Thursday, August 20, 2009

TITANIC NEWFOUNDLAND?

ANOTHER DOG IN HISTORY.

FACT OR FICTION?

YOU DECIDE.


Hey Hounders - Last Saturday we had a quiz about a historical dog, Greyfriar's Bobby. Well, here's a story about another dog associated with a historical event: the sinking of RMS TITANIC in April of 1912. There are arguements on both sides of the question as to whether this story is one of fact or fiction, so you decide.


The Legend Of Rigel: Hero Dog of the Titanic
Christine Jamesson

"RIGEL"

THE LEGEND AND MYSTERY OF RIGEL

On a frigid night in 1912 the great unsinkable Titanic sank 2 miles down to a watery grave. Many stories of heroes and villains have been passed down since that fateful night. Yet there is one hero in particular whose story has remained a mystery.

Meet Rigel- the Titanic’s Newfoundland dog mascot. His incredible story of courage and survival was originally published as an alleged factual account in 1912 just days after the sinking.

Come along and enjoy this fictionalized story of Rigel’s tragedy and triumph in spite of challenges no human could have survived!


* * *

Yes Virginia, there may have been a Rigel.

The story of Rigel was first reported in the “New York Herald” the day the Carpathia docked with Titanic’s survivors. It also appeared in a well-known book: “ The Sinking of Titanic and Great Sea Disasters” which was first published in 1912 a few short months after the disaster. After that there was no mention of him at all, no disclaimers, no retractions, nothing to my knowledge. Although there has been some recent mention of him in dog books all subsequent books and movies about Titanic by historians, crew and survivors don’t mention him either. Why? Was he a figment of the reporter’s imagination? That seems unlikely. If Rigel and new owner didn’t exist then who was interviewed? Someone playing a cruel joke while wearing a uniform and holding onto a 150-pound dog? Unlikely again, but I suppose that could have happened.

The only two well-known dogs that survived the sinking were toy breeds lovingly smuggled on board the lifeboats in their owner’s coats. All of the other dogs on board lost their lives including a champion English Bulldog who was last seen trying to swim in the frigid water. Comparing a bulldog’s swimming ability to a Newfoundland’s is like expecting your Shetland Pony to win the Kentucky Derby. Bulldogs are among the worst swimmers in dog-dom and Newfoundlands are the absolute best.

Many people are skeptical as to whether any creature could have survived a long distance swim in freezing water. Certainly none of the people did. “Newfie” owners and breeders have no problem believing a Newfoundland could do exactly what the record states. Bred to withstand the harsh conditions of the frigid north Atlantic they have been used to haul in heavy fishing nets and assist in water rescues. Newfoundlands could be called the “Polar bears” of the dog world. They have the same adaptations for swimming albeit on a smaller scale. And since Scientists have seen Polar Bears swimming 100 miles out to sea in freezing water and not looking the least bit exhausted, then why not?

The near lifeboat collision was also never mentioned again. Perhaps it was dropped purposely. No one wanted to detract from the heroics of the Carpathia and crew. After pushing their small steamer full speed into the very same icefield that doomed Titanic, they deserved all the credit and praise that was bestowed on them.

Finally there is the Jonas Briggs mystery. He isn’t listed on either ship’s crew list for that year. For many that is proof positive this was nothing more than a hoax. Apparently these people have never done genealogy research. Our ancestors were not sticklers for detail. Sometimes they’d spell names phonetically. Other times they’d scribble a name and then not be able to decipher it. I found one of my ancestor’s names spelled 4 different ways. One spelling was way off. I changed Jonas to John in my book, a common name that could have been mistaken for Jonas. Taking into account the pandemonium surrounding the Carpathia’s arrival there would certainly be some examples of miscommunication.

Now here is an interesting fact. There was a person named Briggs who was a female passenger on the very lifeboat Rigel allegedly saved from disaster. I have seen her name listed as follows: Florence Briggs, Florence Briggs Cummings, Florence Briggs Thayer, Florence Cummings and last but not least Mrs. John Bradley Cumings (with one m). This is only one person and no one can seem to get her name straight. I find it ironic that there was indeed a person named Briggs and especially on that particular lifeboat. Did the reporter scramble the names hurriedly while gathering stories?

There are Titanic message boards with heated arguments on this very subject. With all that’s going on in the world today it seems trivial arguing about whether Rigel and owner actually existed. But unless someone can come up with concrete irrefutable proof that there wasn’t such an animal I would like to believe there was. And really, what’s the harm in that? Afterall legends in some rare cases have proven to be true. Could this be one of them? You decide.



http://www.ncanewfs.org/history/pages/rigel.html

http://cheddarbay.com/0000Tea/Titanic/crew/murdoch/rigel.html

Aside from the Rigel legend, there actaully were a number of dogs aboard the RMS TITANIC when she foundered. If the Titanic had not sunk in the early hours of Monday, April 15, 1912, first class passengers would have participated in a dog show latter that day. Many pets were on the fatal voyage. Francis-Millet noted with some irony that the ladies in first class “carried tiny dogs and lead husbands around like pet lambs.” A French bulldog, Newfoundland dog, Chow, Airdale, Pomeranian and Pekinese were some of the dog breeds on board. How many and their fate? Check here:

http://www.martycrisp.com/dogs_of_the_titanic.htm

2 comments:

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom said...

My kind would have made fur too much fuzz on The Titanikh!

Hugz&Khysses,
Khyra

Bob said...

Their are many things in this world that we have no explanation for and cannot comprehend with our human minds. Is this story true, it will never be known but it is true in the hearts of those who want to believe.

Bob

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