100 years ago, a certain famed ocean liner struck an iceberg, and sank into the North Atlantic.
Most of you know the story… or at least the mythology.
The ship was divided into the wealthiest and the poorest, with the wealthiest living in the lap of luxury and the poorest living in the bowels of the ship.
A compelling story… but is it the whole story?
Of course it’s not! In fact, there’s an entire class of passengers seems to be completely ignored… passengers who were, quite literally, “Second Class.”
Perhaps it’s the fact that Second Class is in some way, the “Middle Child,” the Jan Brady, eternally stuck between Marcia and Cindy, with neither the lush opulence of the richest passengers, nor the often-romanticized hopes and dreams of the immigrants in steerage.
|“Why does Marcia get an iceberg?”|
And this is a shame, because an examination of Second Class reveals some interesting tidbits, and some quite compelling stories.
Let’s start off with the debunking of a common myth, namely that the passengers with the lowest survival rates were in Adult Males in Third Class, while those with the highest survival rates were in Adult Females and/or Children in First Class. Here are the actual statistics.
PassengersFirst Class Total Survived PercentMen 175 57 32Women 144 140 97Children 6 5 83Second Class Total Survived PercentMen 168 14 8Women 93 80 86Children 24 24 100Third Class Total Survived PercentMen 462 75 16Women 165 76 46Children 79 27 66All Passengers 1,316 498 37CrewDepartment Total Survived PercentDeck 66 43 65Engine Room 325 72 22VictuallingMen 471 77 16Women 23 20 87All Crew 885 212 23Total On Board 2,201 710 32
Looking at the statistics, it is clear that both highest and lowest survival rates are found in Second Class; all 24 children survived (survival rate: 100%), while only 14 of 168 Men survived (survival rate: 8%). Incidentally, as an Adult Female your best chance was traveling in First Class (97%) (no surprise there), while as an Adult Male your best chance was as a member of the Deck Department of the Crew (survival rate: 65%) (being the department in charge of steering lifeboats probably helped).
Looking beyond the statistics, who were these Second Class passengers?
|According to James Cameron, Third Class knew how to party.|
Of all the groups onboard Titanic, they were the fewest, with 285 in total; compare that with 325 in First Class, 1,316 in Third Class, and 885 in the Crew.
Looking at the a little deeper reveals that it was a diverse group. Among the Second Class was only known passenger or crew of African descent, a Haitian engineer by the name of Joseph Laroche (he died). Scanning the passenger list, one finds clergy, skilled workers of various trades, a few who identified as “gentlemen,” and some who were servants of the First Class passengers (and were probably enjoying a break from their employers).
Eight of the “passengers” were actually members of the Titanic’s famed band (No removing the band from survival calculations does not change the fact that Second Class men fared the worst; I already did the math).
|The band played on, and apparently the cartoonist left asap|
Furthermore, the stories of Second class are some of the most compelling.
One, a schoolteacher named Lawrence Beesley, would write the first eyewitness account of the sinking. Another, Michel Navratil, was traveling under an assumed name in order to take his two children away from his estranged wife; after his body was recovered (with a loaded revolver, no less) his two children’s pictures were circulated around the world to see if anyone could identify the two “Titanic Orphans.” The members of the band famously played until the very last, comforting their doomed fellow passengers in the final moments of the sinking.
In my (not so) humble opinion, any of these stories would have been a far more interesting focal point than the hackneyed, paint-by-the-numbers love story in Cameron’s film.
My point in all of this is simple.
In the midst of the 100th anniversary of the sinking, we do poorly to forget that all of the decks of that ill-fated ship are chock full of interesting, compelling, horrifying, and inspiring tales. Piercing through the shrouds of myth and memory reveals some surprises, even today.
None of these stories are, if you’ll forgive the pun, “Second Class.”
Your Obedient Servant,