107 #86: Titanic Chief Baker Charles Joughin survived for several hours in the freezing water

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TRUE, apparently. Titanic’s Chief Baker testified that he survived for several hours in the freezing water, but he wasn’t drunk, as is popularly believed. This myth arose because he did admit to having had half a tumbler of liqueur that night.

Despite the inquiry‘s view that it must have been his alcohol intake that saved him, alcohol wouldn’t have helped as it directs blood to the extremities, which gives a feeling of warmth but means that heat is in fact conducted away from the body more quickly. Even the amount he did consume should have made his survival less likely, but his assessment of the amount of time he spent in the freezing water can be verified, at least as far as his own extraordinary account goes:

6077: ‘Are you a good swimmer?’ ‘Yes.’

6078: ‘How long do you think you were in the water before you got anything to hold on to?’

‘I did not attempt to get anything to hold on to until I reached a collapsible, but that was daylight.’

6079: ‘Daylight, was it?’

‘I do not know what time it was.’

6080: ‘Then you were in the water for a long, long time?’

‘I should say over two, hours, Sir.’

6081: ‘Were you trying to make progress in the water, to swim, or just keeping where you were?’

‘I was just paddling and treading water.’

6082: ‘And then daylight broke?’


6083: ‘Did you see any icebergs about you?’

‘No, Sir, I could not see anything.’

6084: ‘Did it keep calm till daylight, or did the wind rise at all?’

‘It was just like a pond.’

6085: ‘Then you spoke of a collapsible boat. Tell us shortly about it?’

‘Just as it was breaking daylight I saw what I thought was some wreckage, and I started to swim towards it slowly. When I got near enough, I found it was a collapsible not properly upturned but on its side, with an Officer and I should say about twenty or twenty-five men standing on the top of it.’

6098: ‘Did you stay near it?’

‘I tried to get on it, but I was pushed off it, and I what you call hung around it.’

6099: ‘How much later on was it that you were picked up?’

‘I eventually got round to the opposite side, and a cook that was on the collapsible recognised me, and held out his hand and held me—a chap named Maynard.’

6100: ‘Was he able to pull you out of the water, or was he only just able to help to support you?’


6101: ‘He gave you a hand, and you kept treading water?’

‘No. My lifebelt helped me, and I held on the side of the boat.’

6102: ‘You had been wearing a lifebelt?’

‘Yes, all the time.’

6103: ‘So that your feet would be in the water?’

‘Yes, and my legs.’

6104: ‘And you supported yourself by your lifebelt. I do not want to be harrowing about it, but was the water very cold?’

‘I felt colder in the lifeboat—after I got in the lifeboat.’

6105: ‘You were picked up, were you, by a lifeboat later on?’

‘We were hanging on to this collapsible, and eventually a lifeboat came in sight.’

6106: ‘And they took you aboard?’

‘They got within about 50 yards and they sung out that they could only take 10. So I said to this Maynard, “Let go my hand,” and I swam to meet it, so that I would be one of the 10.’

6107: ‘Did you swim to it, and were you taken in?’

‘Yes, I was taken in.’

6108: ‘You have said you thought it was about two hours before you saw this collapsible, and then you spent some time with the collapsible. How long do you suppose it was after you got to the collapsible that you were taken into the lifeboat?’

‘I should say we were on the collapsible about half- an-hour.’

6109: ‘That means that for some two and a half hours you were in the water?’

‘Practically, yes.’

We know from Third Officer Pitman that Titanic sank at 2.20 a.m.

We also know from several survivors and the rescue ship Carpathia that dawn at Titanic’s wreck site on Monday 15th April was at 4 a.m. Titanic time, with full daylight at 4.30 a.m. Joughin’s testimony therefore suggests that he was indeed in the water for around two and a half hours, as he later estimated. Nevertheless, Joughin’s testimony is unsupported by any other witness’s testimony and it is probable that his recollection of the sequence and timing of the events of his rescue may have been inaccurate.

Indeed, quite how Joughin managed to survive so long, to keep his head and to remember what had happened afterwards, when the upper limit survival time in water of that temperature is approximately 45 minutes, with disorientation and unconsciousness usually occurring within 15 minutes, is anyone’s guess. But the fact that his head was not fully wetted would have helped him, trapping pockets of insulating air under his hair. After this if he simply trod water for more than two hours, as he said he did, this also would have helped, as trying to swim tends to make hypothermia worse. He said that he was a good swimmer and, being from Southampton, he would probably have been used to sea swimming. He may also have been wearing a lot of layers and that, combined with a dry head and an apparently unusually hardy constitution, may all have contributed to keep him alive and conscious for far longer than is usually considered possible, and almost certainly for longer than anyone else survived in the water that night.

If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

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