Stories about the sinking of the Titanic seldom mention that there were dogs on the Titanic who also lost their lives when the ship sank.
News stories abound of the sinking of the mighty Titanic, the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time. On April 10th, 1912 the brand new luxury liner sailed off on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England headed for New York City. Four days into the crossing, at 11:40 p.m. on April 14th, she struck an iceberg and sank at 2:20 a.m. the following morning. The sinking of the Titanic was one of the worst maritime disasters during peacetime in history, claiming the lives of 1,517 people.
The RMS Titanic was an Olympic-class passenger liner owned by the White Star Line and carried 2,227 people on board. The casualty rate was unusually large due to the fact that the ship carried lifeboats for only 1,178 people.
What is not commonly known is that the designers and builders of the Titanic had installed the best kennel facilities available for pets belonging to its upper class passengers. Ten dogs boarded the Titanic but only three survived the sinking. Two small dogs were saved by their owners who were able to carry them in their arms when boarding a life boat. The third dog was a large Newfoundland dog owned by the ship’s first officer.
His dog, named Rigel, became a hero during the sinking of the Titanic. The story published in the New York Herald newspaper on April 21, 1912 read as follows:
“Not the least among the heroes of the Titanic was Rigel, a big black Newfoundland dog, belonging to the first officer, who went down with his ship, But for Rigel, the fourth boat picked up might have been run down by the Carpathia. For three hours he swam in the icy water where the Titanic went down, evidently looking for his master, and was instrumental in guiding the boatload of survivors to the gangway of the Carpathia.”
“Jonas Briggs, a seaman aboard the Carpathia now has Rigel and told the story of the dog’s heroism. The Carpathia was moving slowly about, looking for boats, rafts and anything which might be afloat. Exhausted with their efforts, weak from lack of food and exposure to the cutting wind, and terror stricken, the men and women in the fourth boat had drifted under the Carpathia’s starboard bow. They were dangerously close to the steamship, but too weak to shout a warning loud enough to reach the bridge.”
“The boat might not have been seen were it not for the sharp barking of Rigel, who was swimming ahead of the craft, and valiantly announcing his position. His barks attracted the attention of Captain Rostron and he went to the starboard end of the bridge to see where they came from and saw the boat. He immediately ordered the engines stopped and the boat came alongside the starboard gangway.”
“Care was taken to take Rigel aboard, but he appeared little affected by his long trip through the icy cold water. He stood by the raft and barked until the last passenger was taken aboard the Carpathia.”
So if a friend ever brings up the question “Where There Dogs on the Titanic?” you can answer that “Yes there were, and how could you not believe that a dog is man’s best friend?”