Thursday, May 12, 2011

Titanic's Unknown Child Identified by His Shoes

Titanic's Unknown Child

Some time ago, I watched the movie Titanic with my family (for the 10th time) as the kids are now "big enough" to understand the story. (Unfortunately, they no longer want to go on my much-anticipated Indian Ocean cruise). After this, my son asked his usual questions, which sent me Googling for answers and I came across an interesting article.

Many Titanic "enthusiasts" know that seven hundred of the 2200 passengers died in that tragic event, but not many know about the toddler whose body was found floating in the water a number of days after the tragic accident. The young boy was buried in a cemetery and on his tombstone, the words "Unknown Child" were inscribed as they did not know who he was.

About two years after the boy was identified, a  Canadian family donated a pair of shoes to the Maritime Museum, The shoes are reported to have belonged to the little tyke. The family claimed that their grandfather was responsible for looking after the dead bodies that were found after the sinking of the Titanic. The grandfather was a Sgt. Clarence Northover from the Halifax Police. Although he had been instructed to burn all the clothing that belonged to the dead people, he did not have the heart to destroy the tiny pair of leather shoes. It was only in 2002 that scientists were able to used up to date DNA  technology to put a name to this little boy. DNA testing revealed that he hailed from Finland and his name was  Eino Viljami Panula (13 months), based on dental records, but mitochondrial DNA molecule testing did not match that of the Panula family. It also did not match those of other victims.

The Sgt. wrote "Shoes of the only baby found on the Titanic" underneath the shoes and kept the shoes until he retired. While the records were consistent with that of city records, the shoes were found to have been too big for a boy of that age, which led to more mystery.

Furthermore, experts confirmed that the shoes were manufactured in Britain and not in Finland. The scientists then exhumed remains of the body  from 2001 and did further genetic testing.

After nearly 100 years, the results confirmed that the toddler was indeed not from Finland, but from the UK. He was 19 months old and his name was Sidney Leslie Goodwin. Visitors to the museum are moved by this story as they are able to see a pair of shoes that were worn by a little boy all those years back. While this story has a very human element to it, it does remind us that technology is indeed fallible.

However, a simple pair of shoes can tell us so much about a person and it can leave a footprint in time. This has made me wonder what my great-granddaugther would think one day, should she come across a pair of my old polkadot print booties. What footprints do you leave in time?

1 comment:

  1. How awesome to think about what my shoes would say to future generations... it could be scary as well...


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