More Britons than Americans died on Titanic 'because they queued'
Wednesday 21 January 2009
British passengers on the Titanic died in disproportionate numbers because they queued politely for lifeboats while Americans elbowed their way on, an Australian researcher believes.
David Savage, a behavioural economist at the Queensland University of Technology, studied four 20th-century maritime disasters to determine how people react in life and death situations. He concluded that, on the whole, behaviour is influenced by altruism and social norms, rather than a "survival of the fittest" mentality. However, on the Titanic he noted Americans were 8.5 per cent more likely to survive than other nationalities, while British passengers were 7 per cent less likely to survive.
"The only things I can put that down to are: there would have been very few Americans in steerage or third class; and the British tend to be very polite and queue." (The ship's first-class staterooms were closest to the lifeboat deck.)
Mr Savage said there were plenty of examples of gentlemanly conduct by British passengers and crew after the Titanic hit an iceberg during its maiden voyage in 1912.
The captain, Edward John Smith, shouted out: "Be British, boys, be British!" as the cruise liner went down, according to witnesses. One wealthy passenger, recognising he was doomed, donned a tuxedo and declared: "I'm going to go down well dressed."
More than 1,500 people died, the majority men, as women and children were taken off first. Women had a 51.7 per cent better chance of survival than men, according to Mr Savage's analysis, while women accompanied by children were 74 per cent better off.
"Ideally, you would have been a female with a child in first class," he said yesterday. The same principles prevailed a century on, during last week's crash landing of a plane on New York's Hudson River, he observed. Women and children were rescued first, and the pilot remained in the aircraft until he was sure all passengers were safely out. "We find the whole concept of mass panic – everyone looking after themselves – doesn't hold that strong," Mr Savage said.
It was different, however, during another disaster: the sinking of an Italian ocean liner, the Andrea Doria, following a collision with a Swedish ship in 1956. Although most people survived, some passengers complained the crew had been more concerned with getting themselves into lifeboats than rescuing others. Mr Savage believes self-interest is more likely to take over when people are not in family or social groups.
After the cruise liner Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland in 1915, it sank in 18 minutes. "There wasn't a lot of time for people to organise themselves into their social groups." But Mr Savage said he had no direct evidence that Americans on the Titanic were pushy or rude, "But a significantly higher number survived, and there's got to be a reason," he said.
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Germanwings plane crash: Video shows co-pilot Andreas Lubitz learning to fly as a teenager
- 3 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 4 Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
- 5 WrestleMania 31 results: Seth Rollins stuns WWE as he cashes in Money in the Bank contract to claim title from Brock Lesnar
East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
Children take eight Isis captives to be beheaded in latest propaganda video
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...