Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Scores of survivors

Today's the day 103 years ago that RMS Titanic plummeted nearly 4,000m down to the bottom of the ocean. I haven't seen the filum at least partly because I think yer man should change his name to Leonardo diCastanea because he is so wooden but acknowledge that the song is an effective <yorp> earworm <glark>.  About a year ago, I shared an analysis of the rates of survival amongst different classes of passengers in the sinking of the RMS Empress of Ireland, women and children didn't come out of that disaster well . . . or, indeed, alive.  The contemporary headline above claims a much more chivalrous outcome and the final tally from the British Board of Trade via Wikipedia seems to bear the headline out:
Group Class N Live Dead %live %dead
Children First Class 6 5 1 83% 17%
Second Class 24 24 0 100% 0%
Third Class 79 27 52 34% 66%
Women First Class 144 140 4 97% 3%
Second Class 93 80 13 86% 14%
Third Class 165 76 89 46% 54%
Crew 23 20 3 87% 13%
Men First Class 175 57 118 33% 67%
Second Class 168 14 154 8% 92%
Third Class 462 75 387 16% 84%
Crew 885 192 693 22% 78%
Total 2224 710 1514 32% 68%
On the Empress of Ireland you were far better off if you were a) adult and b) bloke, but it's more or less the opposite on the Titanic. Of course your chances were much less if you were in steerage than if you were loaded into the lifeboat in silk pyjamas.  And that's a crucial difference between the Titanic and the Empress, the former went down within 15 minutes of the collision while the Titanic stayed afloat and more or less vertical for ten times as long.

The Titanic herself is not surviving so well, she is currently being consumed by Deferribacter autotrophicus, Shewanella profunda (don't you love the names?) and other iron-reducing bacteria that can make a living in profoundly adverse conditions - it's dark and cold down there.  But iron is a limiting resource in many oceanic environments and metabolising the hull will cause an increase in biomass in the deeps.

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