(If you enjoy dog stories, you might enjoy my book – Newfies to the Rescue on Amazon.)
The great Titanic’s demise – April 14, 1912
Did you know the First Officer, William McMaster Murdoch of the Titanic, had his Newfoundland dog, Rigel, on board the Titanic?
One source for information: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/canine-corner/201203/the-heroic-dog-the-titanic
(Researched by Stanley Coren Ph.D., a Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia)
For more information on this story – a book, written by Christine Jamesson on Amazon. – The Legend of Rigel: Hero Dog of the Titanic (2025) Christine Jamesson
If you appreciate and love the Newfoundland dog as I do, you will know they are bred for water rescue (among other things – draft purposes, acting as nannies, search and rescue, etc.).
Because of their water rescue instincts, “Few ships in the 18th and 19th century set sail without a Newf on board. Their reputation for heroic water rescues was unparalleled.”
Since the Titanic was “unsinkable” and since First Officer Murdoch was intent on reaching their destination (New York) in record time, Rigel along with 12 other dogs, was housed in the lower level in the Titanic’s fashionable, safe and comfortable kennel.
In the dark of night on April 14, surrounded by a thick fog, the crew did not see the enormous iceberg until it was too late. The iceberg tore into the side of the ship, and the Titanic did the unthinkable… it began to sink.
The First Officer did not have time to release his beloved companion from the kennel. While trying to lower a lifeboat, a large wave washed Murdoch overboard, and he disappeared forever.
A brave unknown passenger took the time to release the dogs from their cages. The smaller dogs that found their masters who were able to board lifeboats were saved. The others did not survive. Except for Rigel.
Newfoundland dogs are well equipped to survive harsh conditions and icy ocean. Their feet are webbed, their tails are strong and thick and act as a rudder. Their double, water-resistant coat helps them swim and like the polar bear, keeps them from freezing.
Record has it, Rigel swam around looking for his master. Eventually, he swam alongside Lifeboat #4.
More than 2 hours after the Titanic slipped to the bottom of the ocean, the passenger ship, Carpathia, came to the rescue the survivors. Lifeboat #4 had drifted some distance from the other lifeboats. The fog was still low and the passengers too weak to call out for help. After sweeping the area with search lights and finding no more survivors, the Carpathia began to leave the area. The little Lifeboat #4 was directly in their path.
If it had not been for Rigel barking to announce their presence, Lifeboat #4 and all its passengers would have been crushed by the Carpathia. When the captain of the Carpathia heard barking, he ordered the ship to stop. Rigel swam in front of the lifeboat announcing their presence until a crew member spotted the lifeboat and rescued the passengers.
The following day, the New York Herald told the heartwarming story of Rigel’s heroic rescue. Rigel found a home with one of the crewmen and lived out his days in well-deserving comfort and peace.
Is this just a tale, or is it factual?
Perhaps you will have to decide that for yourself.
After my grandfather died, I found this book – Das Ende Der “Titanic” among his possessions that were designated for the thrift store.
I leafed through its fragile pages and discovered notes and markings throughout. Someone said, “Your grandpa was always fascinated by the Titanic.”
Since no one else found the book valuable, I claimed it for my own.
The book is a German translation of an English book written in 1912 by William H. Lee.
Sketches have English notations.
There were many other heroes on board the Titanic that day… but that’s a story for another time.
One woman, whose name my grandfather noted in the book, was one of those heroes.
In the meantime…
I took a few photos from grandpa’s, Das Ende Der “Titanic,” to share with you. Most of my grandfather’s notes were written in German.
Today, this book along with a few other treasured items that belonged to my grandparents, lies safe underneath the glass of my coffee table in our living room.