Did a dog swim from the Titanic to the Carpathia?

A follower of this blog has asked, “I heard about one Titanic survivor who said he saw one of the dogs swimming next to him as the ship was making its final plunge. Do you know if that’s true?”

I believe the story you are referring to is the one about Rigel, the large black Newfoundland dog owned by First Officer William Murdoch. According to the story, the dog was seen swimming in the water for several hours following the sinking, probably looking for his master. When the rescue ship, Carpathia, arrived, Lifeboat 4 was too close to Carpathia’s bow to be seen by its crew. Rigel swam ahead of the lifeboat and barked a warning until the crew was able to maneuver the ship and assist those in the lifeboat. He was then taken aboard, and when it was determined that Mr. Murdoch had perished with the Titanic, Rigel was adopted by Carpathia crewman Jonas Briggs.


The story has been disproved by several experts, who state there is no evidence Mr. Murdoch even owned a dog and no evidence of a Jonas Briggs aboard the Carpathia. No one in Lifeboat 4 ever reported the story, and neither did the Carpathia’s Captain Rostron. However, some argue the story could be factual. There are many accounts of Newfoundlands rescuing people in icy waters, and they are known for their ability to withstand the cold much longer than humans. And new evidence shows that Rigel was not adopted by Briggs, but by Carpathia’s Master at Arms, John Brown. Brown’s granddaughter is said to have reported his recollection of “the great black dog we rescued from the Titanic.”

Want to know more? You can read about Rigel and William Murdoch here. http://www.williammurdoch.net/articles_09_Murdochs_herioc_dog_Rigel.html

Do you think the story of Rigel is true?

4 Comments on “Did a dog swim from the Titanic to the Carpathia?

  1. I doubt the story is true, but who knows? It’s a great story even as fiction!

  2. the ‘Rigel the hero’ tale is a hotly debated story – and, just as an aside – I own the Mercantile Marine discharge book of John Brown (Master at Arms) on Carpathia – He was a ‘Cunard man’ throughout his sea-service – it may be of interest to some that his birthplace is given as Austria – and, contrary to some speculation, he did not retire without ever going to sea again after that particular voyage – he did sail again several times – and was infact aboard Franconia on her first run as a troop/hospital pick-up vessel in The Mediterranean Sea during WW1.

    • Hi Jim, thank you for writing! It’s interesting to hear about a Carpathia crewman other than Captain Rostron. I’m sure they all had some good stories to tell about their voyages and especially how they rescued Titanic survivors. You’ve given me an idea for a future blog post…maybe even a novel 🙂

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