The incredible and unknown story of the Chinese survivors of the Titanic
It wasn’t until more than a century later that we learned more about six survivors of the tragic shipwreck.
On April 10, 1912, the Titanic left Southampton, Great Britain, for New York, USA. The moment she set sail, the Titanic had a reputation for being the largest ship in the world and a guarantee that it was impossible to sink. The problem is that 5 days later, at dawn on April 15th, in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, the impossible happened. The ship’s collision with an iceberg resulted in one of the most tragic and noticeable accidents of the entire 20th century.
On its maiden voyage, the Titanic had 2,229 people on board, including passengers and crew members. The wreck killed about 1,500 people and only about 700 survived. Over the years his story has been told in countless reports, books and films, with the focus on the box office champion “Titanic”. But there were also people whose survival story was forgotten. It was the case of six Chinese people who, after escaping the horror, were the target of discrimination that had previously been forgotten.
There were eight Chinese passengers in total. These were their names: Ah Lam, Fang Lang, Len Lam, Cheong Foo, Chang Chip, Ling Hee, Lee Bing, and Lee Ling. The names all appear on the same ticket for third class, the poorest on the ship.
A Washington Post newspaper suggests the eight would likely know each other. They would all be sailors who walked together. Once in the US, they were supposed to take another ship to Cuba, where they would go to work. The iceberg has forever changed its fate. Of the eight Chinese passengers, only six left the Titanic alive.
This story was forgotten for almost a century before it caught the attention of Steven Schwankert, who in turn spoke about the story with longtime creative partner Arthur Jones. In 2014, the two began exploring the possibility of making a documentary on the subject. But when they started looking, they were always stranded in some piece of information. “It really bothered me. From the style: why we don’t know [o que se passou?]. They decided to move on to a project called “The Six”.
Five of the six surviving Chinese passengers fled aboard the same lifeboat Joseph Bruce Ismay, head of the White Star Line, the company that owned the Titanic and who has not escaped criticism for escaping the shipwreck with so many passengers back. The last of the survivors has an even more impressive story.
At the time of the shipwreck, hundreds of passengers remained afloat, clinging to debris in the icy water. Only one of the Titanic’s lifeboats came back hours after the shipwreck. This sixth Chinese clung to a board, ice cold.
For two years, Steven and Arthur collected material on the survivors. They even set up an online site where anyone in the world can share useful information about the whereabouts of the six survivors after the shipwreck. It took but they gathered information and support, and even included James Cameron among the producers (he who curiously directed a scene for “Titanic” in which an Asian passenger had to be rescued but was banned from the final edition of the film ).
It is known that after their rescue, they followed with other passengers on board the Carpathian Mountains. They arrived in New York three days after the sinking on April 18. However, they were refused on arrival. At the time, there was an anti-Chinese law in force that was not overlooked for humanitarian reasons. In fact, the survivors will all have been seen by health professionals. But not these passengers, all because of their nationality.
As they explored the story, the filmmakers realized how offended and even suspicious they were about how they had managed to escape in life rafts. “When we started discovering offspring of theirs, we found that this went way beyond the Titanic. What happened to them after the shipwreck redefined their lives so that a century later it still affects their descendants in some way, ”explains Arthur.
Discrimination is an issue of particular concern in a year in which records of crimes against people of Asian descent have been broken in the United States. But where the case got the most attention was in China itself.
Variety tells us that at a time when the documentary filmmakers were still looking for support for The Six, they prepared a short presentation clip about the project. When it was shared on Weibo, the Chinese-born social network, it received more than 22 million responses in 24 hours.
After years of work, “The Six” is finally finished. There is a version of about an hour that is broadcast on television in the US. In China there is a longer version of 97 minutes that will be released in cinemas on April 16 and will coincide with the 109 years of the shipwreck.
He was shipwrecked on the original voyage.