Even before they set foot on the Titanic in 1912, Chinese sailors’ lives were shaped by historical events. Their employer reassigned them to a North American route because of labour strikes in Britain. It was planned that the Titanic would transport eight sailors in third-class from Southampton, England, to New York City on their new ship.
The eight men on board acted quickly when the liner hit an iceberg late on April 14. Seven people made it to lifeboats; three others were swept away into the frigid waters as the ship was swallowed up by the ocean, along with hundreds of others.
Lee Ling and Len Lam, two of the sailors, are believed to have perished in the water. When only one lifeboat returned to search for survivors, Fang Lang, the third survivor, grabbed onto debris and waited for help. He was one of the last to be rescued.
Fong Wing Sun, alias Fang Lang, a survivor of the Titanic disaster who clung to wreckage in the icy waters, was captured on camera in Chicago in the 1920s.
Photograph provided courtesy of the FongsIt was Fang’s rescue that provided inspiration for the film’s ending, which was itself depicted in a deleted scene. As an executive producer of the film “The Six,” Mr. Cameron is featured in an interview. Chinese survivors were portrayed in a negative light for decades by ship’s owner and news media, which may have been one of the reasons their story remained unknown, even to their descendants.
J. Bruce Ismay, the Titanic’s owner, was among the four men who made it to a crowded, but not completely full, lifeboat as the ship sank. Mr. Ismay described the Chinese men as stowaways to investigators after the disaster. According to reports, they disguised themselves as women in order to increase their chances of being found faster.
It turns out we didn’t find any direct evidence of them doing things they were accused of and there was a much better explanation,” said Arthur Jones, the Shanghai-based director of the film, although they planned to report whatever they discovered.