Titanic survivors recall previously unknown gruesome details

Two sisters recount seeing 'Titanic' officers chopping off the hands of survivors grasping at lifeboats.

More than 100 years after the sinking of the RMS Titanic, there remain unresolved mysteries in an event that still horrifies and fascinates. It was on April 15, 1912, that the ostensibly unsinkable ship struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic in its passage from the British Isles to the United States on its maiden voyage. The disaster claimed the lives of more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
 
Books and movies have tried to capture the horror of the shipwreck, which has not been without controversy. For example, in the 1997 Hollywood treatment of the wreck, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the drama depicted ships officers shooting desperate passengers seeking to board lifeboats, while poor immigrants in steerage were also prevented from leaving the ship. Hundreds of passengers died because there were not enough lifeboats and lifejackets on board, since the ship’s designers had reasoned that the ship was so watertight that they were superfluous.
 
A recent book, published in Spain, contradicts assertions made in subsequent investigations of the wreck. Authors Nacho Mosquera, Cristina Reyero, and  Javier Montero in Los Diez del Titanic (Ten of the Titanic) give the account of two Spanish women who survived the wreck after taking refuge in Lifeboat No. 12. The boat had managed to flee approximately a quarter mile from the sinking passenger ship. According to sisters Florentina Durán and Asunción Durán, an officer onboard the lifeboat prevented a survivor from boarding the boat by severing his hand with a hatchet. “One person came swimming to our boat and they cut off his hand with the blow of an ax, while others were shot to death,” said the sisters. Hundreds of other survivors drowned or froze to death in the icy waters near Newfoundland.
 
Published in 2012, Los Diez del Titanic recorded this story, which is at odds with testimony offered by passengers and crew in the months after the wreck. According to the book’s authors, “Questioned by the commissions of inquiry that began days later by the governments of England and the United States, the crewmembers of that boat, as well as the survivors among the ship’s crew, never admitted that aid had been denied or firearms utilized.”
 
The mystery goes on and on.


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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