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Sinking of the Titanic – Burials and Memorials

May 14th, 2010

RMS Titanic Replica

The White Star Line commissioned the cable ship CS Mackay-Bennett from Halifax, Nova Scotia to fish the dead bodies of Titanic victims still afloat in the water. Three other ships helped the search, including Minia, Montmagny, and Algerine. Each ship contained embalming supplies, undertakers, and clergy members to assist in retrieval and handling of the dead. 333 victims were recovered, of which 328 were retrieved by Canadian ships, and the other five by North Atlantic steamships. Bodies of the deceased were given numbers, aside from the six buried at sea by Carpathia. In may, over 200 miles away from where the Titanic had sunk, the Oceanic discovered three bodies that were determined to be from Collapsible A lifeboat which became overcame with passengers attempting to board as the Titanic sunk. Three people died while on this lifeboat, and were left by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe when the other survivors aboard were rescued.

The mass amount of casualties in the water caused the CS Mackay-Bennett to run out of embalming supplies in very little time. Being that the health regulations only allowed for embalmed bodies to be brought back to port, Captain Larnder of the Mackay-Bennett and the undertakers made the decision to preserve only bodies of First Class passengers. This decision was reached in order to visually identify wealthy men in case financial disputes over large estates occurred. This resulted in the third class passengers and crew being buried at sea.

The recovered bodies were preserved and taken to Halifax, where coroner John Henry Barnstead developed a detailed system to identify bodies and protect any personal possessions found. The relatives from the deceases traveled from all across America to claim identified bodies, and a temporary morgue was established in a curling rink where undertakers were called from Eastern Canada to assist in. Some of the recovered bodies were shipped to be buried in their hometowns, while the unidentified were buried with designated numbers in order of which they were found. The majority of the bodies (150) were buried in three Halifax cemeteries, which were Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Mount Olivet, and Baron de Hirsch. Among the bodies recovered were floating wreckage from Titanic, that have since been preserved in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

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