Why were Asplunds separated

Mar 26, 2001
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One of the aspects of the Titanic I found the most haunting, was the fate of all the large families w/ young children traveling Third Class. I believe there were at least ten of them (by large families, I mean four or more siblings traveling w/ one or both parents). From what I can see, literally the only survivors from this category were three members of the Asplund family, mother Selma, youngest of four sons Felix and daughter Lillian (who is one of the last living survivors).

Does anyone have accounts of how they were separated from the father and the other sons which included Lillian's twin brother who like her was only five years old! The one account I've read has Lifeboat 4 being lowered when Mrs. Asplund and Felix had barely taken their seat, w/ Lillian tossed in as the boat was lowered. Or was there an over-zealous officer who considered the other boys as Men?

Thank you,
Arthur
 
Apr 16, 2001
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Dear Arthur,

In 1989, I had a series of telephone conversations with Lillian Asplund at her home in Massachusetts. While she does not wish to partake in the publicity built up around the disaster, she kindly answered my questions and spoke about the disaster. Other researchers who have contacted her described the same thing - that Lillian will speak about the sinking over the phone but prefers not to attend public events or to grant interviews to newspaper, radio and television.

The sinking has not left Lillian's memory and she still speaks of the disaster with emotion. She remembered that the family got to the deck, and were standing near a lifeboat. She remembered that her mother got in holding her brother Felix (and had to climb through a window). There seemed to be commotion and then the boat started to lower before the rest of the children could be placed into it. Mrs. Asplund screamed to her husband and he quickly picked up Lillian and dropped her into the boat. Apparently, the boat lowered so fast that the rest of the children couldn't be dropped in. Mr. Asplund was last seen leading the other boys away from the rail - presumably to find another boat. We think the boat Mrs. Asplund entered with her two children was either boat #15 or #4.

Hope this helps.

Michael Findlay
 

Peter

Member
Jul 13, 2010
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Dear Arthur, I have read several of Mrs Asplund's interviews in her native language, i e Swedish, and she says - in all of the interivews - that the boat she was in (the last to leave that side of the ship), was about to be lowered away when they stood near it. The reason for her husband and three sons to be left was that there simply was no more time, and also that the boat was absolutely packed. There was a large crowd of people surrounding the boat. There was no order for men to stand back or anything like that, there simply wasn't time for the rest of the family to embark. Her description matches boat 15 perfectly. I have seen the Asplunds placed in boat 4, but nothing in Mrs Asplund's story at all hints at that.

Peter
 

Mike

Member
Dec 30, 2010
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Peter:

Walter Lord does mention Mrs. Astor giving a shawl to a lady who wrapped it around her little girl, then thanked her in Swedish. Of course, that could have been someone other than Mrs. Asplund (perhaps Mrs. Hamalainen, who has been listed as escaping in boat 4 and whose one- year-old son could have been mistaken for a little girl? I know she was Finnish, but many Finns also speak Swedish - although would Mrs. Astor have known the difference anyway?). Or that incident could have occurred later in the night, after some passengers were transferred from boat 14.

Boat 15 does seem to fit the circumstances you described, except for the fact that Steward Hart & others mention picking up ten more people from a lower deck (unless the Asplunds were included in that group).

From the perspective at that end of the boat deck, boat 15 certainly would have seemed the last boat (especially if boats 14 & 16 were leaving from the other side simultaneously). If indeed it was boat 15, it was doubly tragic in view of the fact that the boat was "absolutely packed" with men for the most part: two dozen each passengers and crew.
 
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Peter E

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Mike:

Walter Lord might mention Mrs Astor's shawl, but none of the Swedish survivors ever mention this. Mrs Hämäläinen describes her escaping from the sinking liner in boat 4, and she may well have been Swedish-speaking, which means this may have been the lady with a child referred to. Has anyone seen Mrs Astor mentioning giving a shawl away?
I know a few men claimed they were given a shawl by her, and/or that she dragged them into boat 4, but I doubt very much whether she gave a shawl to anyone (I may well be wrong, however)

Peter
 
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Michael Friedman (Mike)

Guest
Peter,

Thanx for your observations; that raises the good question: Did Mrs. Astor ever claim to have given a shawl to anyone? She would have needed a whole suitcase full to have actually given shawls to everyone who claimed to have received one from her! And how is a woman "in delicate condition" as her husband decribed her, supposed to have dragged these men into her boat? Some of the claims remind me of Bernard Shaw's complaint that the disaster has accompanied by an outburst of "romantic lying". (More to come)
 
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Michael Friedman (Mike)

Guest
Back to the question of which boat Mrs. Asplund escaped in. Assuming Mrs. Astor actually did give a shawl to a Swedish-speaking woman in boat #4, that would narrow down to four women with children who were possibly Swedish-speaking: Mrs. Hamalainen, who is believed to have been in #4, Mrs. Sandstrom, who is believed to have escaped in boat #13, Mrs. Hervonen, who is believed to have escaped in boat #15, & Mrs. Asplund. At this point I would suspect the woman in question was actually Mrs. Hamalainen. Her son could have been mistaken for a girl, considering how baby boys & girls were often dressed similarly.

Now, about Mrs. Asplund. If she & the 2 children had left in boat #4, Mr. Asplund would had had opportunity to hand the children (at least the two younger boys) over to be put in collapsible D, which was in close proximity. Mr. Navratil did just that with his two boys, & supposedly the crew was making desperate efforts to find women & children to get into the last boat.

I think it more likely that Mrs. Asplund left in boat #15 with 2 children, & from that location on deck it would have appeared to Mr. Asplund that all the boats were gone. As many others did, he may have despaired & headed aft, to the last part of the ship likely to remain above water.
 
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George Behe (Georgeb)

Guest
Peter E. wrote:

>Mrs Hämäläinen >describes her escaping from
>the sinking liner in boat 4, and she may well >have been
>Swedish-speaking, which means this may have been >the lady with a child
>referred to.

Hi, Peter!

Could you please quote Mrs. H's statement (and the source) where she said she was in boat #4? None of her interviews that I've seen specify which boat she was in. Thanks!

All my best,

George
 
Apr 25, 2001
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Dear George, Mrs Hämäläinen stated in a Chicago newspaper shortly after the disaster that she was in the next to last boat which picked up eight men, two of whom died, and the boat contained 40 or 50 people. This to me sounded a lot like boat 4.
Peter
 
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George Behe (Georgeb)

Guest
Peter wrote:

>Mrs Hämäläinen stated in a Chicago newspaper shortly after
>the disaster that she was in the next to last >boat which picked up >eight
>men, two of whom died, and the boat contained 40 or 50 people. >This to
>me sounded a lot like boat 4.

Hi, Peter!

Yes, I've seen that interview and it does indeed sound like a description of boat #4. However, Mrs. Hamalainen gave two independent interviews in Canada and Michigan in which she specified that she was saved in the last lifeboat launched and that it was boat #10.

As you know, it's very chancy for researchers to base far-reaching conclusions upon a single survivor interview -- especially if that interview appeared in a newspaper. Sometimes an individual survivor's story is reported so differently in various newspapers that we'd never guess they were talking about the same person if the survivor's name didn't appear in each account. That's why I take many of the web's 'passenger lifeboat assignments' with a huge grain of salt; IMO, 'newspaper article methodology' is far too flimsy for serious researchers to *definitely* place survivor X in lifeboat Y unless survivor X's interviews are all consistent with each other and are *specific* about which boat he/she was saved in. At the moment I think it would be fair to say that we don't know for *certain* which lifeboat Mrs. Hamalainen was saved in; perhaps it was #4, perhaps it was #10, or perhaps it was neither.

Hope you'll have a great holidy season, Peter.

All my best,

George
 
Apr 25, 2001
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Dear George, I thought I mentioned that Mrs Hämäläinen also gave interviews in Swedish-speaking Finnish newspapers e g 'Hufvudstadsbladet', also describing boat 4. I have never seen her mention boat 10 in any of the interviews. I don't say I'm right, however. I agree regarding placing people in boats based on one interview, particularly the male survivors, who all seem to have been swimming in the waters for hours on end before Mrs Astor picked them up, or they ended up on the upturned collapsible.

Peter
 
Apr 16, 2001
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Dear Peter,

In addition to Mrs. Hamalainen's account in both the U.S. and Finnish newspapers, don't forget about Colonel Gracie's description of how he helped a woman and her baby into a late lifeboat.

Mrs. Hamalainen and her son were most definitely in boat #4. Her account in the Detroit paper was extremely detailed and leaves no doubt as to where she was. The fact that she was in boat #4 is confirmed by Colonel Gracie's description - who was certainly in the area of boat #4.

I have never seen any evidence to suggest she and her son were elsewhere and all of my researcher contacts agree.

Just my two cents worth....

Michael Findlay
 
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George Behe (Georgeb)

Guest
Mike Findlay wrote:

>Mrs. Hamalainen and her son were most definitely >in boat #4....
>I have never seen any evidence to suggest she and >her son were elsewhere
>and all of my researcher contacts agree.

Looks like you and your researcher contacts have missed a few sources.
 
Apr 16, 2001
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We have seen the sources you mentioned but find that they are very poor in their descriptions of the disaster. The best interview by Mrs. Hamalainen was in the Detroit newspaper - she leaves no doubt as to where she was. I would suggest you read her account again....

Many thanks to all those who have e-mailed me privately regarding Mrs. Hamalainen and her son. I will respond to you all shortly but I was away for the holiday weekend. I hope you all enjoyed a very merry Christmas!

Best to all,

Mike Findlay
 
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George Behe (Georgeb)

Guest
>The best interview by Mrs. Hamalainen was in the >Detroit newspaper - she
>leaves no doubt as to where she was.

Not in your mind, perhaps....
 
Apr 16, 2001
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To all:

From the Detroit News Tribune, Sunday, April 21, 1912, Mrs. Hamalainen states:

"There must have been scores of people in the water near our boat floating among the small icebergs, clinging to whatever, they could seize when the crisis came. Our boat picked up eight poor fellows, all steerage passengers, within a few minutes. Two of them died soon after being hauled in."

The rest of the interview was very extensive and detailed, and the serious researcher clearly identifies boat #4.

No doubt some researchers haven't seen this interview. To those who claim Mrs. Hamalainen was in boat #10 (because she states this?), please reference your source and quote the specific statement. Then, we can have a serious debate. Until then, she remains in boat #4.

Also, check Colonel Gracie's comments about helping the young mother and her baby. Although Gracie never identifies the who they were, nor what boat they entered, it would seem possible that it was #4 since Gracie was in the vicinity of it.

Best wishes to all,

Mike Findlay
 
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George Behe (Georgeb)

Guest
Mike Findlay wrote:

>The rest of the interview was very extensive and detailed, and the
>serious researcher clearly identifies boat #4.
>No doubt some researchers haven't seen this interview.

No doubt.

>To those who
>claim Mrs. Hamalainen was in boat #10 (because she states this?), >please reference your source and quote the specific statement.

Since you say you've already seen my sources, you have my permission to post them here.

>Also, check Colonel Gracie's comments about helping the young >mother and her baby. Although Gracie never identifies the who they >were, nor what boat they entered, it would seem possible that it was >#4 since Gracie was in the vicinity of it.

Possible? Yes. Evidential? No.
 
Apr 16, 2001
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Dear George,

Portions of Mrs. Hamalainen's interview in Detroit were "picked up" by other newspapers around the country. Unfortunately, the actual interviews were "edited" and in some cases, "improved" by the editorial staff.

Undoubtedly, the interviews by Mrs. Hamalainen to which you refer were mostly based on her 4/21 interview in the Detroit News Tribune. They were included in large newspaper articles across the country in which five or six survivors are quoted describing various aspects of the disaster.

Unfortunately, I do not have the other interviews in my file on the Hamalainens since I have not filed every account from every newspaper in my passenger index. When we corresponded years ago, I remember you telling me that you kept such an index of interviews by each survivor. Since you were familiar with the interviews you mentioned (where Mrs. H. states she was in boat #10), the burden of proof is on you to supply them. Obviously, you were aware of their existence or else you wouldn't have made mention of them. I posted my data with regard to my beliefs (and those of other serious researchers). Again, I ask you to reference your source and quote Mrs. Hamalainen's statements or else your claims have no basis.

I look forward to seeing the data.

Michael Findlay
 
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George Behe (Georgeb)

Guest
Mike Findlay wrote:

>Undoubtedly, the interviews by Mrs. Hamalainen to which you refer >were mostly based on her 4/21 interview in the Detroit News Tribune.

No, the two interviews I referred to were given independently of each other the day before Mrs. Hamalainen spoke to the Detroit News.

>Since you were familiar with the interviews you mentioned (where >Mrs. H. states she was in boat #10), the burden of proof is on you to >supply them.

Certainly.

London (Ontario) Free Press, April 20, 1912

"Ours was the last of the lifeboats to be launched - No. 10 - and it seemed ages while we were kept there filling the boat so far as possible with women. Always the brave fellows were calling out 'Any more women!' There were no more coming, and the order was given to lower away."

Detroit Journal, April 20, 1912

"We were notified that the boat had struck an iceberg but at that time the crew did not think there was any danger. I went to my cabin and dressed myself and baby and by the time I got on deck again all the boats were lowered with the exception of No. 10. I was hurried into that one."

By the way, contrary to what you've suggested, I do not insist that Mrs. Hamalainen was in boat #10; as I said before, though, it's completely unwarranted for you to make ironclad pronouncements about her being in boat #4 based solely upon a few newspaper interviews (some of which contradict others.) That's not history -- that's gambling (which, as I said before, is why I distrust many of the so-called 'lifeboat passenger assignments' that appear in various places on the web; I know how flimsy the documentation is for many of those lifeboat assignments and wouldn't touch them with a ten foot oar.)
 
Apr 16, 2001
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Dear George,

Thank you for supplying the news articles. I was familiar with the Detroit Journal article, but I don't recall seeing the one from the London (Ontario) Free Press.

Some observations. Mrs. Hamalainen claims she was in boat #10. Interesting. However, what she describes about the boat is contradictory to what was happening at boat #10.

From the London (Ontario) Free Press, Mrs. H. claims that it was one of the last boats to be lowered. Considering that boats #12, #14 and #16 were in full view, hanging in the davits, I do not understand how Mrs. H. would claim such a thing. Also, she states that a call was made for more women to come forward but none did so. The boat was then lowered. Evidence shows that there was a bit of a rush into the boat at the last minute - two men made successful attempts to jump into it. Many of the women and crewmen in the boat make mention of the "Armenian" and the "Japanese" who made leaps to save themselves. Mrs. H. also claimed "being kept there and having to wait for ages" to enter the boat. As you know, many women, mostly first-class passengers, waited for boat #4 to be made ready for loading since Lightoller first lowered it down to A-deck. Boat #10 experienced no delays in being filled and lowered.

From the Detroit Journal, 4/20/12, Mrs. H. claims that when she returned to the boat after dressing herself and the baby, that there was only one boat left - #10. Again, Mrs. H. would have certainly seen the three other boats hanging in the davits.

Since I am unfamiliar with the London (Ontario) account, does Mrs. H. make any mention of rescuing swimmers from the water, two of whom later died? In the Detroit Journal article, she does not mention this. This is something I wouldn't have forgotten, and I'm sure the reporter wouldn't have either.

If she was in boat #4, she would be correct in stating that it was "one of the last lifeboats" and that "there was only one boat left." She wouldn't have seen any others if she was on A-deck. If she was in boat #4, she would have been correct in stating that "she was kept there and made to wait" until the boat was loaded. Many women and children were made to wait until the windows were opened and #4 was made ready. The main reason is that Mrs. H. claimed that eight men were hauled into her boat, two of whom later died. This never happened at boat #10, and how would Mrs. H. have known such a thing if she wasn't in boat #4?

While I agree that many of the lifeboat assignments that appear on various places on the web are inaccurate and have no solid basis, most of my fellow researchers believe that Mrs. H. left enough of a description to place her in boat #4. Even the articles you kindly supplied contradict the theory of her being in #10. Yes, she does claim boat #10 but the descriptions she related do not match with the incidents that took place at this boat. Many survivors were incorrect in stating what boat they were. Edwina MacKenzie never could figure out which boat she was in. For years, she always claimed boat #13, then #16 and more recently, researchers have placed her in D. She always claimed boat #13 with Quartermaster Bailey in charge. Bailey was in charge of #16. How did she ever get into D? Who is correct?

Thank you for supplying the articles, George. I have already stated my position on this matter but would certainly interested to hear other views.

Best wishes to all for a prosperous New Year!

Michael Findlay