A new TITANIC controversy. Did passive good manners kill “polite” British passengers while “pushy” Americans, who don’t know from standing in lines (or queues), survive aboard the doomed (Cunard) White Star Liner RMS TITANIC?
You can judge for your self. A new Titanic controversy is a brewing. Here are two current news articles on the subject.
But first, for those who don’t know about the Titianic, here’s some background.
The “unsinkable” TITANIC…
The RMS Titanic was an Olympic-class passenger liner owned by the White Star Line and built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, United Kingdom. For her time, she was the largest passenger steamship in the world.
On the night of 14 April 1912, during her maiden voyage, Titanic hit an iceberg and sank two hours and forty minutes later, early on 15 April 1912. The Titanic used some of the most advanced technology available at the time and was, after the sinking, popularly believed to have been described as “unsinkable”. It was a great shock to many that, despite the extensive safety features and experienced crew, the Titanic sank. The frenzy on the part of the media about Titanic’s famous victims, the legends about the sinking, the resulting changes to maritime law, and the discovery of the wreck have contributed to the interest in and fame of the Titanic that continues to this day.
There have been many films on the Titanic — including movies and tv movies. We all know that James Cameron’s American made TITANIC was a “fantasy” and ludicrous version of the fatal voyage while while the British made A NIGHT TO REMEMBER was a far more accurate depiction. In the latter version the British passengers did act like they were attending some “tea party” as the ship sank. Another version with Barbara Stanwick had all the doomed passengers standing at attention, sinking “Nearer My God To Thee” while the ship sank.
Story 1 – The British View – How good manners cost Britons their lives on doomed Titanic
By Fiona Macrae – Daily Mail
Last updated at 1:28 AM on 21st January 2009
Britons have always prided themselves on having better manners than their American cousins - though of course they are too polite to mention it.
But it seems such civilised behaviour can prove fatal in life-and-death situations.
Researchers have found that when the Titanic sank Britons were much more likely to die than Americans and they think our manners could be to blame.
A painting of the sinking Titanic. Research suggests Britons were more likely to die than Americans because they stood in long queues waiting to board lifeboats…
With the British queuing for a place in one of only 20 lifeboats provided for the 2,223 on board, they were less likely than any other nationality to survive, analysis of passenger data revealed.
Americans, however, seem to have been happier to push their way to safety after the liner hit an iceberg while on her maiden voyage on April 14, 1912.
Researcher Bruno Frey, of the University of Zurich, said: ‘The Americans at that time were not very cultured, while the English were still gentlemen.’
He added: ‘The British were much more aware of the social norms at the time. They would have been more likely to stand in a queue and wait their turn for boarding the lifeboats than Americans.’
He also suggested that as most U.S. citizens lived further from the sea, they were less familiar with maritime protocol than Britons, such as the women-andchildrenfirst rule.
The Swiss and Australian researchers spent more than a year sifting through data on the Titanic’s passengers and crew to find out which factors influenced the odds of survival.
They found that while the British made up 53 per cent of those on board, proportionately fewer of them than expected were among the 706 survivors.
The great ship’s lifeboats are loaded up with desperate passengers. New research suggest many Britons died because they would not force themselves to the front of the queue…
These findings held true even when cabin class and age were taken into account.
Professor Frey said: ‘We expected that the English passengers would have been more able to survive, because the ship was British built, the company was British and the crew was British.
‘We thought that if the passengers had close relationships with the crew, that would be very important in getting to the lifeboats.
‘But it turned out the English had around an 11 per cent lower chance of being saved compared with all the other nationalities.’ The professor added that, contrary to his expectations, people remember their manners even in times of crisis.
Titanic on her ill-fated maiden voyage: The sinking resulted in 1,517 deaths…
He said: ‘We really thought we’d be able to show that when it’s a matter of life and death, the cultural norms disappear and the survival of the fittest comes into play.’
Fellow researcher David Savage, of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, said: ‘Overall, the results indicate a strong support that social norms and altruism do matter.’
The study also revealed, unsurprisingly, that women and children had a greater chance of survival.
Women were up to 54 per cent more likely to have escaped the tragedy than men, and those aged under 15 were 32 per cent more likely to have lived than the over-50s.
A Titanic lifeboat, just before the passengers were taken off by rescuers…
First- class passengers, whose berths were close to the lifeboat deck, were up to 45 per cent less likely to have perished than those in third class.
The researchers said: ‘Preferential treatment, a higher level of power, better access to information about imminent danger, persons of power and decision makers such as leading crew members may have led to a higher probability of being able to get better access to lifeboats.
‘Similarly, it seems that crew members used their information advantage and better access to resources, such as lifeboats, to generate a higher probability of surviving.’
Michael McCaughan, author of The Birth of the Titanic, said: ‘There might be an element of truth in the idea of the British standing aside and saying “after you”.
There certainly would have been a sense of panic but the prevailing ethos would have been women and children first.’
Story 2 – The USA view – American Researchers Dispute Claims of ‘Polite’ Titanic Victims
Thursday , January 22, 2009
By Tom Durante
Professor Bruno Frey of the University of Zurich claims that the British passengers on the doomed cruise liner perished in the 1912 disaster because they were polite and willing to stand in line while American passengers pushed their way to the front and were placed in lifeboats.
While “women and children first” was followed as the “unsinkable” cruise ship hit an iceberg and fell to the floor of the Atlantic, Frey claims that many Britons lost their lives because they were courteous, while “uncultured” Americans were more likely to push ahead in line.
“The British were much more aware of the social norms at the time,” Frey told the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper. “They would have been more likely to stand in a queue and wait their turn for boarding the lifeboats than Americans.”
The Titanic sails for the first and last time…
But American researchers say Frey’s claim is an example of Brits putting themselves on a pedestal.
“It sounds like post-modern revisionist history,” said Karen Kamuda of the Massachusetts-based Titanic Historical Society. “To say that Americans act a certain way and the British act a certain way is racist.”
Ithaca College social sciences librarian John R. Henderson, who compiled a comprehensive report on the Titanic, suggests that the percentage of casualties on the ship was based more on social status than race. The ship had been divided into three classes based on wealth.
The third class, which was most affordable, had the greatest concentration of immigrants. Only 25 percent of the passengers in the third class made it out alive, according to Henderson’s research. This was possibly due to the fact that there was no public address system in place on the Titanic. The third class also had less access to lifeboats.
“The first class lifeboats were gone by the time the third class was even told [that the ship was going down],” Henderson said.
The Titanic was making its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York Harbor with 2,014 people aboard in April 1912 when it hit an iceberg in the northern Atlantic. The death toll from the disaster, one of the worst in maritime history, was 1,509 people. Seventy-two percent of its women passengers and 50 percent of the children on board reportedly survived.
This is a lighter side to this never ending story. The fake trailer on Youtube is for the sequel to Cameron’s fantasy movie Titanic. It looks real and gives new meaning to the endless possibilities for future of the “unsinkable” ship as mass entertainment. Hollywood today, means history be damned.