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Old 01-18-2007, 06:28 PM
R. Dale Flick R. Dale Flick is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,573

Hi, Alan, Bill & Sam:
"Why do captains go down with their ships?" Several reasons both traditional and humurous. Since the most primitive of times when some guy went into business paddling a log across a river or lake, those who got on for the ride knew he was 'boss.' As time progressed ship masters and captains on sail and steam were the embodiment of the ship itself...its heart...its soul. His position away from land was next to God and in olden days was supreme authority over crew and passengers alike. He was 'wedded' to his vessel under the authority of the owning powers: commercial or national. He represented king and country and commercial. His skill and power meant he was fully responsible for the fate of the ship, crew, cargo and national banner. 'Errors' on his part resulting in sinking meant he bore the responsibility and rode it down.

Times changed, naturally, and in time of war or 'acts of God' on the seas etc., the captain either remained aboard until all under his command and authority were, hopefully, safely away. In later years [ANDREA DORIA/STOCKHOLM collision and sinking, 1956] the captain was aware that roge salvagers, if near port/land, could come out and lay claim to the wreck in case it didn't sink or did so in shallow waters once he and his officers and crew abandoned. There's also the aura of chivalry, honor, pride. Of late captains remain aboard as long as possible and then abandon when all is known to be lost. If the late Wilbur Dow were alive he could tell us all and more than we'd ever expect. Mr. Dow was on the legal staff during the admiralty hearings on the ANDREA DORIA/STOCKHOLM sinking representing the 'Swedish-American Line.' There were two opposing law firms and 60 lawyers representing 1,200 claimants in the case. Capt. Calamai of the DORIA wished to stay aboard but was persusaded to abandon by his offices along with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard before the end.

One of the things any captain then and now dreaded was a 'Committee of Passengers' approaching him with a written document of concerns and complaints. Usually a senior male passenger [Then] as a lawyer, goverment official, business tycoon or, at times, member of the European nobility etc. would and could lead the committee in approaching the captain. History books are full of it. Here in 1873 a passenger committee formed and confronted the master of the Str. JOHN KILGOUR Re: the presence of Cholera aboard the boat. This in documents at Cincinnati in May, 1873. Well, what do I know?

R. Dale Flick

R. Dale Flick
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