The modern question asked by ATC when an airliner is declaring an emergency is "how many souls are on board?" This is due to aircraft routinely carrying the bodies of the already dead for repatriation, or someone might have died en-route before the emergency.

I'm interested if we know anything about the already dead on the Titanic before the accident.

I believe the Titanic sailed Southampton -> Cherbourg -> Queenstown (nowadays Cobh, the port for Cork) -> bottom of the sea. I'm primarily interested in how many non-alive people were on board at the time of the sinking, but if you have any information about bodies that were loaded and then unloaded at earlier points that would make a great footnote in history.

The main question is that at the time of the sinking, how many dead people were already on board that;

  • Were intentionally loaded as already dead - repatriation of bodies
  • Died en-route before the collision

I have already done some searches, but all of the links seem to be discussing the numbers of people who died or survived as a result of the accident. I am well aware that the answer might be "we don't know".

Bonus Internet points if you can get the same stats, but for pets too.

  • 2
    This is apparently a cargo manifest so if any dead bodies were taken on board they would, I presume, be listed. titanic.fandom.com/wiki/Contents_of_Titanic%27s_Cargo_Manifest
    – davidlol
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 18:17
  • 1
    @davidlol I did a quick Ctrl+F there and searched for 'body', 'corpse', 'dead' and 'human' but found nothing. It's not looking good so far.
    – Skrrp
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 20:06
  • 7
    The phrasing of the ATC question is not mainly because of the possibility of dead bodies being on board. The same question is asked of planes that aren't going to be carrying dead bodies, like corporate jets, tourist pleasure flights, skydiving planes - all planes are asked the same question in the same way.. In fact the link from your question explains the reasoning behind the phrasing. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 21:08
  • @Evargalo Why do you say that?
    – davidlol
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


Nobody died before hitting the iceberg

How do we know? Every ship has to have a passenger list, a log, and a cargo manifest. Without those documents - and a lot more besides - a ship cannot leave or enter a port. It is always inspected, upon entry and before departure.

None of them mention people who died on board, or corpses in transit. If someone during the crossing died, for example due to a heart attack, this would be registered in the log. Probably by the officer on duty, countersigned by the captain or the captain himself. The Titanic had a doctor on board, Dr. William Francis Norman O'Loughlin, who would sign the death certificate. He died during the sinking.

These documents are very important, like your passport. They would have been taken into a lifeboat by one of the officers.

None of them mention anyone on board dying, or mention loaded caskets.

  • 2
    Did the log, as a matter of fact, survive the sinking? I didn't think it did, or at least that it was ever produced.
    – davidlol
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 8:12
  • 1
    @davidlol I couldn't find anything about it. What I read was not a regular log entry, more like a story. That's why I didn't link to the log. Of course the officers had something else on their minds, but these documents are first priority to be saved. That goes for any ship.
    – Jos
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 8:15

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