Thursday, January 24, 2008
Newfoundland Hero Of The Titanic
"If the Titanic had not sunk in the early hours of Monday, April 15, 1912, first class passengers would have participated in a dog show latter that day. Many pets were on the fatal voyage. Francis-Millet noted with some irony that the ladies in first class 'carried tiny dogs and lead husbands around like pet lambs.' A French bulldog, Newfoundland dog, Chow, Airdale, Pomeranian and Pekinese were some of the dog breeds on board.
"It is not surprising that there were animals on the Titanic. Ships have always transported animals between the east and the west. During slavery, animals and slaves were placed in the same cargo hold on sail ships. The subsequent years saw steamships carrying animals in the lower deck that was known as steerage. In the nineteenth century when steamships started to move many immigrants from Europe to America, third class passengers were placed in steerage with the animals. The owners of these animals paid for their transportation. But some animals – most notably rats - took a free ride. Consequently, ships tried to control its rodent population by bringing cats on board.
"At the beginning of the twentieth century, shipping companies built bigger and bigger steamships in order to make as much money as possible from transporting the many immigrants to America. The idea to build the Titanic was conceived in the summer of 1907. The great ocean liner was constructed in Ireland and launched on May 31, 1911. Sea trials followed. When the steamship set sail from Southampton, England on its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912, it is believed that there was a significant rodent population on the vessel. The liner struck an iceberg in the late evening of April 14th and forever changed the lives of 2,236 people, an estimated 2000 rats, many dogs and at least one pig on board.
"The chivalry of the day required that women and children be placed on the lifeboats first. This act doomed many men to an early death. The women were understandably scared, but some were also self-centered and selfish. Referring back to Francis-Millet’s remark that the ladies in first class 'carried tiny dogs and lead husbands around like pet lambs,' it may come as no surprise to learn that women took their dogs and a pet pig with them into the lifeboat, while husbands were left to drown with thousands of rats.
"Having said the above, one should note that one animal actually earned his right to be rescued. When it became evident that the ship would sink, men released the dogs from their kennels. Most of the dogs eventually drowned. But Rigel, a black Newfoundland dog, was able to swim until the rescue ship, Carpathia, arrived. Survivors in one lifeboat were too weak to shout when the ship was about to run them over. But Rigel who had been swimming in the icy water for three hours, was still strong enough to bark. Captain Rostron heard the dog and ordered the ship to stop. Swimming in front of the lifeboat, the dog led the survivors to the starboard gangway.
"The first officer of the Titanic was the owner of Rigel. This officer went down with the ship. So Jonas Brigg, a sailor on the Carpathia adopted the dog. Rigel was called a hero and did not seem to have any ill effects from the disaster."
(From The Sinking of the Titanic)
"Oh me", you ask?
Well, I'm going up to the kennels tomorrow to get groomed for a show this weekend ('Drew too), so the ocean is just out of the question. (It's an indoor show; quite civilized "if you know what I mean".)
What's that? Me, "defensive?" Oh no, my good man. I would not hesitate, if and when the Titanic comes my way and a similar fate she encounters, to dive into the icy artic waters of San Francisco Bay and do my duty. "Swim and rescue people"?
I'm sorry, but we're getting off today's topic and this interview is going to have to come to an end. After all, I need some work on the feathering of my trousers and tail!!