Question At what point did they know that no ship would make it to them in time?


Mike D726

Member
I've seen nothing in the record regarding "final" acknowledgment that no ships near enough were answering the wireless distress signals, or if the lack of potential rescue changed anything.
For example, I could envision the captain and senior officers checking at the wireless room every few minutes.
By 1:00 a.m., the rate of sinking was obvious and the calls had been going out for some time. They had only a little over an hour more.
One may wonder why the captain did not order every lifeboat to be filled to capacity as quickly as possible -- at least once it became obvious that no ship would reach them in time. Thoughts? Has anyone seen this topic mentioned in testimony at all?
 

Thomas Krom

Member
I've seen nothing in the record regarding "final" acknowledgment that no ships near enough were answering the wireless distress signals, or if the lack of potential rescue changed anything.
For example, I could envision the captain and senior officers checking at the wireless room every few minutes.
By 1:00 a.m., the rate of sinking was obvious and the calls had been going out for some time. They had only a little over an hour more.
Just before 12:55, when lifeboat number 7 and 5 were already lowered and lifeboat number 3 was loaded and prepared to be lowered junior wireless operator Harold Bride found captain Smith in the wheelhouse of the Titanic. He reported to him that the Carpathia our way to them and that she is pressing her engines. Captain Smith then followed Bride to the Marconi Room where senior wireless operator John "Jack" Phillips was stil transmitting. Captain Smith asked Phillips if there was any other ships he was in communication with. He told him the Olympic was responding. Shortly after he asked for the distance between the Carpathia and the sinking Titanic, which Phillips responded was an estimated 58 miles off. Captain Smith personally estimated the distance and estimated that it would take four hours for the Carpathia to reach them.
One may wonder why the captain did not order every lifeboat to be filled to capacity as quickly as possible -- at least once it became obvious that no ship would reach them in time. Thoughts? Has anyone seen this topic mentioned in testimony at all?
It is widely believed that captain Smith, as well as the senior and junior officers, wanted to load in the passengers from the gangway doors after they were lowered down. This however was never done.
 
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Just before 12:55, when lifeboat number 7 and 5 were already lowered and lifeboat number 3 was loaded and prepared to be lowered junior wireless operator Harold Bride found captain Smith in the wheelhouse of the Titanic. He reported to him that the Carpathia our way to them and that she is pressing her engines. Captain Smith then followed Bride to the Marconi Room where senior wireless operator John "Jack" Phillips was stil transmitting. Captain Smith asked Phillips if there was any other ships he was in communication with. He told him the Olympic was responding. Shortly after he asked for the distance between the Carpathia and the sinking Titanic, which Phillips responded was an estimated 58 miles off. Captain Smith personally estimated the distance and estimated that it would take four hours for the Carpathia to reach them.

It is widely believed that captain Smith, as well as the senior and junior officers, wanted to load in the passengers from the gangway doors after they were lowered down. This however was never done.
"It is widely believed that captain Smith, as well as the senior and junior officers, wanted to load in the passengers from the gangway doors after they were lowered down. This however was never done."

I have often wondered why they didn't load/overload the boats to the max. It was the only thing they had any control over that would have made a difference once they struck the berg. Everything else was out of their control. I know some (including some crew) that thought it wasn't probably that bad. But once Smith was informed by Andrews he should of made sure they were filled, even overfilled. It's really the only fault I have with that night after the collision. Nothing else was going to make a difference. Cheers.
 
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Thomas Krom

Member
But once Smith was informed by Andrews he should of made sure they were filled, even overfilled.
Although it isn't related to the conversation I fear to report that that never happened, Thomas Andrews Jr didn't spoke to captain Smith about the low lifeboat capacities during the evacuation. The only time something comparable happened happened at lifeboat number 3 to fifth officer Lowe with Thomas Andrews Jr but outside that it never happened.

Conversations such as depicted in the 1997 movie with second officer Lightoller (as played Jonny Phillips) and Victor Garber his inaccurate portrayal never happened during the sinking involving Thomas Andrews Jr.
 
Although it isn't related to the conversation I fear to report that that never happened, Thomas Andrews Jr didn't spoke to captain Smith about the low lifeboat capacities during the evacuation. The only time something comparable happened happened at lifeboat number 3 to fifth officer Lowe with Thomas Andrews Jr but outside that it never happened.

Conversations such as depicted in the 1997 movie with second officer Lightoller (as played Jonny Phillips) and Victor Garber his inaccurate portrayal never happened during the sinking involving Thomas Andrews Jr.
I guess I could have been more specific. I was referring to when Andrews told of his estimation that the time the ship had before she sank. Not about lifeboats. That was Captain Smiths call on how to fill the boats. Not Andrews. Cheers.
 
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Jim Currie

Member
I've seen nothing in the record regarding "final" acknowledgment that no ships near enough were answering the wireless distress signals, or if the lack of potential rescue changed anything.
For example, I could envision the captain and senior officers checking at the wireless room every few minutes.
By 1:00 a.m., the rate of sinking was obvious and the calls had been going out for some time. They had only a little over an hour more.
One may wonder why the captain did not order every lifeboat to be filled to capacity as quickly as possible -- at least once it became obvious that no ship would reach them in time. Thoughts? Has anyone seen this topic mentioned in testimony at all?
Hello Mike.

In fact, there is good evidence as to who acknowledged the distress call and who turned toward Titanic as she was sinking. This can be found in the transcripts of the Wireless Logs of the Olympic, Baltic and Mount Temple, as well as in the evidence of Titanic's surviving wireless man.

The nonsense about loading the boats is simply landlubber's speculation. The main reason for not filling the boats at Boat deck or A deck levels was height above the water and the method of "jerky" lowering using manila ropes in an uneven manner....shock-load. (in seamanship terms - it was called "surging the rope around the bollard".
 
As to the original question of this thread. I would say they knew for sure that no one would make it in time when they didn't get any response from their rockets or signal lamp. The wireless set was only giving them bad news..as in the closest ship to respond would be hours too late.
 
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Seumas

Member
What does one do when passengers simply won't get into the boats and don't think anything is wrong though ? Particularly with regard to the first half a dozen or so boats lowered.

To tell them the ship is sinking at c12:30am is just inviting a major panic with much work still to do. Whilst grabbing the women and kids would invite potentially violent reactions from the husbands and fathers.

The likes of Murdoch and Moody probably couldn't have done much more.

Bob Read's research paper on the post-disaster qaulity tests on the Olympic's Wellin davits showed that there is also room for scepticism about the much quoted "could have held seventy" myth.
 
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Once they knew the ship was going down they should have done whatever was necessary to get the boats full. To launch boats that were designed to hold 50 to 60 with less than 20 was negligent. If your in command then command. Otherwise step aside and let somebody else do the job. They could have easily fit a few hundred more into the boats especially the 50+ kids that were left behind. But it happened the way it did and it's history now..albeit bad history. But I veered off Mike D's original question. Sorry Mike. Cheers.
 

Mike D726

Member
Once they knew the ship was going down they should have done whatever was necessary to get the boats full. To launch boats that were designed to hold 50 to 60 with less than 20 was negligent. If your in command then command. Otherwise step aside and let somebody else do the job. They could have easily fit a few hundred more into the boats especially the 50+ kids that were left behind. But it happened the way it did and it's history now..albeit bad history. But I veered off Mike D's original question. Sorry Mike. Cheers.
Thanks everyone for the additional information and discussion.
Steven, you did not veer off from the question.
Understanding that the loading of the boats was -- at least at first -- portrayed as precautionary, it was clear to some not long after the first couple of lifeboats went down that it was far from precautionary. Given the need to prevent a panic, and that was critical, I would agree with Steven's statement unless there are other reasons why the boats were loaded as they were. Jim Currie alludes to the hesitancy of the passengers and doubts about the integrity of the boats and the davits, which I have heard the latter to some degree here and there. I hope to study more testimony from the inquiries and try to decipher what the captain was ordering during this time (if anything much, but I have not heard of much).
I am soon posting a follow-up question about the passengers not knowing the extent of the dire circumstances they were facing.
 

Jim Currie

Member
They were loaded poorly. But hey just hundreds left to die. No problem.
Your reply makes my point, Steven.

A lifeboat cannot be loaded "poorly"; it has to be loaded and lowered properly and, more to the point - safely.
To determine what is safe and proper, you have to know what you are talking about. Having loaded and lowered more lifeboats than I care to remember - including Titanic-type and even older, allow me to advise you.

A Lifeboat capacity was decided by dividing the internal volume in cubic feet by ten. The standard 30 ft lifeboat had an internal volume of about 648 cu.ft. which means it was designed to carry +/- 65 people. These would first occupy the seating and the remainder stand between the thwarts.

In 1912, lifeboats were lowered using two individual manila ropes about 6.3 or 7.9 inches in circumference - situated- one at each end of the boat. Titanic's lifeboats probably had the larger diameter ones.
Each rope was individually slackened -off by "surging" around a crucifix bollard mounted on the boat - one each end of the boat on the boat deck. Consequently, the lowering method was subject to jerks and jambs on the way down.
If we use an average of 140 lbs per person ,it means that a full, full-size boat and contents weighed close to 6.5 tons.

The ultimate strength of these lifeboat fall /ropes was found by dividing the circumference squared by 3. Thus for the thinner rope it was 13.25 tons and for the thicker one - 20.8 tons. "More than enough", you might say.

However, on page 37, the Seamanship manual of the day "Nicholls's Seamanship", very clearly states:
"one sixth of its [ manila rope} ultimate strength offers a good factor of safety in order to resists excessive stresses due to sudden jerks on the fall. When occasional lift is made there is not so much wear and tear on the gear and C squared divided by 7 may be accepted as giving a safe margin."

Consequently, using the less cautious factor of 6 - Titanic's safety margin for her lifeboat falls was either 2.25 tons or 3.5 tons. If we use the one seventh-"belt and braces" recommendation, the problems is even greater.

If the above, less cautious and bigger rope fall factors are applied to Titanic, then we find that the lifeboats should not have weighed more than 3.5 Tons fully loaded. This suggests that each boat should not have intially been loaded with more than 24 to 26 persons.

It follows that, by limiting the initial number boarding a lifeboat, a well-trained seaman would actively reduce the possibility of a lifeboat fall parting - caused by "excessive stresses due to sudden jerks on the fall" resulting in the sudden stopping of the lowering process. Which initially would be caused by less than smooth slackening-off of the falls. ( Phew!)
This would most certainly have been the case when there was the least urgency and divided opinions of those on board.
Have a look at the time-line:
It was 20 minutes before they started getting the boats ready and another twenty before they started loading them. By that time, the distress calls had gone out. The first lifeboat - No.7 - was launched before bridge permission had been given.. it had 29 people on board - not one of them was a child.
Within one hour and 10 minutes, all the boats had gone. and before that time " despaerate times require(d) desperate measures."

I deal with this subject in my new book. I hope that it will help to clear the fog of conjecture which surrounds this part of the disaster.
 
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Jim Currie

Member
Thanks everyone for the additional information and discussion.
Steven, you did not veer off from the question.
Understanding that the loading of the boats was -- at least at first -- portrayed as precautionary, it was clear to some not long after the first couple of lifeboats went down that it was far from precautionary. Given the need to prevent a panic, and that was critical, I would agree with Steven's statement unless there are other reasons why the boats were loaded as they were. Jim Currie alludes to the hesitancy of the passengers and doubts about the integrity of the boats and the davits, which I have heard the latter to some degree here and there. I hope to study more testimony from the inquiries and try to decipher what the captain was ordering during this time (if anything much, but I have not heard of much).
I am soon posting a follow-up question about the passengers not knowing the extent of the dire circumstances they were facing.
You must have misunderstood me, Mike. There was nothing wrong with the boats or the davits... just the method of lowering which was standard for the times.
 
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