Study: Male Chivalry A Myth on Sinking Ships


Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 9:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 9:35 p.m.

STOCKHOLM | A hundred years after the Titanic sank, two Swedish researchers on Thursday said when it comes to sinking ships, male chivalry is "a myth" and more men generally survive such disasters than women and children.

Economists Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixon of Uppsala University also showed in their 82-page study that captains and their crew are 18.7 percentage points more likely to survive a shipwreck than their passengers.

"Our findings show that behavior in life-and-death situation is best captured by the expression ‘every man for himself,'?" the authors wrote.

The researchers analyzed 18 of the world's most famous maritime disasters, ranging from the HMS Birkenhead, which grounded in the Indian Ocean in 1852, to the MV Bulgaria tourist ship, which sank on Russia's Volga River last year.

Analyzing passenger lists, logs and registers, Elinder and Erixon found that men actually have a distinct survival advantage. Out of the 15,000 people who died in the 18 accidents, only 17.8 percent of the women survived compared with 34.5 percent of the men. In three of the shipwrecks, all the women died, Elinder said.

The report also referred to the Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic in the early morning of April 15, 1912. The researchers called the Titanic an exception to their findings, mainly because its captain, Edward Smith, threatened to shoot men unless they yielded to women for lifeboat seats. Capt. Smith went down with his ship.

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