August 7, 2012 - Every Man for Himself: As the Titanic began to sink in the early hours of April 15, 1912, the captain ordered women and children first to the lifeboats. Ultimately, he went down with the ship. Pictured above, death and survival rates by gender in major shipwreck.
The order has long been held up as an example of modern chivalry, an unwritten law of the sea. But a new review of historical records suggests that in maritime disasters, “every man for himself” is a rule more commonly applied, and that women and children die at significantly higher rates than male passengers and crew members.
Two researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden examined records of 18 ship accidents from 1852 until 2011, which involved more than 15,000 passengers and crew members. They selected accidents for which there is complete data on survivors and descendents by number and sex, and they limited their sample to wrecks involving 100 people or more in which at least 5 percent died or 5 percent lived.
Their findings suggest that the events on the Titanic, where 20 percent of men and 70 percent of women and children lived to tell the tale, were highly unusual, if not unique. Pictured above, the RMS Lusitania in 1915, before being sunk by German “U” boats.
The Titanic and the Lusitania, a passenger ship torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7, 1915, accounted for more than a quarter of all casualties in the study. So the researchers made calculations with and without those two ships to avoid statistical bias. Among almost 2,000 passengers and crew members on the Lusitania, there was little difference between men’s and women’s survival rates — 37.1 percent for women and 40 percent for men. Click the link below for the complete story.
The Master of Disaster