What Happened to Titanic’s Dead?

By on April 15, 2017

Of the 1,500 people who lost their lives when the Titanic sank, only 333 bodies were ever recovered. What happened to the rest?
Victims of the Titanic recovered by the Mackay-Bennett
Titanic victims recovered by the Mackay-Bennett

It’s been 105 years since the tragedy of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. More than 1,500 people lost their lives when the “unsinkable” new ocean liner was split open by an iceberg during its maiden voyage and sank into the freezing depths of the Atlantic. It plunged over two miles beneath the surface, where it came to rest on the ocean floor undisturbed until a 1985 expedition lead by Robert Ballard finally located it.

Since then, many have visited the site using submersibles and small, remotely operated craft to explore the interior of the massive wreck. With the exception of a photo showing a jacket and boot where some researchers believe human remains came to rest, there have been no bodies found in the wreck or surrounding debris field. Even Titanic director James Cameron, who has been down to the wreck more than anyone else, has never discovered any remains.

Of course, some stayed afloat on the surface where they succumbed to hypothermia in the 28 degree water, but there was surely a great number of passengers who went down with the Titanic. So where did those bodies go? Caitlin Doughty set out to answer that question last year in an episode of Ask a Mortician with some grim and little known history.

Four ships departed from Nova Scotia with undertakers, embalming supplies, and clergy to gather the dead. The first ship to arrive at the site, a week later, was the Mackay-Bennett. The crew began pulling bodies out of the water and quickly exhausted their embalming materials. Bodies considered too disfigured for identification were wrapped in canvas, weighed down, and dumped back into the water. In total, 333 victims were eventually recovered. The funeral home in Nova Scotia responsible for handling all the bodies used a local curling rink as a morgue when the Mackay-Bennett returned.

Watch the video below for more.


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