#2. "Just Go! The Iceberg Will Save Them."
Remember that James Cameron movie called Titanic where that gigantic ship hits an iceberg and sinks? Wouldn't it be crazy if that happened for real? Well it did! That's right, in 1849, a ship named Hannah was bound for Quebec when she hit an iceberg. But the Hannah's story would make for one stupid-ass movie.
Although it'd make a pretty good origin story for a superhero with the power of global warming.
After Hannah's encounter with that iceberg, she was sinking fast, since boats back then were even less able to handle that sort of impact. And, because hanging several smaller boats on the side of a larger boat was a concept that was still a few unspeakable tragedies in the making, there was of course a severe lack of lifeboats. There was one dinghy, though, so at least a few of the passen ... ah, right, not that kind of story. No, instead of sticking around to make sure everyone on board was able to escape safely, the captain and most of the crew hopped into the ship's only means of escape and got gone.
And, unfortunately, unlike the situation with the Ann earlier, there was no other ship that just happened to be floating by at that moment to pick up the passengers. So who saved them? Why, the very enemy that sank them in the first place: the iceberg.
Fortunately, this was a gentleman iceberg.
With over 200 passengers on board and the ship sinking into the icy water, the Hannah was on its way to becoming a tragedy when someone had quite possibly the best idea in disaster survival history: They decided to use a gigantic iceberg for a life raft. Seriously, they just crawled over onto the ice. That quick thinking probably saved at least 150 lives. The passengers were able to sit tight until a boat finally did come along.
If you're waiting for the Hollywood feel-good twist ending, here it comes. In a fun bit of poetic justice, the passengers who sought refuge in the warm embrace of that iceberg were actually rescued before the captain and his chickenshit crew. Their dinghy wasn't brought into port until two days after the wreck. It was the exact same port where the other survivors had already been taken. So that twist ending we mentioned? It involves the captain getting a sound ass beating from hundreds of angry passengers.
Fun fact: With a bowsprit and enough lube, you can turn even the most cowardly captain into a dignified figurehead.
#1. "There's No Room for Passengers on This Lifeboat! We Still Have to Get My Luggage on Here."
In July of 1880, the steamship Jeddah was overcrowded with Muslims making the long pilgrimage to Mecca. And, unlike the two boats mentioned earlier, the Jeddah was a modern, steam-powered ship with four full-sized lifeboats. So that's good news! In case of an emergency, you could sure fit a lot of people into four lifeboats, right?
"No passengers allowed on the lifeboats. We don't want to lower the resale value."
So, on the third of August, the Jeddah ran into some weather bad enough to knock the ship's boilers loose, which is as big of a problem as it sounds. Besides the big iron cylinders freely rolling around with the tossing ship, it also meant a loss of power, which made steering and moving next to impossible. On top of all that, rough seas were causing water to wash in over the deck. Our science department confirms that this is a leading cause of boat sinkage.
Even with 900 pilgrims bailing water, things were looking bad. The captain had just enough time to prepare the lifeboats for launch. Unfortunately for the pilgrims and their plans to make it to Mecca in the physical sense, "ready for launch" meant that only the crew and their families would be allowed on, along with their guns, food and personal belongings. The next morning, the captain ordered the boats lowered, and the 900 people who didn't have seats on them proceeded to lose their shit.
"But it's a great deal! You guys get a badass steamship in exchange for a few spooty old lifeboats."
Only the captain's boat was able to get away; the pilgrims managed to keep two of the other boats from launching and caused the fourth to crash into the water.
Knowing he had a potential PR disaster brewing, the cowardly captain of the Jeddah concocted a story. He assumed that everyone on the boat was now safely dead on the ocean floor, and decided they'd tell whoever rescued them that the Jeddah sank and the pilgrims had become savage killers. And that's exactly the story they gave when they were rescued by the crew of the steamer Scindia a few days later. This meant they had a lot of explaining to do when they pulled into port on the 10th and saw the Jeddah being towed in by a ship called the Antenor.
"You think they're pissed?"
The crew tried sticking to their pilgrims-as-savages cover story, but the authorities of the time believed the pilgrims, saying of them:
"The Court consider that the action of the pilgrims tends to prove that they never intended to harm the master and his officers had they remained in the Jeddah, that their demeanour is accounted for by the evidence that they had made up their minds that they should not be deserted by the only persons capable of protecting and helping them in the circumstances in which they were placed ..."
Basically, that's 1800s legal speak for "that asshole captain deserved it."
For the exact opposite of these people, check out 5 Shockingly Powerful Kids Who Make You Look Like a Coward and 6 People Who Died In Order To Prove A (Retarded) Point.