Roxanne Palmer –
“Women and children first !” may be a sentiment that was laudably practiced during the evacuation of the RMS Titanic, but that kind of selflessness is not the norm in most disasters at sea, according to a new study.
Swedish researchers examined 18 maritime disasters that occurred around the world over three centuries, from the grounding of the HMS Birkenhead in 1852 to the 2011 sinking of the Russian cruise ship MV Bulgaria.
They were looking for signs that men consistently give up their seats on lifeboats.
But as their paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows, chivalry turns out to be a rare virtue at sea.
Overall, male crew members have the highest survival rate during a maritime accident, followed by male passengers and ship captains.
Women had a survival rate that was only half that of men’s, on average, while children fared the worst.
The sex gap in survival rates has decreased since World War I, the authors noted.