We all know what happened on April 14, 1912, in the middle of the icy Atlantic ocean. Around 1,500 people tragically lost their lives. Thankfully, some people managed to get a seat on the very limited lifeboats and survived the devastating tragedy. Among the 700 survivors of the RMS Titanic who arrived on the deck of the Carpathia were two toddlers.
Of course, authorities tried to determine who the boys were and to whom they belonged, but everything they discovered revealed a more astonishing tale. Sure, the brothers dubbed “the Titanic Orphans” survived a sinking ship, but sadly, that wasn’t the darkest moment of their childhoods.
This is going to be a crazy one, so let’s get into it! Stay tuned to see what happened to the animals of the Titanic.
Through the Eyes of a Toddler
A three-year-old boy opened his little eyes to the bright daylight of morning. He looked around, completely confused. At first, he registered the boat rocking beneath him; suddenly, the memories of the previous hours rushed back.
The next thing he knew, he and his little brother were pushed into a burlap bag and carried onto another big ship. However, this ship didn’t look familiar to the boy; it looked nothing like the one his dad took him on. Imagine being three years old on a sinking boat with no parents in sight.
Alone and Confused
But as it turns out, there wasn’t much time to linger on that. The boy remembered, “I thought it was extremely incorrect to be in a burlap bag!” Only an innocent toddler would have such a reaction just hours after surviving the tragic sinking of the Titanic.
When the boys arrived in New York, there weren’t any family members waiting for them. Since they only spoke French, it was assumed that their relatives were overseas. A French-speaking first-class passenger, Margaret Hays, volunteered to take care of the brothers temporarily.
Who Are They?
As soon as newspapers published a photo of the boys, it spread rapidly and received an overwhelming response. For many families still searching for answers, the brothers became that last glimmer of hope that their loved ones had survived the sinking and were still alive.
Iowa resident Frank Lefebvre traveled all the way to New York, hoping that the “Titanic Orphans” were two of his own children. However, once he got there, the horrific truth was confirmed: his wife and four children went down with the ship.
A Far Away Miracle
Unfortunately, none of the many people searching for their loved ones stateside seemed to know the little boys. Finally, a worried mother in France named Marcelle Caretto heard the story. She had been frantic about her missing sons and immediately boarded a ship to New York.
On May 16, 1912, Marcelle was finally reunited with her two sons. She finally got hug them and was relieved to find them alive, given the circumstances of their departure. She thought her boys had been kidnapped. Let’s get into the details.
A Calculated Move
The boys’ real names were Michel Jr. and Edmond Navratil. They were raised in Nice, France, with their mother and saw their father, Michel Navratil, on the weekends. Right before the Titanic voyage, the brothers had spent Easter with their dad.
Navratil took his sons in order to hurt his ex-wife. He bought three second-class tickets on the Titanic in order to flee with the kids. From there, the plan was to move to England.
A Worried Mother
As soon as the holiday ended, she couldn’t find her children or her ex-husband. As you can imagine, Caretto was devastated and thought she would never see her children again. Within just a few days, Navratil, Michel, and Edmond had boarded the ship successfully at Southampton but under false names.
There’s a little discrepancy over which fake identities Navratil originally created for his sons. Some pictures are marked, Louis and Lola. But there is also mention of a Momon, Loto, and Lump. All we know for sure is that all three used the fake last name, Hoffman.
A Distant Memory
Little Michel had no idea about his father’s plot to kidnap them; he was just a toddler, after all. Plus, he was preoccupied with the grand ship. As he put it, “One morning, my father, my brother, and I were eating eggs in the second-class dining room. The sea was stunning. My feeling was one of a total and utter well-being.”
The magical aspect of the ship was shattered on the night of April 14. Michel could sense the concern in the tone of the adults around him. He remembered his father waking him and his brother up gently and bundling them in layers.
Last Moments With Daddy
“When I think of it now, I am very moved. They knew they were going to die,” Michel recalled. His dad joined the rest of the panicked passengers on the deck of the ship with his sons, looking for a chance to save the innocent little boys.
In a desperate final act, the loving father managed to get his sons seats together on the Collapsible D, the very last lifeboat. Those last moments with his dad really impacted Michel Jr., who wasn’t even four years old yet. He will never forget those parting words.
His Final Message
“When your mother comes for you, as she surely will, tell her that I loved her dearly and still do. Tell her I expected her to follow us so that we might all live happily together in the peace and freedom of the New World,” Michel remembered.
Through the eyes of a toddler, this historic tragedy seems ever more surreal. During Navratil’s traumatic final moments, his sons drifted away on the lifeboat, being fed biscuits by strangers. Michel recalled sitting next to a little girl and her dog. They couldn’t comprehend the gravity of the situation.
Life Went On
While Michel’s distant memory of the Titanic is a mixture of curious bemusement, the disaster certainly left a huge mark on his life and that of his little brother Edmond. He didn’t realize he would never see his father again.
The younger of the boys, Edmond, went on to serve in WWII; sadly, he died at 43 years old. Michel focused on his education and eventually became a doctor and philosophy professor. Michel also participated in various Titanic survivor reunions and memorial events later in life.
A Father’s Fate
As for Mr. Navratri, when his body was recovered, it was given the last name on his ticket, Hoffman. He was misidentified as Jewish. Therefore, he was buried with the other Jewish victims in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
But it seems like Navratri knew he was going to die. Although his fate was sealed, he wasn’t going to go down without doing everything in his power to save his children. Thankfully, they survived and were reunited with their mother, who wanted nothing other than to see her boys again.
Just Visiting Family
In the fateful two hours and forty minutes between striking the iceberg and sinking to the bottom of the ocean, the 3,300 passengers aboard were panicking, trying to figure out a way to escape with their lives – and wondering if they would ever see their loved ones again.
Among those people forced to make an impossible decision that terrible night on the ship was a young Irishman named Jeremiah Burke. The 19-year-old bought himself a ticket to America to visit his sisters in Boston. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
A Goodbye Gift
I can’t even imagine the panic of that moment; it must have been almost impossible to bear. But luckily, Jeremiah wasn’t alone. He was traveling with his 18-year-old cousin, Nora Hegarty; at least they had each other.
For Jeremiah, this trip was a really big deal, so his family all showed up to give him a warm farewell. As a parting gift, Jeremiah’s mother gave him a little bottle of holy water to keep him safe and protected on his journey. She didn’t realize how much he’d need it.
Money Doesn’t Matter
They paid the modern-day equivalent of $860 for their Titanic third-class tickets, and while the accommodations were very different compared to their first-class counterparts, they all ended up in the same position four days into the voyage. The icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean didn’t really care how much money you had.
In their short time on the ship, Jeremiah Burke and Nora Hegarty made friends with a fellow passenger named Eugene Daly. Eugene was a talented musician and a piper; he treated the crowd to songs.
The Chaos Begins
Eugene Daly would later give a survivor’s account to The Daily Sketch: “A crash woke me up. It nearly threw me from my bed. I got up and went to the door… I met a steward in the gangway. He said there was nothing serious…”
After a few anxious minutes of waiting, Daly decided to check what was going on for himself. That’s when he found the deck in chaos. He managed to find his traveling companions, Maggie Daly and Bridget Mulvihill, and all three dropped to their knees and prayed.
Women and Children First
The three of them joined the other passengers shoving their way to the lifeboats, where they climbed aboard. As the movie depicted it, women and children had first dibs when it came to boarding the lifeboats so, Eugene Daly didn’t escape that easily.
However, it wasn’t a wise move to deny Daly a seat. As it turned out, many of the lifeboats that were rushed were underfilled – way underfilled. As you probably know, the Titanic didn’t have enough lifeboats. Even if they had jam-packed the lifeboats to full capacity, only a fraction of the passengers would have been saved.
The struggle over the lifeboats turned violent. It got so bad that guns were even drawn in the chaos, and several people were shot. In another accurately depicted moment from the movie, the officer who fired the gun immediately turned it around and ended his own life.
After a few near escapes, Eugene Daly dived into the freezing cold water in a last attempt to survive. Miraculously, he and several other swimmers found and flipped over a collapsible raft. When he was finally safe, he turned around and watched the Titanic sink into the ocean.
A Message in a Bottle
Simultaneously, thousands of other passengers made impossibly quick decisions that night in the water, including Jeremiah Burke and his cousin Nora Hegarty. Sadly, they weren’t as lucky. Their last moments remain relatively unclear, other than one heartbreaking clue.
Jeremiah must have remembered the gift his mother gave him – the bottle of holy water. In a desperate act of an incomprehensible situation: he wrote a note on a piece of scrap paper, stuffed it into the bottle, and sent it off into the Atlantic.
Something on the Beach
When the news of the Titanic’s sinking finally broke, families anxiously waited for updates of the fate of their loved ones. For Jeremiah’s loved ones, the answer came in the form of a bottle discovered on a rocky beach in Dunkettle, Ireland.
In 1913, over a year after the Titanic sank, a man casually walking his dog came across the bottle and curiously uncorked it. On the inside, there was a note that read: “from Titanic, Goodbye all, Burke of Glanmire, Cork.” Somehow, the waves in the ocean pushed Jeremiah’s message in the direction of his home.
Final Death Count
Local police delivered Jeremiah’s Burke message to his grieving family, but unfortunately, it was too late to bring his mother closure. She died shortly before it was found. The remaining relatives assured skeptics that it was, in fact, the same bottle Jeremiah’s mother had given him.
Jeremiah and Nora were just two of the 1,500 people that tragically lost their lives on the Titanic that night. The greatest losses suffered were by the third-class passengers; only 25% of them survived. When it came to the second-class passengers, only 42% survived. The first-class passengers were prioritized, so 61% made it out alive.
The Animals on the Titanic
Over a hundred years ago, the Titanic tragically sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic, ending the lives of over 1,500 passengers in what remains the most famous shipwreck in modern history. The tragic story has been recounted, researched, and re-enacted for generations, but previously unknown information has emerged about the Titanic, the icebergs, the victims, and the survivors.
At least a dozen passengers have hardly received any attention over the past century. You may not know that about 12 dogs were on board the Titanic on that fateful night, all belonging to first-class passengers, as you can see in a new centennial museum exhibit.
A Man’s Best Friend
“There is such a special bond between people and their pets. For many, they are considered to be family members,” according to exhibit curator and Winder University historian J. Joseph Edgette. “I don’t think any Titanic exhibit has examined that relationship and recognized those loyal family pets that also lost their lives on the cruise.”
I, for one, didn’t even think about the animals that were on board the Titanic. It only makes sense that people brought their pets along; however, with more than 1,500 deaths, everyone was so preoccupied with the human beings who lost their lives that the animals were their last concern. Of course, we should always prioritize people over animals. But today, we’re going to take a look back at the animals of the Titanic.
Three Canine Survivors
At least nine dogs tragically went down with the ship. The exhibit points out that three of them made it out alive: two Pomeranians and a Pekingese. Edgette explained to Yahoo News that they likely survived because of their size – and probably not at the expense of any human passengers.
“The dogs that survived were so small that it’s doubtful anyone even realized they were being carried to the lifeboats,” Edgette said. Well, that’s a relief! It would be a much different tale if they sacrificed a human life for a pet.
A Dog’s Life
However, that certainly doesn’t mean that the lives of these pets should be forgotten. That’s why I’m dedicating today to the memory of the animals on board the Titanic on that fateful night. One of the three canine survivors of the Titanic was:
“Lady,” a Pomeranian that Margaret Bechstein Hays recently purchased in Paris, according to Encyclopedia Titanica. The 24-year-year old was on her way back to New York after traveling in Europe with her friends. As she stepped into Lifeboat 7, a passenger passed by and joked, “Oh, I suppose we ought to put a life preserve on the little doggie too.”
So Many Doggies
Millionaire passenger John Jacob Astor brought his dog “Kitty,” but unfortunately, the Airedale Terrier was one of the many dogs that tragically went down with the ship. Another notable individual was Henry Sleeper Harper, heir to Harper and Row Publishing of New York.
Harper brought along his Pekingese, Sun Yat-Sen – named after the first president of the Republic of China. Other dogs included a Chow-Chow owned by Harry Anderson, a bulldog named Gamin de Pycobe, a Pomeranian owned by the Rothschilds, and another belonging to Margaret Bechstein Hays.
The only people who brought dogs aboard were first-class passengers, and most of them were kept in the ship’s kennels; very few stayed in their owners’ cabins. However, the rest were released from the kennels while the ship was sinking, according to Titanic Stories, an informational website on the events of that fateful night.
Many of the dogs that died on the Titanic were never identified, and Edgette admits that there may have been more dogs on board than we know.
Not Without My Dog
One passenger, 50-year-old Ann Elizabeth Isham, reportedly refused to get on a lifeboat without her Great Dane, who was much too big to fit on a lifeboat. According to Edgette, Elizabeth Anne’s body, as well as her dog’s, were later found floating in the ocean.
At least some of the passengers who left their pets collected some consolation from their insurance companies. For example, William Ernest Carter of Philadelphia had insured his children’s King Charles Spaniel and Airedale for $100 and $200, respectively, and later received settlements.
Only Three Dogs Survived
Elizabeth Rothschild also refused to get on Lifeboat 6 unless her Pomeranian was coming along. Although the dog was smiling, many people understandably believed that any extra room should be reserved for human beings rather than dogs.
The last dog to escape belonged to Henry and Myra Harper. Fortunately for them, they managed to sneak him onto Lifeboat 3 with them. Unfortunately, those are the only animals that were confirmed to have survived. Many pets tragically lost their lives along with their owners.
Other Titanic Animals
There are rumors about other animals that were on board the Titanic that night, but none are confirmed. One story suggests that a passenger named Edith Russel brought her pet pig along; however, according to Titanic Stories, it was actually just a toy, not a real pig.
The pig that was supposedly on the Titanic was eventually proven to be a musical pig. Edith Russel brought played the toy pig in her lifeboat in order to soothe the children and terrified passengers after the shock of the Titanic’s collision and sinking.
Could Have Been More
Although there is no way of knowing exactly how many dogs were on the RMS Titanic, the ship’s inventory indicated about a dozen. There would have been many more if one particular passenger hadn’t changed his plans at the last minute.
Charles More, a breeder of English Foxhounds, initially planned to transport 100 dogs across the Atlantic to Washington on the Titanic. At the last minute, he changed his plans and sent them on another vessel. Those dogs got incredibly lucky, that’s for sure.
Jenny the Cat
Ships would often carry cats to control rat populations, and Edgette mentioned that at least one cat (and his kittens) rode the Titanic from Ireland to England before its final voyage. But apparently, that cat disembarked before the ship left New York, carrying all her kittens to the pier – a decision later attributed to “some sort of premonition,” Edgette said.
There was one cat in particular named Jenny that the staff was aware of. Since she was a rat-catching cat, it means that, yes, there were rats on board the Titanic.
The Truth About the Rats
Many people wonder where the rats came from and assume it was just a pothole in the Titanic movie. But the truth is, rats appear wherever there is a feeding station. The Titanic was laid down for years before her maiden voyage so, it only makes sense that rats were on board.
The little critters may not be as missed as dogs, but they were still victims of the sinking, so it’s important to mention them. In addition to the dogs, cats, a toy pig, and an unknown number of rats, there were also chickens and other birds on the ship. Other than three lucky dogs, all the other animals went down with the ship.
A Seasoned Sailor
Before the night of April 15, 1912, the Titanic was considered the largest cruise ship to sail the ocean. As you know, White Star Line dubbed the ship “unsinkable,” which is just asking for bad luck. But anyway, who would you hire to sail such a precious vessel?
Captain Edward J. Smith was born in England in 1850 to a lower-middle-class family. At age 12, he dropped out of school so he could work, which was pretty normal for Victorian children. After a short forging career, Smith’s brother inspired him to become a ship captain. When it was time for the Titanic’s maiden voyage, Captain Smith had 40 years of sailing experience.
Smith’s mother had two other children for her first marriage, but the kids were almost 20 years older than Smith. One was Joseph Hancock, who captained his own ship by the time he reached his 30’s. Hancock brought his brother onto his boat, Senator Weber, in 1867.
Smith was just 17 years old at the time, and he was excited and inspired. Although he might have found his passion, Edward Smith had a rocky road to captain hood. In his first try taking the navigation exams, Smith failed.
A Few Stumbles
He tried again when he was 38 years old and finally passed. He eventually went on to become one of the most beloved captains of his time. However, he didn’t have a stellar record. So, how exactly did he end up with this legendary reputation? It’s all in the personality.
Smith, somehow, already ran three ships directly onto dry land: The Republic, the Coptic, and the Adriatic. Yet, White Star Line still took him on as captain. White Star Line was trying to become the leading ship company in the world, but Captain Smith ran into even more issues while working there.
The RMS Olympic
Smith would often captain ships that were on their maiden voyage. Right before that fateful trip, Smith was the captain of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic. White Star Line released the Olympic just one year before launching the Titanic. Under Smith’s command, the Olympic got into an accident.
As the Olympic was pulling out of the port, Captain Smith reportedly didn’t see a Royal Navy Ship, the Hawk, coming, and they collided. I don’t know how he missed that. Nevertheless, White Star Line decided he was the man to captain all their new ships, each vessel growing larger.
An “Uneventful” Career
Smith assured the public that he was a safe and trustworthy captain: “When anyone asks me how to describe my experience of nearly 40 years at sea, I merely say ‘uneventful,’” Smith expressed. Still, he was accused of ignoring certain on-ship disasters that most sailors would acknowledge out of absolute duty.
Captain Smith also didn’t seem concerned about his workers in the Republic, where a furnace blew in 1889, leading to the death of three of his men. In 1907, the acclaimed captain was quoted saying, “I have never been in any accident of any sort worth speaking about.” Well… not yet…
The Guest’s Favorite Captain
Smith eventually became known as “The Millionaire’s Captain.” White Star Line always put him on duty for all their large passenger ships, which celebrities would often take. Some travelers even insisted on having Smith as their captain, and many people treated him like royalty.
“[Smith] was the ideal dinner guest and made himself available to passengers and crew,” according to writer P.B. Lound. So, what was it about Captain Smith that charmed everyone? Seasoned traveler Kate Douglas-Wiggin, who sailed with him over 20 times, admitted that it was his personality.
The Grand Voyage
She explained, “I can remember certain voyages when great inventors and scientists, earls and countesses, authors and musicians and statesmen made a “Captain’s table” as notable and distinguished as that of any London or New York dinner.”
As soon as rumors started circulating about how the Titanic’s maiden voyage would be Smith’s final journey, people came flocking. It ultimately was his last voyage, but sadly, he didn’t get to enjoy his retirement how he planned. As we know, he went down with the ship.
A Stellar Reputation
“At such times, Captain Smith was an admirable host; modest, dignified, appreciative, his own contributions to the conversation showing not only the quality of his information but the high quality of his mind,” Kate Douglas-Wiggin added. Famous passengers also went down with the ship. So, what did the public think of their beloved captain after this disaster?
One couple expressed: “We always felt so safe with him, for one knew how deeply he felt the responsibility of his ship and of all on board. He has been a deeply cherished friend on sea and land all these years.” But the question remains; did Captain Edward Smith do enough to save the Titanic?
He Never Got That Bonus
White Star Line didn’t think so. If the Titanic had completed its voyage without sinking, Smith would have been entitled to a £200 bonus on top of his £1,250/month salary, equal to about £154,000 today. When he passed away, his widow didn’t get that £200 No-Collision Bonus, but was it really his fault that the ship sank?
To this day, no one knows for sure what Smith did in his last hours to ensure the safety of everyone on board, but there are a few clues. After all, Smith had difficulty keeping control before the ship even took off.
Ignoring Red Flags
As the Titanic was pulling out of its post in Southampton, the immense power of the propellors started sucking a small ship called the SS New York. As the tiny ship furiously battled against the massive force, Smith needed to think fast to prevent a disaster. Well, at least this disaster.
The small ship was getting closer to the enormous Titanic. Smith ordered his crew to reverse the propellers and have the tugboat alongside the ship to help prevent drifting. Luckily, the SS New York somehow managed to scrape by within four feet of the transatlantic beast! A small victory before the huge tragedy.
All About the Money
Perhaps the 62-year-old captain shouldn’t have been responsible for such an important mission if he could barely get the ship off the dock. Smith’s passengers were so comforted by the sailor’s experience and personality that they ignored his shortcomings, just like White Star Line. How could this happen, though? Well, the short answer is money.
A popular captain who brings in such wealthy passengers and has a serious influence over his employers, Smith certainly brought in the money. While some saw the captain as a disaster waiting to happen, the people in charge of the White Star Line bankroll thought he was an absolute saint. Now, it’s up to history to decide.