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Titanic - Recovery of Baby Shoes

Titanic - Recovery of Baby Shoes (Illustration) Disasters Ethics

After the Carpathia rescued Titanic's survivors, the crew of a ship called the Mackay-Bennett recovered bodies at the wreck scene.

The body of one young child, about two years old, was the only baby remains found by crew members.  Buried at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, at Halifax (Nova Scotia), the young boy  - identified as "Body No. 4" - remained nameless for decades.

Searchers also found a pair of baby shoes - pictured above - which the young child was likely wearing before the sinking.  

When bodies and other items, such as clothing, were brought ashore - at Halifax - police officers guarded them.  Clarence Northover was one of those officers.

We learn more about these shoes from Northover's grandson (Earle Northover):

Clothing was burned to stop souvenir hunters but he [Clarence] was too emotional when he saw the little pair of brown, leather shoes about fourteen centimeters long, and didn't have the heart to burn them.  

When no relatives came to claim the shoes, he placed them in his desk drawer at the police station and there they remained for the next six years, until he retired in 1918.  (Excerpt of a letter dated 26 July 2002, from Earle Northover, accompanying the shoes which he donated to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic - part of the Nova Scotia Museum.)

The coroner described Body 4 as follows:

NO. 4. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 2. - HAIR, FAIR. CLOTHING - Grey coat with fur on collar and cuffs; brown serge frock; Brown Petticoat; flannel garment; pink woollen singlet; brown shoes and stockings.

Around ninety years later, the baby's remains were exhumed from the Halifax cemetery.  Forensic experts found some surprising items inside the coffin which had survived all those decades:

When researchers unearthed the child's grave, the stems of flowers that had been placed inside were still visible, as was a copper medallion the crew of theMackay-Bennett had put inside.

It was that copper medallion which helped to preserve enough of the baby's remains to identify him so many years later:

By doing so, the sailors who looked after the child in death may have preserved evidence for research they wouldn't have dreamed possible.  Mr. Ruffman [the forensic specialist] said the copper may have helped slow the degradation of the DNA.

"It changed the microchemistry around that piece of bone so that the acidic nature of the water wasn't able to act as quickly so we ended up with a small sliver of six grams of bone."

How did the sailors identify this child with no name?

Inscribed on the medallion - which investigators put back into the grave - were the words "Our babe."  (Quotations from Chad Lucas, reporter for The Chronicle Herald, in a 7 November 2002 story reporting an earlier - but incorrect - identification of the child.)

Who was the baby whose body had been so lovingly cared for by the sailors and the people of Halifax?  

He was 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin, part of the 8-member Goodwin family who all perished when Titanic sank.

 

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 10, 2014

Updated Last Revision: Apr 19, 2019


Media Credits

Image of baby shoes online via the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, part of the Nova Scotia Museum.  Image, copyright Nova Scotia Museum, all rights reserved.  Provided here as fair use for educational purposes.

 

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"Titanic - Recovery of Baby Shoes" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 10, 2014. Dec 15, 2019.
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