Tag Archives: Bruce M Caplan

Titanic Survivors – Michel Marcel Navratil: the last male survivor was but four when the RMS Titanic went down

With the names of the two young boys unknown to the rescuers or White Star Line, they were simply called "Louis and Lola" and their photo distributed in Europe.

With the names of the two young boys unknown to the rescuers or White Star Line, they were simply called “Louis and Lola” and their photo distributed in Europe.


Bruce Caplan's book, The Sinking of The Titanic has sold more than 150,000 copies.

Bruce Caplan’s book, The Sinking of The Titanic has sold more than 150,000 copies.


When the Titanic sank on the  morning of April 15, 1912, of the over 2,200 passengers, 705 managed to survive in the rickety lifeboats.  Two of the survivors were four year Michel Navratil and his two year old brother Edmond.

The young Titanic passengers did not realize it, but their father Michel Navratil Sr. was illegally transporting them to America to keep them away from their mother who was previously allowed full custody of the children in a pending divorce procedure. The Navratil’s were traveling under the surname of Hoffman.

As the Titanic was going down the children’s father Michel Naratil Sr. made sure that they were secured in a lifeboat.   The father went down with the ship and because of his false Jewish surname of Hoffman, when his body was found , he was buried in the Jewish Titanic Cemetery in Halifax.

The two Navatil children were soon reunited with their mother in France.  Michel Navatil, married in 1933 and eventually became a college philosophy professor.  He lived a long and happy life and in 1987 for the 75th anniversary of the Titanic Tragedy, he returned to America for the ceremonies.  He died on January, 30, 2001, the very last male Titanic survivor. He was 92 years old!

Louis and Lolo, orphans of the Titanic --- or so it was believed until their mother saw the photo.

Louis and Lolo, orphans of the Titanic — or so it was believed until their mother saw the photo.


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Believe It Or Not?

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By Bruce M. Caplan

When the Titanic sank on the morning of the 15h of April 1912, there were many amazing descriptions of how people survived.  One of the most incredible came from the chief baker Charles Joughin. He was born in 1878 and died in 1956.  According to his account, he had consumed a huge amount of alcohol after the ship collided with the berg.

When the Titanic finally sank he managed to swim over to an overturned lifeboat and hold a hand of one of the crew. He insisted that his entire body was in the below freezing water for over two hours, but the liquor consumption saved his life.

In the 1958 motion picture “A Night to Remember”, as the ship is sinking there’s several images of Joughin, in his cabin as he continues to drink to shelter himself from the trauma he’s experiencing.

Scientifically his story does not make sense!  Alcohol would actually expedite the freezing process rather than ameliorate it.  Most people today, believe that Charles Joughin was so inebriated that he truly believed that he had been in the 28 degree lethal ocean for over two hours.

Here’s the kicker—-“Believe it or Not”, he went on to marry a woman by the name of Nellie Ripley!

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After Titanic

The band played on ...when thoughts turned to the hereafter - The Richmond Times Dispatch

The band played on …when thoughts turned to the hereafter – The Richmond Times Dispatch

A Titanic minute by Bruce M. Caplan

The Titanic slammed an iceberg on the North Atlantic at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912.  Two hours and forty minutes later the great ship sank, carrying over 1500 souls to their demise.

One of the people to perish was a theatrical impresario by the name of Henry Birkhardt Harris.  At the time he died he represented many of the stars on Broadway. Everyone assumed that Harris was a millionaire.

His wife Irene (Rene) Harris survived the Titanic.  She soon discovered that her late spouse was dead broke!  He left her with no assets.

Rene, was not a person to sit around and mope, and she became an actors agent too.  One of her clients was a very young Barbara Stanwyck.  In 1953, Barbara Stanwyck had a leading role in the movie Titanic, along with Clifton Webb.

This movie was the catalyst for Walter Lord to write his great narrative “A Night to Remember” and also for the creation of the “Titanic Historical Society.”

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The Ironies of April 15th

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A promotional poster for Bruce Caplan's appearance in San Diego

A promotional poster for Bruce Caplan’s appearance in San Diego

The Ironies of the Titanic
Bruce M.  Caplan

 There’s an old saying that  there’s two things you can’t escape and that’s “death and taxes.”  On the terribly cold night of April  14th 1912, the Titanic newly crowned Empress of the Seas, met her  Waterloo.  At 11:40 in the evening the giant  vessel slammed into an iceberg and less than three hours later on the morning of  April 15th, she was at the bottom of the  sea.

 Prior to the collision the  mood of most on board was idyllic.   However, the many millionaires were probably cursing the fact that our  government was attempting to levy an annual income tax.  Word was that the tax would only apply  to the rich and regardless it would never be more than 2% of anyone’s annual  income.

 Less than a year after the  vanishing of the Titanic in February of 1913, the 16th Amendment to  the US Constitution was ratified and Federal Income Tax became  legal.

 Originally the annual date  to file was not in April, but eventually it became April 15—-the same date on  the calendar that the great ship sank. Isn’t it ironic that our government  picked the same date on the calendar that the Titanic sank, to make so many of  our wallets sink?

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Kyrila Scully shares stories of strength and survival from the Titanic disaster.

By Peter Hawkins, special correspondent

Sun Sentinel

If you’re passing the band shell at Old School Square in Delray Beach one Saturday afternoon in May, you might see a lady wearing an Edwardian long satin dress topped by a wide-brimmed hat set on a rakish angle, describing her miraculous escape from the Titanic.

It’s none other than Kyrila Scully of Boynton Beach, portraying the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, perhaps the most colorful survivor of the mighty liner that sank 90 years ago this month.

Scully is so steeped in the most famous maiden voyage since Noah launched his ark, that school children call her the “Titanic Mom.”  She will again impersonate Molly–or Margaret Brown as she was known in her lifetime–May 18 as part of Delray Beach  Preservations Week.

Scully, 47, takes her “Titanic Nights”** exhibition to schools, churches, condos and civic events, and writes and performs monologues about the survivors.  In addition to playing Molly Brown, she impersonates first-class stewardess Violet Jessop and second-class passenger Lutie Parrish in her best Kentucky accent:

“Thee, lawd!  Look at all the people here today!” she exclaims.  “Welcome aboard!  I’m Mrs. Samuel Parrish, but you can call me Lutie.”

“She’s in total character when she plays these people,” said Sandra LaHair, who runs an Edwardian and Victorian costume business with Scully called Grand Staircase.

Scully is self-publishing TITANIC: THE SURVIVORS–A MANIFEST OF THE LIFEBOATS this month.  The book places survivors in lifeboats and traces the stories of their escape from the doomed ship, which started to sink on April 14, 1912, and went down after midnight.

Also this month, Scully and LaHair are leading a party to mark the anniversary of the tragic voyage with special events at the Orlando museum, TITANIC–SHIP OF DREAMS.  The lease on the museum, which features a full-scale recreation of the ship’s grand staircase, ends in August, and Scully is campaigning to move it to Palm Beach County.  The museum hasn’t found a suitable location yet.

For LaHair, the sinking has a message for today.

“People lost their lives foolishly out of pride,” she said.  “It was touted as unsinkable, as if to fly in the face of God.  They thought God couldn’t sink her.  Well, he could.”

Scully sees the parallel with the events of Sept. 11.

“There are so many correlations with 9-11,” she said.  “It says a lot about the arrogance of technology.  It’s similar to the Challenger disaster, too.  In each case, ice warnings were ignored.  Ice brought down the Challenger and ice brought down the Titanic.”

Scully has been interested with the vessel for almost 40 years.  Her condo in Boynton Beach is like a shrine to the liner, with a life belt that was a prop for the film, TITANIC, scale models of the ship, and memorabilia that includes two tiny pieces of coal brought up from the seabed of the wreck.

In a curious way, the preoccupation was her lifesaver.  At the age of 8, she went through a traumatic experience she still can’t talk about.  Two things in 1964 helped her: One was the Beatles.  The other was a movie about the disaster, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER.  She got over the Beatles, but she’s still under the Titanic’s spell.

“It was inspirational,” she said.  “I thought, if they could survive that, I could survive what I was going through.”

Through the Titanic, she has helped students see their way through personal crises.  Scully answers students’ questions on a Titanic Web site.

“I’ve shown how the Titanic helped me to cope with problems I had growing up by showing them life lessons from the Titanic.”

**  (Kyrila’s note: The name TITANIC NIGHTS has been changed to TITANIC IMPACT PERFORMANCE EXHIBITS.  Also—not true—I didn’t “get over” the Beatles.  I’m still a big fan.)

Sun Sentinel Article

Photo by Staff Photographer Mark Randall

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Kids Ask the Best (and Most Humorous) Questions

Wade Sisson head shot

By Wade Sisson

I’ve spoken about the Titanic at a lot of schools since my book, Racing Through the Night, was published in 2011, and I soon learned that kids always ask the best – and most humorous – questions.

For that reason, it’s been my visits to schools that I’ve enjoyed the most. There’s something about the Titanic story that captures the imaginations of young people. You can see it in their eyes as you start talking about it. When you ask them if they know anything about the Titanic, they all raise their hands.

The questions are usually evenly split between Titanic, the ship and Titanic, the James Cameron movie. Were Jack and Rose real? Why didn’t the ship see the iceberg in time to miss it?

They’re always disappointed to learn that Jack and Rose were fictional characters – but they’re fascinated to learn about the real people who are part of the Titanic story. They always seem especially touched by the story of Millvina Dean, the last of the survivors, who died in 2009.

Most of the schools do an amazing job of preparing the kids in advance. By the time I arrive, they’ve already studied the ship, the passengers and have even dipped their hands in 28-degree water.

That doesn’t mean I don’t the occasional oddball question. Like the time one little fourth-grader asked me, “Did you bring up any gold?” I told him I’d actually never been to the wreck site – and I didn’t have any gold. He didn’t believe me and asked me again several times during the discussion. Then as I was leaving the classroom he stopped me. “Dude, seriously, where’s the gold?”

The children also try to tie the Titanic story in with other lessons they’ve had. During one school visit our discussion got hijacked by a few well-meaning third-graders. It started with one question: “Did the Titanic sink in the Bermuda Triangle?” I assured the class that the Titanic was nowhere near the Bermuda Triangle, but once the thing had been mentioned, it took on a life of its own. Another student said “Maybe the Titanic hit the iceberg because they couldn’t see inside the Bermuda Triangle.” I had to confess I was not a Bermuda Triangle expert and that seemed to satisfy them enough to stop their line of questioning.

There’s always at least one child who reminds me of myself at that age – completely drawn into the Titanic story and eager to learn as much as possible. But it’s all of the children – and their genuine interest in the history – that makes these school visits worthwhile.


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RMS Titanic – the technology

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The Titanic was the second in the Olympic Class for White Star Line and left port from Southampton on Wednesday, April 10th, 1912 for New York, stopping at Cherborg, France and Queenstown, Ireland.

The technology on the ship was state of the art and designed to move large numbers of people comfortably across the North Atlantic in a year when over 200,000 passengers were carried back and forth in ships.

Newspaper coverage of the Sinking of the Titanic

A grim teacher Richmond Times Dispatch April 23, 1912

History is a grim teacher. This editorial cartoon refers to the loss of over 1,000 lives in the fire in New York harbor of the Slocum tour boat, the Iroquois Theatre fire and the Titanic. Richmond Times Dispatch April 23, 1912

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A night to remember, new probe

Lowering of the boats The Sphere of London

This graphic was created in one week’s time for the Sunday edition of The Sphere of London as part of that newspaper’s reporting on the sinking of the Titanic.

Icebergs lesson The Sphere

Danger field of fog and ice middle view

Be sure to show your 21st century children this graphic. It is NOT a photo from space…it came from the mind of an artist, using maps and wireless reports, showing ice bergs and fog which lay in wait for ships crossing the Atlantic.

The Sphere amazing graphic showing positions of other ships

In 1912, without benefit of GPS or satellite imagery, an artist at desk in the newsroom of The Sphere of London conceived and drew up this diagram of the positions of ships at the time of the Titanic sinking. The only tool were the reports of those positions by wireless.

William Thomas Stead went down with the ship, Journalist and Editor

Famous English journalist W. T. Stead went down with the ship; today’s top news reporters would have been the first in the lifeboats.

London The Sphere page 49 photos

Photos and graphics of the Titanic which appeared in the Sphere of London

London The Sphere how wireless works page 1

How wireless worked on the Titanic. The Sphere of London

The Sphere lifeboat davits

Lifeboat davits on the Titanic. The Sphere of London

The Sphere of London The last phase of the sinking

The expeditions to the bottom of the ocean confirm that this artist’s conception of the final moments were wrong. Some witnesses related the correct breaking of the ship while this graphic shows the deadly plunge.

London The Sphere greatest wreck photos of people  Nova Scotia archives

Adrift in an open boat cartoon San Francisco

This editorial cartoon appeared in the San Francisco Examiner and cited greed on the part of the White Star Line in not having enough lifeboats. Actually, the line could easily have afforded the extra $16,000 for 32 more lifeboats but it was the arrogance of Bruce Ismay to not wanting to have his deck cluttered with boats that prevented the boats from being provided.

Bruce Ismay says his conscience is clear headline in News Leader

Politicians and top bananas of industry, labor and finance can be pretty arrogant today, but they were in 1912 as well as shown in this Richmond News Leader headline.

Christian Science Monitor says all are safe

This article appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and echoed wrong information which was also front page in the Washington Post and London Daily Mail.

Honour to the Brave The Sphere May 4 1912    London The Sphere how wireless works page 1
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