When the ship goes down

The New York Times covers a new study on the co-operative behaviour of passengers when two famous sea-faring passenger liners sunk: the Lusitania sank fast, leading to every-man-for-themself type escape behaviour, whereas the Titanic took almost three hours to sink, meaning women and children were given priority and rank and social class were respected.

It reminds me of a famous, if not somewhat disheartening, study [pdf] on the predictors of survival after air crashes that was covered by Mary Roach’s brilliant book on dead bodies, Stiff. From p87:

Here is the secret to surviving one of these crashes: Be male. In a 1970 Civil Aeromedical institute study of three crashes involving emergency evacuations, the most prominent factor influencing survival was gender (followed closely by proximity to exit). Adult males were by far the most likely to get out alive. Why? Presumably because they pushed everyone else out of the way.

Link to NYT piece on sinking study.
Link to summary of scientific study.
pdf of air crash report.

4 Comments

  1. Chris Smowton
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    What an unwarranted leap! Men more likely to survive air crashes… “presumably” because they shove everyone else out of the way? Why discard any possibility that any of the myriad genetic differences between men and women confer greater survivability in such situations and jump straight to the “asshole hypothesis” because… well, because she felt like it?

    • joe
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      and replying to her comment with an equally dumb response is only strengthening her point that men are better. However, it’s still important to point out that you are a moron who missed the essence of sarcasm.

  2. Joanna
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Dear Vaughan,
    I hope you will not mind my pointing out that the link to the 1970 Civil Aeromedical institute study of three crashes involving emergency evacuations is not correct. The study Mary Roach was thinking of is intitled “Survival in Emergency Escape from Passenger Aircraft” and was written by Clyde C. Snow, John J. Carroll and Mackie A. Allgood. It can be found at http://www.faa.gov/library/reports/medical/oamtechreports/1970s/media/AM70-16.pdf . The title of this study is not in the references of Mary Roach’s book, at least not in its 2004 paperback edition.

  3. Joanna
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Dear Chris Smowton,
    Unfortunately Mary Roach’s remark is not an “unwarranted leap”. Please read the study she alludes to (Clyde C. Snow, John J. Carroll and Mackie A. Allgood, “Survival in Emergency Escape from Passenger Aircraft”, October 1970), especially the pages 46-7. The authors prove that gender strongly influenced chances of survival in two plane crashes (Salt Lake City, 1965, and Rome, 1964). Let me quote them: “adult American females have an average body weight of about 142 pounds compared to a 168-pound average for males. Such a size disadvantage, along with its correlates in both absolute and relative strength, would be expected to operate strongly against females in evacuation in which active competition for exits occur.” (page 47). The authors also add that women are typically less experienced air travellers than men and “their clothing is probably more restrictive and more inflammable than that of males.”


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