Because of the altruistic behavior of the captain, crew members and male passengers on board of the sinking Titanic, 70 percent of the women and children survived. But according to new research, this is an exception to what generally happened during maritime disasters. The Swedish researchers argue that the prevailing attitude is better summarized as “every man for himself” instead of “women and children first.”
The researchers studied 18 different maritime disasters, including 16 previously unstudied shipwrecks, between 1850 and 2011. The data included 15,000 passengers and crew members of more than 30 different nationalities.
They found that in most other disasters, men on board had a higher survival rate than women, and children had the worst chance of getting off the boat alive. In addition, crew members were tended to look out for their own safety first. Nine of 16 captains sank with their ships
What likely spurred the survival of women and children aboard the Titanic was captain’s policy, which also helped women to survive in four other disasters, the authors said.
“It seems as if it is the policy of the captain, rather than the moral sentiments of men, that determines whether women are given preferential treatment in shipwrecks,” wrote the study authors.
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