1912: Two Orphans Who Survived The Titanic On Their Own, 1912

January 29, 2021

The Waifs Of The Deep

When the Titanic went down in the Atlantic ocean in the spring of 1912, two bright-eyed children were left stranded in New York City. Their father perished on the trip to the States, and their mother was nowhere to be seen. Lost in America without any family to speak of, the two boys became a kind of sensation, and the troubling reminder that innovation often comes with casualties.

source: library of congress

The story of the Titanic orphans, Michel Marcel Navratil, Jr. and his brother, Edmond, is darker than their survival of the sinking of the Titanic. Stolen from their mother by their father, the boys didn't know that they'd been kidnapped until later in their lives. The saga of the Titanic Orphans has it all, death, destruction, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Before Michel Marcel Navratil, Jr. (born in 1908) and his brother, Edmond (born in 1910) were two of the final survivors of the sinking of the Titanic they were just two brothers living with their mother in Nice, France. In 1912, the boys' father, Michel Navratil Sr. convinced his estranged wife to let him take the children for a long Easter holiday. He never planned on returning them.

Navratil Sr. took the boys and registered as second-class passengers on the Titanic under false names (Lolo and Mamon) and set out for a new start in America. Prior to the sinking the boys enjoyed their time on the ship. Michel Jr. later said:

I remember looking down the length of the hull – the ship looked splendid. My brother and I played on the forward deck and were thrilled to be there.

As the ship went down on April 12, Michel Sr. and an unknown man burst into their cabin to grab the two brothers and place them on lifeboats before perishing in the freezing waters. Michel later said that he remembered being lowered into the lifeboat, stating:

[Michel Sr.] handed us over to a pretty American. I remember the plop the lifeboat made as it hit the water. I went to sleep in the boat. Then when I woke up at dawn our lifeboat was moving away from the icebergs, and I didn't see them.

 Louis and Lump

source: library of congress

Michel and Edmond were the only two children to survive the sinking of the Titanic without a parent or guardian to help them along, and when they were rescued along with the rest of the survivors no one knew what to make of them. Neither of the children spoke English, and they didn't even know their own names so they were first dubbed "Louis and Lola" before the public settled on "Louis and Lump."

The story of these two lost French boys became a media sensation in the states, with one paper referring to them as the "waifs of the deep." The best that anyone could figure was that the children were from France, but that was it. The boys stayed in the home of another survivor, Margaret Hays, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, while authorities searched for their mother.