The Captain always goes down with his ship - where did this originate?

Where did the myth that the captain should/must/always goes down with his ship come from?

It was clearly tradition, (and has also been incorporated into maritime law as that has developed) that the captain must remain on the ship long enough to ensure that passengers and crew have safely gotten off. In a case where the ship is sinking too swiftly to get everyone off, the captain is going to go down with it.

In addition, there is an element of shame in losing one’s ship (if the ship was lost through bad decisions or bad navigation rather than through Acts of God, sabotage, or poor design), where the captain might prefer an “honorable” suicide by remaining aboard rather than having to answer to the ship’s owners or a court of inquiry regarding his actions.

It is probably a bigger deal in fiction than in real life that a captain might choose to go down with a ship from which everyone has been successfully evacuated.

There have been some infamous cases, some recently, of the captain and crew jumping in the lifeboats and abandoning their ship, leaving the passengers to their fate.

A recent example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BFux2AAMso

Ditto what tomndebb said. I don’t know if “myth” is the right word. I suspect it is an exaggeration, stemming from the idea that the captain is responsible for all the crew and passengers, and so if he would be anything other than the last person off, it would constitute a criminal abdication of that responsibility. But to stay on the ship even when all others have gotten off, that’s stretching it too fat, I suspect.

IIRC, it is (or used to be) a tenet of maritime law that as long as an owner’s representative remained aboard, the vessel was not derelict and could not be seized by any passing sailor; and the captain (more properly, the master) being the senior representative, he drew the short straw. By the time the vessel was in extremis, it was frequently too late to get off anyway.

Did anyone read the comments below that video? The intelligence level is “slightly” below average. :rolleyes:

I believe I heard it came somewhere from WW2 with Japaneses captains

Obligatory nod to the story of Captain Carlsen and the Flying Enterprise.

Here’s a previous thread on this. I haven’t read it, but thought I remembered contributing to one. I may have even offered early instances of this. Maybe I’ll read it later.