around the Ship, kicking doors down of cabins with portholes open during the sinking
- People somehow managed to swim to an icefloe, Captain Lord thought they were seals so refused to check it out

I think this is a cool thread, and should be added upon greatly!
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Here is some more. I'll also reread my survivor account book so I can find more crazy stuff.

A Passenger says she the iceberg "An hour before the collision."

According to Charles Pelligrino's "Ghosts of the Titanic" :

- Thomas Andrews went around the Ship, kicking doors down of cabins with portholes open during the sinking
- People somehow managed to swim to an icefloe, Captain Lord thought they were seals so refused to check it out

I think this is a cool thread, and should be added upon greatly!
But are they genuine survivor accounts or media or author embellishments?
I am still thinking and laughing about the swimming fur coat. Especially the nonchalant way the report was worded.
 
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Cam Houseman

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But are they genuine survivor accounts or media or author embellishments?
I am still thinking and laughing about the swimming fur coat. Especially the nonchalant way the report was worded.
The first was really reported, the other two were made up by the author. Haha the fur coat is my favorite too!!
 

Cam Houseman

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from John Collins, US Inquiry. (from my book, page 231)
"they kept me down for at least two or three minutes under the water.
JOC018. Two or three minutes?
Yes; I am sure.
JOC019. Were you unconsious?
No; not at all. It did not affect me much, the salt water
JOC020. But you were under the water. You can not stay under the water two or three minutes, can you?
Well, it seemed that to me."
(in regard to being washed off the boat deck by the wave)
 
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Dave Gittins

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The story of the seals is from The Middle Watch, written by Charles Groves for Walter Lord in 1957.

"Scanning the sea with his binoculars, the Third Officer noticed a large icefloe a mile or so distant on which he saw figures moving, and drawing Captain Lord's attention to it, remarked that they might be human beings. He was told that they were seals."
 
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Cam Houseman

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The story of the seals is from The Middle Watch, written by Charles Groves for Walter Lord in 1957.

"Scanning the sea with his binoculars, the Third Officer noticed a large icefloe a mile or so distant on which he saw figures moving, and drawing Captain Lord's attention to it, remarked that they might be human beings. He was told that they were seals."
oh, oops! Sorry. Very interesting though
 

Arun Vajpey

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from John Collins, US Inquiry. (from my book, page 231)
"they kept me down for at least two or three minutes under the water.
JOC018. Two or three minutes?
Yes; I am sure.
JOC019. Were you unconsious?
No; not at all. It did not affect me much, the salt water
JOC020. But you were under the water. You can not stay under the water two or three minutes, can you?
Well, it seemed that to me."
(in regard to being washed off the boat deck by the wave)
That's undoubtedly an exaggeration but not all that silly. It was quite chaotic when Collapsible A, towards which John Collins was trying to go with the child in his arms, floated free and a lot of people were washed off. Collins might have been pushed underwater for 25 to 30 seconds at most but under the circumstances it likely seemed like 2 or 3 minutes to the relatively inexperienced 17 year old.
 
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Dave Gittins

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Tall tales are attributed to Lucy Duff Gordon in various books and newspapers. Whether she really told them is unclear.

She was watching the icefield for a long time before the collision. From her lifeboat, she saw dangers presented by icebergs on one side and a school of huge whales on the other.

Somewhere on this site there is an article about people who claimed to have survived after being in the water for various times. Many of their tales would be decidedly tall. Men didn't like to admit that they survived simply by getting into a lifeboat. Emilio Portaluppi is a fine example.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Somewhere on this site there is an article about people who claimed to have survived after being in the water for various times. Many of their tales would be decidedly tall. Men didn't like to admit that they survived simply by getting into a lifeboat. Emilio Portaluppi is a fine example.
Yes, I have read several wildly improbable ones about men swimming for hours etc. About the only thing that no one claimed (AFAIK, but open for correction ;)) is that they swam hard after the Carpathia and caught-up. A lot of men suffered from classic 'survivors' guilt'.

The fur coat was later discoverd in collapsible A.
Does anyone know what happened to it? Might be worth a fortune today not only as a Titanic relic but the world's first and hitherto only haunted fur coat!
 
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Cam Houseman

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That's undoubtedly an exaggeration but not all that silly. It was quite chaotic when Collapsible A, towards which John Collins was trying to go with the child in his arms, floated free and a lot of people were washed off. Collins might have been pushed underwater for 25 to 30 seconds at most but under the circumstances it likely seemed like 2 or 3 minutes to the relatively inexperienced 17 year old.
very true. I'll work harder to find some ridiculous accoujts /testimony ;)
 

Cam Houseman

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Yes, I have read several wildly improbable ones about men swimming for hours etc. About the only thing that no one claimed (AFAIK, but open for correction ;)) is that they swam hard after the Carpathia and caught-up. A lot of men suffered from classic 'survivors' guilt'.


Does anyone know what happened to it? Might be worth a fortune today not only as a Titanic relic but the world's first and hitherto only haunted fur coat!
It was recovered in Collapsible A and returned to the owner. The sad tale of woe for the haunted fur coat
 
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Tim Gerard

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Yes, I have read several wildly improbable ones about men swimming for hours etc. About the only thing that no one claimed (AFAIK, but open for correction ;)) is that they swam hard after the Carpathia and caught-up. A lot of men suffered from classic 'survivors' guilt'.

Charles Joughin is one that keeps coming to mind. Saying he drank all that alcohol and then was in the water for 2 hours or so before finding and climbing onto Collapsible B. I believe him that he was in the water, and acknowledge that it's possible he was swimming for as long as he says, I'm just skeptical that he was able to survive for that long in 28 degree water.
 
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Cam Houseman

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Charles Joughin is one that keeps coming to mind. Saying he drank all that alcohol and then was in the water for 2 hours or so before finding and climbing onto Collapsible B. I believe him that he was in the water, and acknowledge that it's possible he was swimming for as long as he says, I'm just skeptical that he was able to survive for that long in 28 degree water.
relating to Arun's post, probably breaking multiple world records. Although, alcohol does warm your body up, and he had to swim from where the stern sank to collapsible B.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Charles Joughin is one that keeps coming to mind. Saying he drank all that alcohol and then was in the water for 2 hours or so before finding and climbing onto Collapsible B.
As I have mentioned elsewhere (I am a doctor), a person imbibing lots of alcohol is at a far greater risk of hypothermia than one who is sober. See below.
Although, alcohol does warm your body up, and he had to swim from where the stern sank to collapsible B.
Correction. Alcohol does NOT warm the body up. That is a great myth that has probably killed several people in freezing conditions.
What alcohol does is to give a feeling of warmth by opening-up the skin blood vessels but in doing so, it diverts the blood away from vital organs like the heart, kidneys and brain. When exposed to cold, the body's natural protective mechanism diverts the blood from the peripheries to protect vital organs. Alcohol reverses that very effectively.
 
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