Tag Archives: Mackay-Bennett

Titanic Chronology: 17 April 1912:The Grim Task of Collecting Bodies

CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884) Artist Unknown Public Domain
CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884)
Artist Unknown
Public Domain

With confirmation that Titanic sank with great loss of life, the next task was to collect bodies floating in the Atlantic. The cable ship Mackay Bennett was the first ship hired by White Star (others would be employed as well)to retrieve bodies. The ship emptied itself of its normal stores in Halifax, Nova Scotia and brought aboard supplies for its new mission:

  • Embalming supplies and coffins (100)
  • Chief embalmer of John Snow & Co.,John R. Snow Jr.
  • 100 tons of ice to store the bodies
  • Canon Kenneth Hind of All Saints Cathedral, Halifax

Mackay Bennett left Halifax at 12:28 pm on 17 April 1912. Due to heavy fog and rough sears it would take four days to reach where Titanic sank. They began recovery at 0600 on 20 April. Bodies were manually recovered by skiffs and brought back to the ship. They recovered 51 bodies but realized they did not have enough embalming supplies on hand. Since the laws at the time required bodies to be embalmed before unloading from ships docking in a Canadian port, they followed a general procedure:

  • First class passengers were embalmed and placed in coffins
  • Second class passengers were embalmed but wrapped in canvas
  • Third class passengers were buried at sea

Bodies that were brought back were either transported by relatives to their final resting place or interred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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Titanic Chronology: 17 April 1912:The Grim Task of Collecting Bodies

CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884) Artist Unknown Public Domain
CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884)
Artist Unknown
Public Domain

With confirmation that Titanic sank with great loss of life, the next task was to collect bodies floating in the Atlantic. The cable ship Mackay Bennett was the first ship hired by White Star (others would be employed as well)to retrieve bodies. The ship emptied itself of its normal stores in Halifax, Nova Scotia and brought aboard supplies for its new mission:

  • Embalming supplies and coffins (100)
  • Chief embalmer of John Snow & Co.,John R. Snow Jr.
  • 100 tons of ice to store the bodies
  • Canon Kenneth Hind of All Saints Cathedral, Halifax

Mackay Bennett left Halifax at 12:28 pm on 17 April 1912. Due to heavy fog and rough sears it would take four days to reach where Titanic sank. They began recovery at 0600 on 20 April. Bodies were manually recovered by skiffs and brought back to the ship. They recovered 51 bodies but realized they did not have enough embalming supplies on hand. Since the laws at the time required bodies to be embalmed before unloading from ships docking in a Canadian port, they followed a general procedure:

  • First class passengers were embalmed and placed in coffins
  • Second class passengers were embalmed but wrapped in canvas
  • Third class passengers were buried at sea

Bodies that were brought back were either transported by relatives to their final resting place or interred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

MacHighway - Web Hosting for Mac Users, by Mac Users, Since 1997

Titanic Chronology: 17 April 1912:The Grim Task of Collecting Bodies

CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884) Artist Unknown Public Domain
CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884)
Artist Unknown
Public Domain

With confirmation that Titanic sank with great loss of life, the next task was to collect bodies floating in the Atlantic. The cable ship Mackay Bennett was the first ship hired by White Star (others would be employed as well)to retrieve bodies. The ship emptied itself of its normal stores in Halifax, Nova Scotia and brought aboard supplies for its new mission:

  • Embalming supplies and coffins (100)
  • Chief embalmer of John Snow & Co.,John R. Snow Jr.
  • 100 tons of ice to store the bodies
  • Canon Kenneth Hind of All Saints Cathedral, Halifax

Mackay Bennett left Halifax at 12:28 pm on 17 April 1912. Due to heavy fog and rough sears it would take four days to reach where Titanic sank. They began recovery at 0600 on 20 April. Bodies were manually recovered by skiffs and brought back to the ship. They recovered 51 bodies but realized they did not have enough embalming supplies on hand. Since the laws at the time required bodies to be embalmed before unloading from ships docking in a Canadian port, they followed a general procedure:

  • First class passengers were embalmed and placed in coffins
  • Second class passengers were embalmed but wrapped in canvas
  • Third class passengers were buried at sea

Bodies that were brought back were either transported by relatives to their final resting place or interred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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Picture of Titanic Dead on Mackay Bennett Up For Auction

(Photo Courtesy George Behe)
(Photo Courtesy George Behe)

Up till now, there were no photos of burials at sea done aboard Mackay Bennett when it recovered Titanic victims. Victims who could be identified were brought back for burial by relatives. Those that could not be identified or third class who could not afford a funeral were buried at sea. Now Henry Aldridge and Son, who seem to have a franchise on Titanic memorabilia and rare antiques, have a photo up for auction that shows a mass funeral taking place. The photo was taken by Westy Legate, fourth officer of the ship.

The photo shows body bags on the ship’s deck, two men appearing to tip a stretcher that carries a body into the sea, the ship’s priest Reverend Hind conducting a service, and members of the crew standing nearby.

Apparently another crew member’s family got possession of the photo and are now putting it up for auction. The pre-sale estimate is £5,000 ($8,000). Considering how rare this photo is, that figure seems low for a one-of-a-kind item. Then again it may sell for three times that amount at auction. Henry Aldridge is quoted in the Daily Mail saying:

“This picture blows away the myth that the burials were an orderly and dignified process. You can clearly see the bodies in brown sacks piled up on the deck, with some piled two or three high.”

What myth is he referring to here? Most of the accounts I have read (and admittedly I have not read them all) generally relay it was a mass burial. Now perhaps to console grieving relatives not all details were included (like stacking bodies on the decks) but that is hardly a myth. It is hardly surprising that they would need to stack bodies on the deck, considering the numbers involved. Since it was a burial at sea, this would be a necessity.

Source: Rare Picture Shows Priest Praying Over Titanic Victims Before They Are Buried At Sea(29 Sep 2013, Daily Mail)

Memorial Plaque For Titanic Recovery

Perhaps forgotten in the Titanic story are those that went out to recover Titanic’s dead.

Peter Parsons/Herald News
Peter Parsons/Herald News

Two cable ships out of Halifax–Mackay-Bennett and Minia–brought back most of the bodies. Four bodies were recovered in May 1912 by Montmagny, a government tender from Quebec. The last body was found by the cargo ship Algerine out of St. John’s Newfoundland. On Friday, a plaque remembering those from Halifax (called Halligonians) who went out to collect the bodies was unveiled at Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Retrieving the bodies was important and also haunting, reports The Chronicle Herald. Pat Teasdale’s grandfather Francis Dyke was second electrician on Minia and wrote to his mother about it. “I honestly hope I shall never have to come on another expedition like this. … The Dr. and I are sleeping in the middle of 14 coffins.”  Yet he was glad they could retrieve the bodies and not leave them in the water. 150 victims are buried in Halifax in Fairview Lawn, Baron de Hirsch, and Mount Olivet Cemeteries.

The plaque has no permanent home yet but for now you can view it at Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Source: Plaque Honours Titanic Recovery Efforts(26 April 2013, TheChronicleHerald.ca)

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