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Going Down with the Ship
aka: Go Down With The Ship

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Duty, honor and dignity, even to the end.

Peter Pan: You know the rules, Hook — a good captain always goes down with his ship!

When a ship is sinking, The Captain must be the last one to leave.

Other crew members typically bear the same obligation, usually so they can oversee and direct the evacuation. Similar sacrifice was traditionally expected of men, who should allow women and children to escape first (in comedies, expect a Dirty Coward to dress in drag in order to save his own skin). When Played for Drama, the captain stoically awaits his fate. When Played for Laughs, the captain is anything but noble and does whatever he can to escape, even appointing someone else captain before making a run for it.

The origin of this practice is maritime salvage law — if a ship is abandoned by all the crew but doesn't sink, anyone who comes on board can claim the ship and its contents as salvage, so a senior officer has to remain on board until it becomes clear that the ship really is going down, to prevent the embarrassment of losing the ship to scavengers. (Note that the captain is clear to leave once everyone else is safely out and the ship is plainly doomed.) There are also other practical reasons, such as if rescue comes, the Captain is the first person the rescuers would contact to coordinate rescue efforts, and that would be incredibly difficult if the captain is no longer on the ship.

In modern cases, captains go down with the ship because they will face major disgrace if they don't, especially if the ship is only sinking because of their screw-up, or if there are passengers or junior crew still on board. This tradition has been transferred to aviation, since The Sky Is an Ocean. In the event of a crash, the commanding pilot is expected to make sure everyone else escapes first and has final responsibility on the well-being of the people and if possible the equipment.

Because also Space Is an Ocean, this also applies to starship captains, even though there's no (literal) "down" for them to go...unless they happen to be near a planet that they can crash on.

Compare In Its Hour of Need and Stand Your Ground. No relation to Die for Our Ship, Ship Sinking, or just Shipping in general.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Comic Books 
  • It's only briefly discussed in one flashback scene, but this was the fate of Bamse's grandfather. His ship sank, and as a captain he saw it as his duty to see everyone else to safety before he himself left the ship. It's implied that he was the only one who didn't make it off the ship in the end.
  • This trope was occasionally used in Jonah (a comic strip in The Beano about a man who managed to sink every ship he went on).
  • Played for Laughs in one of the Commando War Stories. A coxswain in WW2 is warned that if he puts a scratch on the landing boat he's steering for shore, the Navy will take it out of his pay. The coxswain quips that now he knows why the captain always goes down with his ship. "I'd hate to fork out for a battleship!"
  • The French-Belgian comic Les Tuniques Bleues has an album containing two subversions to this:
    • First, when a boat Chesterfield and Blutch are sailors on gets sunk, they are outraced by the captain swimming to the safety of a lifeboat.
    • When a later ship gets sunk, the captain stayed on board till the end, and the sailors all salute their captain's bravery... Only for the following shot showing the captain sitting at the bottom of the sea, sighing: "I couldn't tell them I can't swim!"
  • In one issue of Sonic X, "Captain Eggman" promotes his cannon to captain and tells it to go down with the ship after Sonic damages it.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side: In one strip, a lone man remains on a sinking ship while the rest of the crew (including a man who is obviously the Captain) rows away. He wonders to himself if "The cook always goes down with the ship" really is a maritime tradition, or the others just lied to him.

    Films — Animation 
  • Implied, offscreen example in the Doraemon film, Doraemon: Nobita and the Castle of the Undersea Devil. The gang explores a shipwreck at the bottom of the Devil's Triangle, and finds what's left of the Skeleton Crew - the uniformed captain sitting at his quarters as a pile of bones, with nary a second skeleton in sight.
  • In Peter Pan: Return to NeverLand, when a giant octopus is about to sink Captain Hook's ship, he begs Peter Pan to save him from drowning, to which Peter Pan mockingly answers: "You know the rules, Hook! A good captain always goes down with his ship!". Captain Hook's reply? "I DON'T WANNA BE A GOOD CAPTAIN!".
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie: Robert remains on his ship when it's sinking and his henchmen have all bailed out. However, he doesn't stay on it long after it's sunk.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Assault on a Queen, the treasure hunters find the body of the U-boat captain still at the periscope. Eric explains that he would have ordered the crew off and then submerged the sub and blown the ballast tanks to keep it out of enemy hands.
  • In 1959's Ben-Hur, the galley captain tells titular captive Judah Ben-Hur that he won't escape as long as the Roman legion who controls the ship is able to but in case they lose control to outside forces, Ben-Hur, not his Roman captors, will sink with the rest of the slaves, chained to their assigned oars.
  • The Black Hole. Invoked by Captain Reinhardt to explain why he's the only person left on the Cygnus, which is manned by a crew of robots, the human crew having supposedly abandoned the spaceship but never made it back to Earth. It doesn't take long for the protagonists to find this story doesn't hold water.
  • Symbolically in Das Boot. Right as the U-boat returns to base, the British launch an air raid. Lt. Werner finds the Captain watching the boat sink at the dock. After it slips beneath the waves, the Captain collapses.
  • Used as part of the ruse in The Hunt for Red October: Ramius fakes a reactor meltdown to get the men off his ship, telling them that he will scuttle the ship before the Americans can get it. Ironically, this is the complete opposite of his actual intentions.
  • Used in Kind Hearts and Coronets: "...all hands were saved, save one. Admiral Lord Horatio D'Ascoyne, obstinate to the last, insisted on going down with his ship."
  • In another Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers (1955), Mrs. Wilberforce relates that this is how her late husband died.
  • The Legend of 1900: The protagonist chooses to not leave the ship, which was scheduled to be scuttled and sunk far offshore.
  • Midway (2019): After the Hiryū is severely damaged in the titular battle, her Captain, Tomeo Kaku as well as Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi elect to stay aboard the crippled aircraft carrier as the surviving Japanese Navy ships scuttle her. As it happened in real life.
  • Morning Departure: As captain of the Trojan, Armstrong volunteers to be one of the four who remain on the sunken sub and wait for the rescue team.
  • The Naval Commandos sees the crew of the ill-fated Taiwanese cruiser, Ning-hai, being obliterated by a powerful Japanese aircraft carrier called the Izumo, and when the Ning hai begins sinking, her captain (played by Ti Lung in a Death by Cameo moment) tells all the sailors to bail while remaining behind as the ship blows apart.
  • In A Night to Remember, Captain Smith himself is last seen walking onto the bridge (presumably deciding to go down with the ship). Also shown are the band which played as the ship sank and a few passengers who intentionally stay aboard for one reason or another. There's even a sub-plot about a young married couple who initially want to stay behind just so they can remain together, but are talked out of it by Thomas Andrews, the architect who ironically went down with the ship himself.
  • A tragic version of this happens in a flashback scene in Pandorum, describing the greatest disaster in space (before Earth itself is destroyed) due to the titular syndrome. A spaceship captain goes insane and ejects all 5000 sleeping pods into space. Presumably, they all suffocated before he died, the last person aboard.
  • In The Perfect Storm, this happens with Captain Billy Tyne, when the Andrea Gail is capsized by a giant wave the crew had tried to drive over. Most of the crew are trapped in the lower deck, and have no choice but to go down with the ship. Tyne and Bobby are able to escape, but only Bobby gets out but drowns sometime later, while Tyne remains behind and goes down. Of course, seeing as there were no survivors among the crew of the real-life Andrea Gail, this is all conjecture.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    Palifico: The captain goes down with his ship.
  • Averted in Italian-Soviet film The Red Tent (1969). Umberto Nobile is the first to be evacuated from the survivors of an airship crash at the North Pole. The film deals with his guilt over this act, as he faces an imaginary court of colleagues involved in the disaster.
  • Played with in Spaceballs. When Dark Helmet, Colonel Sandurz and President Skroob are standing in front of the last escape pod, President Skroob says: "Well boys, it's a very lovely ship. I think you should go down with it." This doesn't pan out, as the bear from the onboard zoo steals the pod.
  • Star Trek films:
    • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, when the Bird-of-Prey crashes in San Francisco Bay, Kirk is the last one to leave after opening the cargo bay to release the whales.
    • In Star Trek: Generations, Picard and Riker are the last ones to leave the wreck of the Enterprise-D.
    • In Star Trek: First Contact, even after Picard reluctantly agrees to set the self-destruct sequence on the Enterprise-E in order to destroy the Borg, he remains behind due to the fact that Data is still in the Borg's clutches.
    • In Star Trek (2009), newly-promoted Captain George Kirk goes down with the USS Kelvin — he sets the ship on a collision course with the attacking Romulan ship (to prevent it from attacking any of the escape pods), but the ship's autopilot is damaged. So he manually pilots the Kelvin and uses his last words to tell his wife he loves her.
    • Star Trek Into Darkness:
      • Invoked Trope by Harrison; he keeps his promise to return a captive Kirk, but only because he plans to destroy the Enterprise as well, saying mockingly, "No ship should go down without her captain."
      • Acting Captain Spock intends to do this as the Enterprise is crashing, in order to buy time for everyone else to escape, but Sulu and the rest of the bridge crew won't abandon him.
    • In Star Trek Beyond, Captain Kirk is the last person to eject from the ship, using an Escape Pod launched from the bridge itself, presumably with this trope in mind as they are called Kelvin pods.
  • Star Wars:
    • Very much defied by General Grievous in Revenge of the Sith. Not only does he abandon the rapidly-disintegrating Invisible Hand, he also launches every Escape Pod in the process, making damn sure that he's the only one who escapes.
    • During the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia stays inside Echo Base, while it is already being invaded by Imperial troops and after plenty of Rebel troops have been evacuated. This causes her to be too late to evacuate on a Rebel transport ship and Han Solo takes her onboard the Millennium Falcon instead.
    • In The Last Jedi, Vice Admiral Holdo evacuates the Resistance flagship Raddus before personally hyper-jumping it through Snoke's flagship, destroying both ships and shredding the rest of the First Order armada with lightspeed shrapnel.
  • In the 1955 war movie The Sea Chase, John Wayne plays Captain Ehrlich, a German merchant captain who's trying to get back to Germany past Royal Navy patrols. They eventually catch up with him and he orders his crew to Abandon Ship, but stays on board because he intends to try ramming the British warship. In a variation on the trope, Captain Ehrlich also orders the Token Nazi Officer to stay on board with him to operate the ship's engines, but he's a Dirty Coward and tries pulling a gun on Ehrlich only to get knocked unconscious. Then it turns out Ehrlich's Love Interest has stayed on board as well, so he tries to lower the colors and surrender but is wounded by an exploding shell. She's last seen trying to get him to a lifeboat, but the movie leaves it ambiguous as to whether anyone survived.
  • Titanic is full of this. Apart from the captain himself, there's the band who remain on deck (which actually happened in Real Life) and anyone who took the orders of "women and children first out" to heart.
  • Under Ten Flags: Captain Windsor refuses to abandon the ship he's captained for thirty years, but the German Boarding Party just tell him he's got five minutes to collect his things and get dressed. We then see him grim faced on the German raider with the other prisoners as demolition charges send his ship to the bottom. Ironically he ends up going down with the raider when it's sunk at the end of the movie, but he urges the German captain to save himself, having come to respect him.
  • Underwater. Norah wants to know why Captain Lucien didn't evacuate the Underwater Base with the others as he has a child. He responds curtly, "Because that's what captain's do." She later discovers that Lucien's daughter died years ago, but there's no doubting his dedication to getting everyone else to safety before himself.
  • In Yamato, during the ill fated Operation Ten-Go, the Yamato is mortally damaged by American air attack. Both of the senior officers in charge, Vice-Admiral Seiichi Itō and Captain Kōsaku Aruga decide to stay on the bridge after giving the order to abandon ship, and they would both ultimately perish just like in real life. The film though, implies that Vice-Admiral Itō commits suicide before the ship sinks.

  • "Ladies and gentlemen, if you'll look out the right side of the aircraft you'll notice that the engine has caught fire. If you look out the left, you'll see my parachute, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your flight."
  • When I lost my rifle, the army charged me $15. That's why in the navy, the captain goes down with the ship.

  • A lighthearted subversion happens in The Adventures Of Captain Wrongel, when Captain Wrongel rescues a Norwegian ship. The Norwegian captain is ready to go down with the ship or be the last to leave, but the rescue occurs a) during a storm at night, meaning in pitch-black darkness, b) from above (It Makes Sense in Context), so Wrongel's first mate, as he pulls the sailors off the deck, accidentally grabs the captain first. The captain isn't happy and Vrungel also feels awkward, but since the entire crew ultimately gets saved, nobody bothers with the matter for long.
  • Captain Magnanimous and his crew in Alex and the Ironic Gentleman. They get better.
  • All Hands! has Captain Harcourt ramming his dying ship into his opponent. He gets bonus points for being at the helm.
  • A variation happens in Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark: Fighters of Danwait, when the novel's protagonist finds himself in a no-win situation with a much more powerful enemy ship. He orders the ship's semi-sentient computer to eject the two other crewmembers (who are sealed in personal pods) and sets a collision course for the enemy's Antimatter gun. The ship decides to alter the plan slightly by ejecting the captain as well a few seconds before the collision. The collision results in the loss of containment for the Antimatter and the destruction of both ships. The protagonist wakes up a week later having barely survived the blast.
  • Played very straight by Captain Jack Aubrey of the Aubrey-Maturin saga. In the book "Desolation Island", the HMS Leopard springs a very large leak and is in danger of sinking. Captain Aubrey lets the men bring out the boats and gives his First Lieutenant dispatches for the authorities, while he himself prepares to go down with the ship. The situation eventually improves, thankfully.
  • Invoked by Thorn in the Brotherband book The Hunters. After stopping Zavac from knifing Hal, he uses his false arm to trap the pirate in the cabin of his sinking ship.
  • Joseph Conrad's uber-depressing short story The End of the Tether was about a Captain who went down with his ship, but that was entirely for the life insurance.
  • John M. Ford added this trope to the Klingon mindset in The Final Reflection. The captain of a Klingon warship is free to send his crew to safety before the ship goes kablooey, but is expected to remain behind himself. (The saying "Kahless' Hand" refers to the first Klingon emperor, who tied his hand to his command chair so no one could say he'd ducked out.)
  • Foundation Series: Harry Turtledove's "Trantor Falls": With Trantor nearly conquered, Emperor Dagobert VIII extends an invitation to Dr Yokim Sarns to take him along as they evacuate the planet. Dr Sarns politely refuses, saying that his duty is to stay with the University because he is the Dean of the school.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium: Emperors of Illusions, Admiral Lemak's destroyer is hijacked while in hyperspace, and the hijacker forces the bridge crew to prepare to exit hyperspace without first decelerating. This would result in the ship entering real space at relativistic speed, and Time Dilation would ensure that, in the time it takes the ship to slow down, a century may pass in the outside universe. The Admiral gives in and releases the prisoners, as the hijacker demands. However, attempts to retake the bridge result in the deceleration being held off long enough to ensure the unfortunate outcome. In the minute before dropping out of hyperspace, Lemak announces to the crew what is happening and urges anyone who has aTan to kill themselves immediately (they will be resurrected on the nearest colony). Despite himself having aTan, Lemak chooses to stay with the ship and those members of the crew who don't have it, although he cries as the ship is passing into the unknown future.
  • In The Lost Fleet this was believed to have been the fate of John Geary. He ordered his crew to the Escape Pods while he stayed on the bridge to run the ship and cover their escape. However once they were safely clear he did evacuate in an escape pod, but since the pod in question was damaged he had to go into survival sleep and wasn't rescued until nearly a century later.
    • Captain Falco seems to do this in spirit if not in fact since he's not actually the captain but thinks he is. After his mutiny resulted in several ships being destroyed he has a breakdown and loses contact with reality. Later the ship that he's being held prisoner on is destroyed and while he doesn't survive several of the crew who do report that he was issuing orders and helping to organize the evacuation before the ship exploded.
  • Invoked in Robert Westall's The Machine Gunners with Nicky Nichol's dad, who went down with his ship when it was torpedoed.
  • Averted in Moby-Dick. When Moby-Dick sinks the Pequod, Ahab curses it for denying him this honor.
  • ''Sky Masters': The Chinese Admiral fails to invade Mindanao, and his ship gets struck by the Americans' satellite. With his ship sinking he decides to sink with the ship and shoot himself because even if he lives, he'll get court-martialed, scapegoated for everything and executed by his superiors.
  • The poem "Soldier an' Sailor Too" written by Rudyard Kipling.
    To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
    Is nothing so bad when you've cover to 'and, an' leave an' likin' to shout;
    But to stand an' be still to the Birken'ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
    An' they done it, the Jollies — 'Er Majesty's Jollies — soldier an' sailor too!
    Their work was done when it 'adn't begun; they was younger nor me an' you;
    Their choice it was plain between drownin' in 'eaps an' bein' mopped by the screw,
    So they stood an' was still to the Birken'ead drill, soldier an' sailor too
  • Star Wars: Lost Stars: Ciena tries to do this after the Rebels board her Star Destroyer and have sabotaged it's self-destruct mechanism in hopes of taking the vessel. She's required to prevent this, and knows that doing so while surviving would never be justified in the Empire's eyes (i.e. she'd be shot). Flying it into Jakku below will accomplish this, plus be a means of suicide, as she's in despair over serving a government she knows is evil but feels duty-bound not to betray. Thane prevents her from doing so.
  • In the Temeraire series, dragons and their captains tend to die together. In part this is because they are usually falling from a great height with no kind of rescue equipment (such as a parachute) and so the whole crew dies unless another dragon is close enough to help, but given the powerful emotional bond between dragon and captain, many of them wouldn't save themselves even if they were able.
    • In one case the dragon takes a face full of acid and is dying painfully. The majority of the crew are able to jump accross to other dragons (friendly and enemy) but the captain instead crawls out on the dragons neck to give them a Mercy Kill
  • H. P. Lovecraft's short story The Temple, a Sub Story set during World War I is essentially one big story about this. Once it becomes clear the odds of surviving are next to non-existent without surrendering, the Captain decides that not only he, but the entire crew should go down with the submarine. He is, however, the only one who lives long enough to see the submarine hit the bottom, and the story ends with him donning a suit and wandering toward a sunken temple where he will presumably die of suffocation.
  • In Golding's To The Ends Of The Earth trilogy, it happens to newly-made Commander Summers when the old ship catches fire and sinks. In the book he apparently has no time to flee, in the TV mini-series he could but he doesn't.
  • Averted by Admiral Trigit in Wraith Squadron. His fleeing his damaged but still combat-capable Star Destroyer prompts the beginnings of Gara Petothel's Heel–Face Turn. She blows the whistle on him to Wraith Squadron, and Myn Donos shoots him down.
    • Subverted in The Bacta War when Captain Joak Drysso of the Lusankya proclaims he is willing to go down with the ship to prevent its capture by New Republic, even going so far as to ram the ship into the planet Thyferra. However, while Drysso is willing to go down with the ship, his crew most certainly are not, resulting in him being shot in a mutiny.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alta Mar: No matter the disaster, no matter the number of times he's had his authority stripped and returned, Captain Santiago will not abandon ship. By the end of Season 3, every character who had captained the Barbara Braganza went down with the ship.
  • Babylon 5:
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Lee Adama, Commander of the Pegasus, is the last to leave the ship (and says the customary good-bye) before it takes off on a collision course with the Cylon Baseships. Also in Season 4, Adama is the last to leave the Galactica, except for Sam who is now more part of the ship than part of the crew.
  • In the final episode of Blake's 7, "Blake", Scorpio is shot down by gunships while Running the Blockade and is Coming in Hot. The crew teleport out but Tarrant stays on the controls because if he releases them, Scorpio will flip over and break up before they can reach the teleport pad. When Avon hesitates (ever since his arrival on the series, Tarrant and Avon are involved in a running dispute over who should be The Captain), Tarrant points out that he's the only one with the skill to pilot the crashing spaceship, as it's already passed beyond the Master Computer's ability to do so. Tarrant survives the crash, only to get killed along with everyone else in the climatic final scene.
  • Discussed in Come Back Mrs. Noah when the crew of Britannia Seven find the rescue shuttle doesn't have room for everyone, so start squabbling over who's going to be left behind.
    Fanshaw: What's more, you are the captain of the space station!
    Carstairs: What's that got to do with it?
    Fanshaw: By tradition the captain goes down with the ship.
    Cunliffe: In your case you can stay up with it.
    • When the Britannia Seven is about to accidentally launch into space, the crew tries to evacuate using the emergency suction tube; but because Mrs. Noah is sent first she just gets stuck in the tube preventing everyone else from leaving.
  • Doctor Who:
    • This almost happens to Captain Jack Harkness at the end of "The Doctor Dances". He uses his ship to capture a German bomb about to kill the Doctor and Rose. Unfortunately, the bomb has already started the explosion sequence, and the only thing keeping it from exploding is a stasis field. However, the bomb is exploding slowly. Already in space, Jack orders the ship to jettison the bomb, only to receive the reply that this will cause the bomb to explode while inside the ship. Realizing it's over, he asks the ship to mix him a martini ("Ooh, too much vermouth! See if I ever come here again!) and prepares to die in just the same way he does everything else — with buckets of style. Then the Doctor shows up in the TARDIS to ruin the moment by saving the Lovable Rogue.
    • This happens with the captain of the space cruiser liner Titanic in "Voyage of the Damned". However, in this case, the captain is the one who causes its collision with meteors, having been paid to do so to care for his family. He stays on the bridge and dies during the impact. However, the Doctor manages to save the ship (but not the girl).
    • In "The Night of the Doctor", Cass has stayed behind to operate the teleport and get her crew off. The Doctor shows up to save her, but when she realises he is a Time Lord she elects to stay on her ship until it crashes rather than go with him. The Doctor also elects to go down with the ship rather than abandon her.
  • Farscape
    • Near the end of Season 3, Crichton plots to destroy Scorpius's Command Carrier in order to stop the Wormhole Weapons project. The plan is successful, executed in such a manner that the ship collapses in on itself, thus allowing the majority of the crew to escape. Crichton then encounters Scorpius in the hangar, where Scorpius laments the destruction of his life's work, and his fears of the pending conflict with the Scarrans. When Crichton tells him that if he's going to leave now would be the time, Scorpius's remarks invoke this trope. Of course he survives, but it's the one time in the entire series we see Scorpius well and truly defeated.
    • Averted in "Nerve"; when a Peacekeeper base has a reactor meltdown, its commander is the first to head for a Prowler to escape.
      Chiana: But I thought the Commander was meant to be the last one to evacuate.
      Commander Javio: It's funny; I believe just the opposite.
    • He's not the only one; Captain Durka kills a junior officer and takes his uniform in an attempt to escape the destruction of the Zelbinion.
  • In Firefly when Serenity is crippled Mal sends the rest of the crew off in the shuttles and stays on board. He claims this is because someone might hear their distress signal, but Inara at least assumes that he's doing this. In the end the crew, who had little better chances of survival in the shuttles in any case, come back to join him.
  • Gilligan's Island:
    • The second episode has the castaways gathered in an extra-strong hut to weather a storm. When it begins to look like it might collapse around them, Skipper orders Gilligan to lead the others to safety while he goes down with the hut.
    • In another episode, the castaways find a life raft and, after repairing it, intend to use it to sail off the island and back to civilization, only for it to sink due to everyone but Gilligan bringing along a bag of gold. As the raft sinks, Gilligan asks Skipper if he intends to go down with it:
      Skipper: I hope not, but if I go, you'll go with me!
  • In the series finale of Last Resort, Captain Marcus Chaplin stays on the bridge of his crippled submarine to make sure that no further surprises occur before the F-18's destroy the Colorado.
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "World War 1" has a ship captain announcing "women and children first!", then we see that the captain and crew are all dressed as women and children... and other costumes, which forces the captain to change the announcement to "women, children, Red Indians, spacemen, and a sort of idealized version of complete Renaissance Men first!"
  • In The Muppet Show, Statler mentions that he was on the Titanic, to which Waldorf remarks that he still has the dress he(Statler) wore to get off.
  • In the three-part finale of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Terra Ventura is attacked by Trakeena's forces, forcing the crew and the residents to evacuate in the shuttles towards the nearby planet they had reached. Commander Stanton does his duty and stays on the bridge, watching the stars go by. Thankfully, he gets to evacuate in time after everyone else and survives.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • In Stargate SG-1, Col. Lionel Pendergast, captain of Earth's first starship Prometheus, stayed at the helm as the ship was blowing up around him in "Ethon" to beam his surviving crew to safety.
    • In Stargate SG-1, a looming asteroid that has naquadah in it, meaning it was not naturally there as there is none of that element naturally in the Sol system is bearing down on Earth. General Hammond sends the entire SGC staff through the Stargate to the Alpha Site, but when queried if he was coming too, he says he "hasn't been relieved of this command".
    • In Stargate Atlantis, in "The Last Man", an alternate reality Carter rams a Wraith Hiveship with the Phoenix, a much smaller 304 Battlecruiser. The Phoenix not only destroys the Hiveship, but two more are destroyed when they get caught in the blast of the first. It is unknown whether Carter meant to go down with the ship, or whether she intended to beam down to the planet below but couldn't because the transporters were knocked out.
  • Star Trek:

  • Steeleye Span song - "Let Her Go Down".
    While the Captain steered our wounded ship
    To the bottom of an angry sea
    And with his dying breath we all heard him say
    Just the fortunes of a sailor
  • Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
    • Though in this case it was more due to the ship being sunk in a matter of seconds with no time for anybody to even think of abandoning ship.
  • Steam Powered Giraffe's Captain Albert Alexander:
    Just before he went down he called out to his crew
    "It's obvious that my time has come
    I'll let this ending ensue
    I've led an exciting nautical life it would seem
    and there's no better end than a death by the sea"
  • Voltaire's This Ship's Going Down plays with it. The captain fully intends to go down with the ship, and intends the rest of the crew to go with him.
  • Peter Schilling referenced the Titanic in "Terra Titanic".
    The rats have the sense to abandon the ship
    While the Captain adjusts his tuxedo a bit
    With his glass raised up high as the ice water hits
  • Averted in Hawkwind Ejection, which is an aviation example
    When a ship meets with destruction
    The captain stays to drown
    But no tin contraption
    Is going to drag me down


    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed III: Templar Nicholas Biddle asks to go down with the Randolph after you disable it. Connor accepts, but blows up the magazine to ensure that it actually sinks.
  • In Fallout 3, if you purge Vault 101's water chip during "Trouble on the Homefront" and lie to the Overseer that the rebels did it, he stays behind in the vault to die.
  • Occurs in FreeSpace when the Galatea is destroyed by the Lucifer. The Galatea launches escape pods, which you are charged with defending, but the the mission debriefing states that the Captain stayed behind and went down with his ship.
  • Discussed in Halo: Combat Evolved. In the intro, as the Pillar of Autumn is being shot down over the titular Halo, the ship's captain order's the ship's AI to load herself into a data disc and evacuate the ship while he stays on board. She asks him if he's planning on going down with the ship, to which he says he's actually going try to crash land the ship on the Halo ring. He wants her to evacuate because the ship will almost certainly be captured after landing and the AI is far too valuable to fall into enemy hands.
  • A Hat in Time: The Captain of the Arctic Cruise attempts to do this after the ship crashes into an iceberg and starts sinking, even trying to refuse rescue as you carry him to safety. While there are sadder implications considering his mentor did the same and died, this captain is a walrus, and is thus never really in any danger of drowning or hypothermia, which he points out bemusedly after you went through all the trouble.
  • In The Horror at MS Aurora, this is what Daniel chooses to do if Kirk kept him alive to this point.
  • In Infinite Space, Captain Vilchjo Valso refuses to abandon his ship when the player character encounters him as part of a Lugovalian fleet in the second half of the game. A number of other characters die when their ships go down, but he's the only one to go deliberately.
  • In Kirby Super Star, when the Meta-Knights' airship Halberd starts to go down, Captain Vul decides to Abandon Ship while Mace Knight, Axe Knight and a few others choose to stay behind to try to stop Kirby one last time. Meta Knight himself also tries to stop Kirby, although he also escapes later when Kirby does so.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, when The Courageous explodes thanks to a hidden bomb, all Victor S. Arseid can do is to take off his hat and wish for Aidios to guide Laura.
  • A few officials in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask refuse to leave Clock Town and resolve to share its fate no matter what. The Mayor remains at his desk, his wife Madame Aroma is found Drowning Her Sorrows in the bar, the Bartender refuses to leave his establishment because he's devoted his entire life to it, and the Mailman wants desperately to leave but refuses because tomorrow's delivery is still scheduled (Though you can get him permission to flee by asking him to deliver mail to Madame Aroma on Night 3, which he eagerly takes advantage of).
  • Mass Effect 2: Shepard is told Joker is ignoring orders to abandon ship; in his case it's less about dying honorably and more about trying to save the Normandy. After Shepard manages to get him into an escape pod, an explosion blasts them away from it. Shepard sends the pod off anyway, saving Joker but sacrificing themself. Shepard didn't want to go down with the ship, they're just altruistic. Besides, Shepard's death didn't stick.
  • In Metal Wolf Chaos, General Forester goes down with the command ship in Miami when the President sinks it. It's probably a gesture of atonement for going along with the Vice-President's coup.
  • In Naval Ops: Warship Gunner 2, recurring antagonist Admiral Amagi goes down with his ship the last time you fight him. If you fight Captain Tsukuba, he does the same.
  • In Poptropica's SOS Island, the captain decides to go down with the sinking ship. Fortunately, you manage to convince him to leave at the end, after navigating through the mostly waterlogged ship.
  • Return Of The Obra Dinn: Captain Robert Witterel seems to be a good example. He is reaching the Despair Event Horizon when he sees the entirety of his crew, including his wife, being wiped out due to the ship being attacked by the mermaids, the Crab Riders, and the kraken, which is too much for him to bear. As a result, he accepts the fact that he will not be leaving the ship alive, and authorizes the surviving female passengers, stewards, and Dr. Henry Evans to leave the Obra Dinn in the last remaining lifeboat. He also intervenes on their behalf when topman Leonid Volkov attempts to prevent them from doing so, demanding that Volkov "let them go." Afterward, when there are only a few remaining crew members left to attack the Captain for the magical shells, the Captain is forced to kill them all, including his own brother-in-law and First Mate, in self-defense. Afterwards, he shoots himself in the chest, fulfilling his vow to his wife that he would be with her in the afterlife.
  • Subverted by the Battlecruiser Captain in StarCraft II. One of his (joke) quotes is "We're going down. Stay with the ship. I'm out!". Not taking heavy damage or close to death. Just as soon as they're hit.
  • A cross between this and Taking You with Me in Starlancer with the captain of your first carrier evacuating the crew and then proceeding to ram the ship into the Coalition flagship, killing the guy who orchestrated the sneak attack at Fort Kennedy at the beginning of the war. The Coalition admiral realizes too late what his old acquaintance is planning to prevent the collision.
  • Star Wars Battlefront II (2017): Admiral Versio decides to stay on the Eviscerator's deck even as the rest of the crew is evacuating. Iden tries to convince him to get away with her, but to no avail.
  • TRON 2.0 played it straight with I-No, the old Tower Guardian who chose to de-rez with the server. However, it's discussed, then averted with Alan and Jet when it comes to them crashing the F-Con server.
  • In War of Omens, Pietra Siani chooses this over being taken prisoner by Listrata.
  • In the prequel of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Torna: The Golden Country, the king of Torna chooses to die with Torna as it sinks into the Cloud Sea rather than try to escape.
  • XenoGears: In the introduction, after the captain of The Eldridge witnesses the crew and passengers escape shuttles getting shot down, he takes one last look at a photo of his family before activating the Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • In the X-Universe series, Earth's AGI Task Force fighter pilots will never eject from their ship — likely to prevent the superior technology of the ships from falling in the hands of the Argon Federation or other races. Every other faction fighter has a chance to bail out when they decide that they have no hope of surviving. Because ATF fighters never bail out, they are impossible to acquire in X3: Reunion and X3: Terran Conflict, though X3: Albion Prelude allows players to buy them from shipyards.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Awful Hospital: The native lifeforms of Inert Vessels seem instinctively predisposed not to care about dying out from when their world becomes uninhabitable. With the notable exception of Maya Celia.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Averted when Captain Tagon's response is to request to be teraported off the Serial Peacemaker when it's facing destruction. When this trope is brought up, he points out the ship isn't his anymore as it's been hijacked by its Artificial Intelligence. It's not that Tagon isn't brave (he'd already given his life in an alternate history to help his men escape) but he is a professional mercenary and thus is very pragmatic about such things.
    • After the crew of a destroyed ship wake up in an Artificial Afterlife the XO is taking roll with the explanation "Captains go down with ships. Executive officers muster the dead."
  • Vexxarr gives an interesting reason for this practice, after the newly appointed captain realizes how badly the crew of his new command sucks.
    Captain Bot: So, this hell... Nice place?
    Vexxarr: Unless your crew gets there first.
    Captain Bot: And thus the captain goes down with the ship.
    Vexxarr: Sometimes it's a race.

    Western Animation 
  • A variant in the pilot episode of Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Eliza orders the escape pod with her children to blast off, stranding her on the captured ship. While her kids make it to safety and the Ambadassador family friends manage to rescue her husband, this left her to face a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Adventures of the Gummi Bears episode "Gummi's Across the Sea" has Duke Igthorn trying his hand at naval warfare. The ship he has is wrecked by an ancient Gummi sub built in the likeness of a sea serpent, of course. When Dukie prepares to abandon ship, Toadwart reminds him of this trope. True to form, Igthorn immediately names Toadie the captain, and the diminutive ogre briefly enjoys his new status before remembering about the rampaging sub and joins the Duke.
  • The Season 1 finale of Big Hero 6: The Series sees Obake go out like this when his plans are undone and his lair starts falling apart even telling Baymax he's satisfied with his care. Unlike most examples on this list, there's nothing to do with honor in this scene, just a sort of... sad acceptance.
  • Bugs Bunny short "Mutiny on the Bunny". Yosemite Sam is the captain of a sailing ship. Bugs tricks him into thinking the ship is sinking and Sam jumps into a lifeboat. Bugs reminds him that "The captain goes down with his ship", so Sam resigns and makes Bugs the captain.
    I'm captain an' I say YOU'RE captain!
    • Afterwards, Bugs pulls him out of the lifeboat again, claiming "women and children first". Sam then disguises himself as an old woman and Bugs tosses an anchor dressed in a bonnet and diaper over the side, which Sam attempts to catch, with predictable results.
  • DuckTales (1987): Subverted, barely,in "Wronguay in Ronguay". Fighting over a cannon, Glomgold and El Capitan sink their ancient treasure ship. It seems as if El Capitan goes to the bottom with his ship. However, he resurfaces at the end of the episode holding onto some flotsam.
  • An episode of The Flintstones has the Flintstones and the Rubbles go out on a sea vacation after Barney won a houseboat on a game show expy of The Price Is Right. After the ship begins sinking, Wilma and Betty are given the life raft while Fred and Barney, who spent the episode bickering about who should be the captain, begin trying to pass the duty off to the other to avoid going down with it. They spent so much time fighting over it, they both end up going down without realizing it.
  • An episode of Futurama parodies Titanic, using both the "adult men dressing as women and children" (specifically The Professor expressing his relief at not needing to be dressed as a child when they find that there's enough life pods) and Zapp Branigan making Kif the new captain and promptly running for the life pods. (interestingly, this leads to Kif meeting Amy for the first time and thus their romance over the series).
  • In the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero episode, "Sink the Montana!," General Hawk confronts Admiral Lattimer, the captain of the fatally stricken battleship and finds that he wants to go down with the ship. After being unable to persuade him to leave, Hawk overpowers and drags him off the ship before it sinks.
    Hawk: My aching back, George! Forget that going down with the ship stuff!
  • During the Hey Arnold! episode, "The Flood", Principal Wartz states that he would remain and go down with his school. It is unknown if this was sarcasm for forgetting about him, or he really meant it.
  • In one episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the characters are playing pirate and their ship springs a leak. Tigger, as the first mate, tells Piglet, who's playing captain, that he must go down with the ship. Piglet then makes Tigger the new captain, who then makes Piglet captain again, and so forth.
  • Parodied in the PAW Patrol episode "Pups Make a Splash"; when the Flounder starts to give way, Cap'n Turbot attempts this...with a duck floatie and a snorkel. And he lives in the end, because the hole in the Flounder is easily fixed.
  • Subverted in Sonic Prime:
    Captain Dread: A good captain goes down with their ship. But a great captain steals someone else's ship.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Glossaryck chooses to stay in the Realm of Magic as it collapses, even saying he's the captain going down with the ship.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Death Trap", after the Jedi Cruiser Endurance is sabotaged, Admiral Kilian insists on doing this because it's traditional, telling off Mace Windu when ordered to get in an escape pod. He instead attempts a crash-landing on the nearby planet of Vanqor, and survives, only to be taken prisoner by bounty hunters.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • Inverted in "Stealth Strike" — when the Imperial Interdictor and her escort cruisers are destroyed, Admiral Brom Titus is the only confirmed survivor.
    • In "Family Reunion -- and Farewell", Governor Pryce chooses to remain aboard the flying Imperial dome rather than escape, calmly looking out over the city with a look of pure fury and hatred on her face seconds before the dome explodes.
  • Total Drama:
    • Owen is Team CIRRRRH's captain for the naval combat challenge in "Sweden Sour". When it seems they're going to lose, he gives it a final shot by volunteering himself as cannonball to take down Team Amazon's ship. The carnage is impressive and as Chris approaches the bobbing contestants, he quips that "the captain always goes down with the ship" normally relates to the captain's own ship, but this is beautiful too.
    • In a reference to the musicians on board of the RMS Titanic, the butler of the luxury cabin stands outside to play his violin until Wawanakwa Island goes down beneath the waves in "The Final Wreck-ening". It's more than possible he survives, but he's not made an appearance since.
    • In "Pirates of the Cabbagean, Zee finds himself as the last man standing on the Ferocious Trout, and decides to ram the enemy team's ship. It almost works, but he misses at the last second and crashes into the rocks. Having appointed himself captain, Zee decides to sink along with his ship.
  • In Transformers: Rescue Bots, this occurs with Captain Ambrose, who remained on the S.S Phantom Voyager after a lightning strike rendered it simply immobile and caused everyone to evacuate, leaving him to await the towing lines to rescue him. Historically, the towing lines did arrive, only to find out it disappeared.

    Real Life 
  • The Trope Maker is thought to be the case of the HMS Birkenhead in 1852. When the ship ran into a reef off the coast of South Africa, the captain ordered that the women and children go into the lifeboats first. Then, realizing that any extra weight to the lifeboats would swamp and sink them, he ordered all the men to stand at attention as the ship sank. They all did so; while some managed to survive, all the senior officers were killed. This is considered the first time the protocol "women and children first" was ever initiated, and the soldiers' chivalry was celebrated and dubbed by Rudyard Kipling as the "Birkenhead drill".
  • The sinking of the RMS Titanic is probably the most famous sinking of a ship ever, and naturally the captain (and many other important people on the ship) went down with it.
    • Captain Edward J. Smith famously and prominently went down with the ship. However, there are dozens of differing accounts as to how he died; some survivors claim he shot himself just before the final plunge, while others say he swam after a drowning child and lifted him into a lifeboat but died of exposure before he could be saved himself. The most agreed-upon version, shown in James Cameron's film, is that he remained on the bridge for the final plunge.
    • Thomas Andrews, the designer of the Titanic, also went down with the ship, after frantic efforts to help others get off. Popular belief suggests he suffered a Heroic BSoD, blaming himself for the shortage of lifeboats and unable to comprehend that the ship was not as "unsinkable" as advertised. Legend has it that he was last seen in the First Class Smoking Room, his life jacket cast aside, staring into space. This has since been called into question, particularly as the man who saw this left the ship over half an hour before it finally sank. Contemporaneous evidence suggests that Andrews continued assisting with the evacuation until the ship's final moments.
    • Most of the ship's department heads and officers also went down with the ship. Chief Officer Henry Wilde and Second Officer Charles Lightoller both had the ship sink beneath their feet as they tried to load the remaining two collapsible lifeboats; Wilde perished but Lightoller survived, becoming the highest-ranking officer to do so. First Officer William Murdoch's manner of death is unknown, but he is believed to have been crushed by the forward funnel when it collapsed in the final stages of the sinking. Chief Engineer Bell and his entire staff remained below decks to ensure that the ship had power until the last moment. Senior Wireless Operator Jack Phillips and his junior operator Harold Bride continued to send wireless messages up until the wireless failed completely; while Bride barely survived, making his way to the overturned Collapsible B, Phillips escaped the final plunge but didn't survive the night. All five of the ship's postal workers drowned early in the sinking as they attempted to save the hundreds of bags of mail. The chief purser, chief steward, and even the owner of the ship's on-board restaurant all went down with the ship.
    • The ship's orchestra famously stayed on board, playing music to calm the passengers until the very end. The last tune they played is commonly believed to be "Nearer My God to Thee"; although it's disputed that this is actually what they played, it's become ingrained in popular culture as the song to play as a large group of people is facing certain death (which is why CNN famously has a recording of it to play right before the world ends).
    • The big aversion was J. Bruce Ismay, the owner and managing director of the White Star Line. He did assist in loading several of the lifeboats, and he did board the last lifeboat to be launched, but Ismay surviving at all was controversial, and he was labeled a Dirty Coward and forced to resign from the company his father had built. A popular myth at the time was that he dressed as a woman in order to escape.
  • The same happened to the Titanic's sister ship the Britannic, which was sunk by a German mine while serving as a hospital ship during World War I. Every passenger (who wasn't killed by the initial explosion, or by a gruesome accident involving a lifeboat and one of the propellers) managed to escape the ship. Captain Charles Bartlett, however, made certain that he was the last one off the ship, staying at the bridge until it flooded, waiting for his First Officer to leave the ship first. That said, for all Captain Bartlett's efforts, he was the second to last one off the ship; there was still a quartermaster stuck below decks gathering supplies who just managed to escape before the final plunge.
  • Commander Alan West, captain of HMS Ardent in the Falkands War, was the last survivor to leave the frigate after it was hit by several Argentine aerial bombs and eventually sank. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and it did not harm his career in the slightest. The opposite in fact - he ended up "Admiral The Right Honourable The Lord West of Spithead GCB, DSC, PC", by virtue of ending an Admiral, First Sea Lord (i.e. professional head of the Royal Navy), a life peer and a government minister under Gordon Brown.
  • Admiral George Tryon went down with HMS Victoria, which sank in one of the worst naval accidents of the 19th Century. The sinking was the result of a dreadful miscalculation by Admiral Tryon, who went down with the ship in a show of apology; his last recorded words were an admission of how he'd screwed everything up and, "It's all my fault."
  • The U.S. Navy has notably dispensed with the tradition; although it's still incredibly cowardly for the captain to leave the ship before anyone else, once the ship has been evacuated, it's considered pretty stupid for the captain not to save himself at that point. Also, the captain is expected to continue leading his crew even after the ship is lost, so he has to stay alive to be able to do that. As they say in the Navy, if a captain goes down with his ship, both need to be replaced. That said, it's considered a total career killer for a naval captain to have his ship sink under them (whether or not they were responsible, although loss of the ship in combat is excused if the ship put up a fight), so it might be tempting for naval officers to go down with the ship anyway. Or, as Dick Gregory once put it: "When I lost my rifle, the Army charged me $85. That is why in the Navy the Captain goes down with the ship."
  • Zigzagged in case of Imperial Chinese (Qing) Navy during and after the First Sino-Japanese War. One of its captains, Deng Shichang, chose to refuse rescue and went down with his sinking cruiser during the Battle of Yalu River. However, the naval brass looked unfavorably at this since they did not only lose a cruiser, but a cruiser plus an experienced captain when they were short on officers trained to command modern ships, and a rule was established that forbade captains from going down with their ships.
  • The tradition is particularly common in Japan, who had picked it up from the British. However, they didn't realize why the British did it; it's to ensure that everyone gets off the ship. The Japanese instead found that it dovetailed nicely with the bushido code, with the idea that the captain has to "share the ship's fate" matching the idea of a defeated samurai dying an honorable death. This meant that occasionally, a Japanese naval captain might go down with the ship even when he's sure that everyone else is safe. Especially in Imperial Japan, the Navy lost quite a few good commanders that way; in particular, Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi of the Hiryu refused rescue and either chained himself to an anchor to ensure his death, or remained on the bridge alongisde Captain Tomeo Kaku while conversing about the moon
    Tamon Yamaguchi: Let us enjoy the beauty of the moon.
    Tomeo Kaku: How bright it shines.
    Tamon Yamaguchi: It must be in its 21st day.
  • The tradition carried over to aviation, often invoked in situations where the plane has to land on water and has basically become a sinking ship anyway:
    • Captain Richard Ogg gets credit for one of the earliest successful ditchings of a passenger aircraft, in 1956, when he put a DC-6B with two failed engines into the Pacific Ocean. Captain Ogg was the last to get in a lifeboat. All on board survived and were rescued by a Coast Guard Vessel.
    • Captain Donald Cameron was the last person to escape the burning DC-9 involved in Air Canada Flight 797 on 2 June 1983. Having brought the plane, which had caught fire from an unknown cause of ignition in the lavatory, to a safe emergency landing in Cincinnati, Cameron was so exhausted that he was unable to move from his seat. Noticing this, First Officer Claude Ouimet took charge and had firefighters douse the captain with water and foam, shocking him with the energy he needed to clamber out of the cockpit through the windscreen. Seconds after he escaped, the fire flashed over, killing 23 people trapped inside from burns and smoke inhalation.
    • The famous "Miracle on the Hudson" was an event in 2009 when Captain Chesley Sullenberger landed his crippled Airbus A320 on the Hudson River.note  After deploying the rafts and evacuating the passengers, Captain Sullenberger was the last off the sinking aircraft, having wandered all the way down the aisle and back to check that nobody was left on board — twice.note  Then when the people in his life raft were rescued by a ferry, he was the last person to climb up the ladder. He also refused to leave the Port Authority Ferry Terminal until all of his passengers could be accounted for. His actions would later be depicted in the film Sully.
    • A variant happened in the lead-up to the Entebbe raid in 1976 (seen in The Last King of Scotland). An Air France flight from Israel was hijacked to Uganda by Palestinian militants, and Ugandan dictator Idi Amin negotiated with the hijackers and secured the release of all non-Israelis on the aircraft. The French captain — and the rest of the crew — refused to go, choosing to remain hostages until all of the passengers were freed (which they were, in the eponymous raid by Israeli forces).
    • Captain Max Pruss of the Hindenburg rode the zeppelin until it crashed on the ground. Due to the massive inferno, he escaped as soon as he could but carried out the radioman. He then ran back into the still-burning wreckage to find other survivors until he was restrained by rescuers.
  • This is pretty much expected from the captain of a submarine— when you're in a metal tube hundreds of feet underwater, escape is usually not an option. Famous examples include Günther Prien of U-47 and John Wesley Harvey of the USS Thresher. The big exception, though, is when the sub surfaces to attack, in which case the captain is usually on the conning tower leading the attack and is thus the only one expected to be able to survive an accident if one happened. Famous examples of this include Otto Kretschmer of U-99 and Richard Heatherton O'Kane of the USS Tang, both being their respective nations' leading submarine aces.
    • One interesting case of this is that of Howard Gilmore, skipper of the USS Growler. When a surface attack on a Japanese gunboat went wrong, the conning tower was evacuated, save for Gilmore who was badly wounded. His last order was "Take her down!". He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
  • In fact, the tradition is so ingrained that when a captain doesn't go down with the ship, he's called a Dirty Coward and reviled for his actions. And it also shows that captains who try to escape first tend not to be very competent at other captain things either.
    • Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim was inspired by the case of the SS Jeddah in 1880. While carrying 953 passengers, most of them pilgrims on their way to Mecca for the Hajj, the ship encountered a storm and started taking on water quickly. The captain and most of the officers, assuming it would soon sink and probably influenced by racist fear and contempt towards the pilgrims, promptly abandoned ship, despite the passengers' efforts to stop them, and left them all to die. Unfortunately for the officers, the passengers and remaining crew managed to keep the ship afloat until they were discovered by another vessel. Three days after the captain arrived in Aden and told a lurid tale of the ship sinking while panicking, vicious subhumans tried to slaughter all the officers, the Jeddah itself was towed into Aden, full of a large number of extremely angry pilgrims who were very ready to tell their side of the story.
    • Captain Yiannis Avranas of the MTS Oceanos was one of the first off the ship when it sank off South Africa in 1991. He later decried the concept that the captain must go down with the ship, stating that "abandon ship is for everybody. If some people want to stay, they can stay." The problem was that Captain Avranas dreadfully mismanaged the sinking, doing little to stop it (sometimes making it worse) and failing to even notify the relevant authorities or the passengers that the ship was sinking. In fact, he was only aboard as long as he was because he'd been previously caught trying to escape multiple times by lifeboat. Instead of leading emergency efforts, the majority of the crew and all of the senior officers — including Captain Avranas — abandoned their post to load the two most seaworthy lifeboats with their personal possessions and escape while the passengers were kept ignorant. The ship's entertainers led by Moss Hills had to run the evacuation after discovering the deception, alongside manning the now-abandoned bridge and calling for help. Their attempts were initially met with incredulity by the authorities, owing to the fact that the radio was being operated by the ship's stage musician instead of an officer. Fortunately, rescue authorities believed them and everyone aboard survived, but they were pissed, and Avranas and his senior crew were later found guilty of negligence by Greek maritime authorities. It's notable that unlike the cowardly crew, the entertainment staff-come-makeshift emergency crew did wait until passengers were saved to be rescued themselves, and were hailed as heroes by the passengers for it.
    • Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia became infamous for being one of the first people to abandon ship, disguised as a passenger, and leaving only his junior officers and the passengers to coordinate evacuation efforts. Not only that, but he repeatedly downplayed and in some cases outright lied to the Italian Coast Guard about the true scale of the disaster, needlessly delaying critical emergency rescue services. This drew the incredible ire of local Coast Guard Commander Gregorio De Falco, whose frustrated exhortation "Vada a bordo, cazzo!" (roughly "Get the fuck on board!") became a global meme and even found its way onto T-shirts. 33 people died, and Schettino was later found guilty of manslaughter and hazarding a ship,note  and sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. The full exchange between De Falco and Schettino is worth a listen:
      De Falco: Look, Schettino, you may have saved yourself from the sea, but I will really hurt you. I will cause you a boatload of trouble. Get back on board, for fuck's sake!
    • Captain Lee Joon-seok of the South Korean ferry MV Sewol abandoned the sinking ship with passengers still aboard and was among the first to be rescued — in spite of South Korean law requiring the captain to remain on the ship. He was also spotted on the lifeboat without his pants, and it was suggested that he was attending to "business" in his cabin at the time of the accident, and that the crew was drinking beer on the deck as they tried to resolve the problem. The South Korean public was infuriated, especially as around 300 people died (many of them high school students), and the captain was found guilty of homicide and given a life sentence.
    • Byron Voutsinas was the captain of the SS Yarmouth Castle when the ship caught fire in the wee hours of November 13, 1965. Voutsinas and serveral crew members escaped in one of the first lifeboats to be lowered. The lifeboat got to the Bahama Star, one of the ships that stopped to offer aid to the Yarmouth Castle. Crew members of the Bahama Star all but demanded that he go back to own ship, which he did. By sunrise, the ship had sunken and claimed 87 lives with Voutsinas surviving. The U. S. Coast Guard was even less pleased; Admiral Louis M. Thayer called his actions "Abandonment of command responsibility".
  • And sometimes a captain will want to do this, but circumstances prevent him from doing it:
    • The HMS Guardian sank on its maiden voyage on its way to the newly-founded British colony at Botany Bay in Australia. The captain, Lieutenant Edward Riou, evacuated the passengers into lifeboats and stayed on board with a skeleton crew, all of them expecting to die. Remarkably, they decided that they weren't about to go down without a fight, and they frantically began a series of quick repairs and gruelling, non-stop shifts at the pumps. And in an incredible feat of seamanship, Riou managed to guide the crippled Guardian — which by some accounts was little more than a gigantic raft by then — back to Cape Town. In a tragic irony, almost all the passengers Riou saved were never seen again — only a single lifeboat with fifteen people was found by chance, by a French merchant ship.
    • Captain William Thomas Turner of the RMS Lusitania tried to go down with the ship when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915. But he was swept from the bridge by a wall of water and found himself clinging to a chair in the open ocean. Fortunately, Captain Turner had the presence of mind to take the ship's nautical chart with him, which provided some key evidence in resolving the disaster.
    • Captain Hans Langsdorff of the German "pocket battleship" Admiral Graf Spee ordered the ship scuttled when he believed it would be overrun by British forces in 1939; after an engagement with British cruisers, the ship put into the neutral port of Montevideo, Uruguay, and according to The Laws and Customs of War would have to either leave in 72 hours or be interred. The original plan was to try to take the damaged ship to the friendlier port of Buenos Aires, but the British played a ruse that other heavy ships would be arriving soon, and he didn't want his men to die needlessly. After preparing the ship for scuttling, he arranged for his crew to be taken into custody, then three days later sent a final message to Berlin accepting all responsibility and shot himself while lying on the Graf Spee's battle ensign in a Buenos Aires hotel. In any event, his Nazi superiors could well have killed him as punishment for losing the ship.
    • The Jämijärvi skydiving disaster in Finland in 2014 involved a plane full of skydivers breaking up in midair, with the starboard wing and its strut folding into the fuselage and blocking the jump door. The only other exit was through the cockpit door. In this case, the captain had to be the first off the "ship" if anyone else was going to survive.
    • Completely averted in the sinking of MV Wilhelm Gustloff. The ship had four captains: the commander of the ship itself, the commander of the ship's U-boat complement, and two embarked merchant captains. Around 9000 people perished, but all four captains survived.
    • Captain Inman Sealby of the White Star Line's RMS Republic stayed on the bridge as the ship sank, having seen all of his passengers and crew (save those who died in the initial collision) safely transferred to the Baltic and the Florida beforehand. He survived, though, coming to the surface again and promptly being rescued. Because he stayed on his ship until it sank, nobody blamed him for surviving.
    • When the ocean liner Andrea Doria collided with another shp and sank in 1956, her captain, Piero Calamai, expressed his intent to do this. But his officers intervened, telling him that if he went down with the ship then so would they, and Calamai relented.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Go Down With The Ship


"It's Just Good Business"

As the Black Pearl and The Flying Dutchman destroy his ship and his crew abandon him, Lord Cutler Beckett simply resigns himself to his fate, taking one last walk before his death.

How well does it match the trope?

4.93 (28 votes)

Example of:

Main / GoingDownWithTheShip

Media sources: