Hindsight is always 100% accurate, but there can be useful lessons from even the most horrific tragedies, the following demonstrates a proven method of survival that may have changed the way history looks at the Titanic disaster.
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Step 1: The Polaris Experience
In the mid 19th century, a way was feverishly sought to find the mythical “Northwest Passage”, sending out many expeditions, some of which fared poorly or were never heard from again. The hapless Polaris was en route on a southern part of it’s journey when 19 crew members became separated from the ship and were trapped on an ice floe that drifted some 1,800 miles (2,900 km) for 6 months before being rescued by a sealer, the “Tigress” off the coast of Newfoundland. All hands survived the ordeal in relative good health thanks to their Inuit companions who shared their knowledge and expertise of the Arctic wilderness.
Step 2: Drift Ice- the Lifesaver
Free floating, subject to wind and currents, drift ice is like a giant raft given 5 categories of size, from Small: 20 meters (66 ft) or more across to Giant: more than 10 kilometers (6.2 mi.) across. When drift ice is driven together into a large single mass it is called pack ice, the main feature is usually ridges of several meters in height. These various ice types are what a stricken vessel in the open sea should make for if continued floatation is in doubt, it being a ready made life raft capable of sustaining existence for a lengthy period vs. only minutes in the frigid sea.
Step 3: The Irony of It
In accordance with existing practice at the time, Titanic’s lifeboat complement was designed to simply ferry passengers to awaiting rescue vessels, not evacuate all on board. Had the crew or helmsmen on the lifeboats been trained in arctic survival rudiments, it would have been the obvious thing to do: unload survivors on suitable ice floes (reportedly they were vast in number then) return to Titanic, and repeat. This was plain good sense to Newfoundland seamen at the time, who expressed incredulity that such was not the case and the huge loss of life was, in their opinion, avoidable.