Behavior of the passengers after the lifeboats were gone


Nov 13, 2014
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After re-watching James Cameron's movie again, I began to wonder if the building panic scene was portrayed as accurately as I previously thought it was. Sure, it makes beautiful cinema, but with the deck slanting not nearly as heavy as portrayed, maybe the situation wasn't quite like that.

After all, there must have been a reason for Walter Lord to say that "with the boats all gone, a curious calm came over the Titanic." And I can imagine why. Almost everyone must have concluded there was no escape with the lifeboats and thought about what to do now. But the ship wasn't slanting heavily and it was still warm inside, so maybe a lot of them retreated back to smoking rooms, lounges or even cabins, only to be caught by surprise when the lights went out and the ship broke in two.

If this is true, there may have been a lot less people who survived the actual sinking but were left swimming in the water to die of hypothermia. That would also explain why Collapsibles A & B weren't completely swamped by hundreds of swimmers even with these boats so close to where the ship went down. Heck, it may even explain why only 300+ bodies were found out of almost 1500 victims.
 
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Aaron_2016

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A number of survivors who boarded the last remaining 'aft' lifeboats genuinely believed they were the very last lifeboats to leave the ship. Owing to the darkness and the sheer length of the boat deck very few people I believe realized there were a few more boats all the way forward near the bridge. Ismay could not find anyone around and he decided to get into collapsible C as he sincerely thought there were no other passengers within visual or shouting range from the last forward boats. The crowds had moved aft and remained at the aft boat deck when the last aft boats were being lowered and had left. Third class passengers had climbed up the staircases that led to the aft well deck, and for quite a long time during the evacuation they remained here as there was no direct access to the boat deck from the aft well deck and several of the passengers had to climb up the cranes to reach the upper decks. There was at first great panic when the last aft boats were being lowered down as the passengers thought it was their last chance to leave the ship. A number of survivors said the ship righted herself during this time (port list eased away) and from that moment until the ship broke in two there would have been a somber sense of 'what do we do now?' for the next 30 minutes or so before she broke and rolled over.

Survivor Thomas Dillon told reporters that the crew were invited into the First class bar in the smoking room and while they were drinking they heard and felt the ship buckling and breaking. He said almost everyone ran out of the room and he could see several people who did not leave immediately (this would mean the lights remained lit in the smoking room after the ship began to buckle and break.) When Dillon opened the door and went on deck to see what was happening he said the bow of the ship had broken off like a carrot. Soon after he grabbed onto the rail and entered the water when the stern rolled over to port and tipped many hundreds of people into the water.

4th officer Boxhall tried to take his lifeboat towards one of the aft gangway doors and he noticed a large crowd standing inside the door who were eager to jump out. He was afraid they would swamp his boat and he decided to row away. He said the propellers were out of the water at this time. Often wonder what happened to that crowd. They may have jumped out of the gangway door the moment she broke in two, but Boxhall said it was the aft starboard gangway door, and that unfortunately would mean the people would fall back into the ship as she broke into and rolled over to port. It is unknown how many passengers were waiting below decks at the various gangway doors with the expectation of getting into a lifeboat without realizing they had all left and were rowing away as fast as possible..
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Apr 21, 2009
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There was at first great panic when the last aft boats were being lowered down as the passengers thought it was their last chance to leave the ship. A number of survivors said the ship righted herself during this time (port list eased away) and from that moment until the ship broke in two there would have been a somber sense of 'what do we do now?' for the next 30 minutes or so before she broke and rolled over.

Survivor Thomas Dillon told reporters that the crew were invited into the First class bar in the smoking room and while they were drinking they heard and felt the ship buckling and breaking. He said almost everyone ran out of the room and he could see several people who did not leave immediately (this would mean the lights remained lit in the smoking room after the ship began to buckle and break.) When Dillon opened the door and went on deck to see what was happening he said the bow of the ship had broken off like a carrot. Soon after he grabbed onto the rail and entered the water when the stern rolled over to port and tipped many hundreds of people into the water.

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I believe that when there are a large group of people in a situation such as the one on the Titanic in the last 20 minutes or so, herd instinct takes over and the feeling of "what do we do now?" is common and understandable. It is not necessarily a fatalistic feeling and there would have been a lot of hope that somehow the ship would remain afloat, at least long enough for them to be rescued. There probably was some panic as the last few lifeboats left the ship but might not be as much as shown in the 1997 film. As CP says, the decks probably did not tilt as steeply and so the perception would have been different. That said, when the "wave" washed over the deck due to the sudden loss of horizontal stability and dip of the bow around 02:15 am, there would have been panic.

With respect, I find it difficult to believe that the lights remained on in the First Class smoking room after the ship began to buckle and break. It is likely that Dillon and others did hear loud sounds, but there were quite a few 'explosions' and such reported by other survivors. A lot of things would have started moving and falling over with the increased tilt of the decks and they would have produced a lot of collective noise.

Digressing slightly from the ethos of the OP, I have always asked myself what I would do in a situation like that on the Titanic after all lifeboats had left and there was no hope. If I was a crew member and was invited to the bar, I would probably try to get drunk. But the problem is that 5 or 6 minutes may not be enough to drink oneself into a stupor; a better plan would be to take a bottle and try to get off the ship near the sinking bow with the Life Jacket on. Then I can continue to indulge while in the water, the vasodilation keeping me from feeling the cold. It would have killed me faster of course, but hopefully less painfully.
 
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Kyle Naber

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I think the complete panic amongst everyone set in when the bow suddenly dipped down. On a dark night, it’s hard to gauge how low the ship is in the water when you’re on deck. It would have been quite a surprise when the water crashed onto the forward boat deck.
 
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Apr 26, 2017
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A number of survivors who boarded the last remaining 'aft' lifeboats genuinely believed they were the very last lifeboats to leave the ship. Owing to the darkness and the sheer length of the boat deck very few people I believe realized there were a few more boats all the way forward near the bridge. Ismay could not find anyone around and he decided to get into collapsible C as he sincerely thought there were no other passengers within visual or shouting range from the last forward boats. The crowds had moved aft and remained at the aft boat deck when the last aft boats were being lowered and had left. Third class passengers had climbed up the staircases that led to the aft well deck, and for quite a long time during the evacuation they remained here as there was no direct access to the boat deck from the aft well deck and several of the passengers had to climb up the cranes to reach the upper decks. There was at first great panic when the last aft boats were being lowered down as the passengers thought it was their last chance to leave the ship. A number of survivors said the ship righted herself during this time (port list eased away) and from that moment until the ship broke in two there would have been a somber sense of 'what do we do now?' for the next 30 minutes or so before she broke and rolled over.

Survivor Thomas Dillon told reporters that the crew were invited into the First class bar in the smoking room and while they were drinking they heard and felt the ship buckling and breaking. He said almost everyone ran out of the room and he could see several people who did not leave immediately (this would mean the lights remained lit in the smoking room after the ship began to buckle and break.) When Dillon opened the door and went on deck to see what was happening he said the bow of the ship had broken off like a carrot. Soon after he grabbed onto the rail and entered the water when the stern rolled over to port and tipped many hundreds of people into the water.

4th officer Boxhall tried to take his lifeboat towards one of the aft gangway doors and he noticed a large crowd standing inside the door who were eager to jump out. He was afraid they would swamp his boat and he decided to row away. He said the propellers were out of the water at this time. Often wonder what happened to that crowd. They may have jumped out of the gangway door the moment she broke in two, but Boxhall said it was the aft starboard gangway door, and that unfortunately would mean the people would fall back into the ship as she broke into and rolled over to port. It is unknown how many passengers were waiting below decks at the various gangway doors with the expectation of getting into a lifeboat without realizing they had all left and were rowing away as fast as possible..

is there any way to find a colour corrected scene of how dark it would have been on the Titanic say
1:50-2:00 Isn't that when the last aft lifeboats left the ship, as well as Collapsible C, I'm just trying to see how far one could see say, they were standing at either end of the deck, near the bridge, or near the davits of Lifeboat 15/10.
 

Kyle Naber

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Not very far I’m guessing. I think those on the decks could really only see what was in front of them. The lights from the Titanic wouldn’t have been powerful enough to illuminate the sea around it.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Yes, but there was a lot of starlight and those who had been in lifeboats for over an hour would have their night vision improved a lot by then. Of course, there are age and other subjective differences with night vision and so it is hard to tell.
 
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Aaron_2016

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is there any way to find a colour corrected scene of how dark it would have been on the Titanic say
1:50-2:00 Isn't that when the last aft lifeboats left the ship, as well as Collapsible C, I'm just trying to see how far one could see say, they were standing at either end of the deck, near the bridge, or near the davits of Lifeboat 15/10.
It would be difficult to identify the people standing next to each other owing to the darkness, and I would say almost impossible to tell if there were more boats forward (many hundreds of feet forward) through the crowds of people that huddled together near the aft section. They would not be able to see the forward collapsible boats near the bridge that were lowered down level with the side of the ship between the boat deck and the promenade deck all the way forward. An unfortunate circumstance.


deckdark.png



Lightoller's cabin was located a short distance from the bridge. When he felt the collision and got up, he said:

"I looked out of the starboard door and I could see the Commander standing on the bridge in just the same manner as I had seen Mr. Murdoch, just the outline; I could not see which was which in the dark."



The boat deck would have looked similar to this.

deckdark1.png



5th officer Lowe said the deck was briefly illuminated by the flash of the rockets.


deckdark2.png


But the crew were mostly working in this kind of darkness.

"Any more women and children?"
"Any more boats?"

deckdark1.png


One of the passengers had a walking stick with an electric light fixed to it. She was trying to help Lightoller see what he was doing, but he actually found it very distracting and the cane was eventually 'misplaced' i.e thrown away.

I believe many passengers and crew were following each other and staying mostly together in the aft section of the ship, with no idea that there were still several more boats all the way forward.


deckdark3.png



When the last aft lifeboats had left the ship the passengers would have wondered what to do next. They would have leaned over the rail and seen the empty lifeboats davits and ropes swinging down, but it was impossible to see all the way forward. Lifeboats 2 and 4 were near the bridge in the dark and dimming lights. These two boats rowed down the port side and passed very close to the stern. This would be the moment when the passengers in the aft section would realize there might still be some more lifeboats further forward.

Colonel Gracie was near the forward collapsible boats. Just moments before the sea had reached the boat deck he decided to turn around and head towards the stern, but he said there was suddenly a very large crowd of passengers who just appeared right in front of him and blocked his way to the stern. I believe that crowd had just witnessed lifeboats 2 and 4 rowing passed the stern and they hoped to find more boats forward and they rushed forward just as the boat deck went under.

Mr. Collins was near Colonel Gracie beside the collapsible boats. Owing to the darkness they could not see if there were more boats further aft. Mr. Collins said:

"Word came there was a boat getting launched, so we were told to go aft, and we were just turning around and making for the stern end when the wave washed us off the deck, washed us clear of it, and the child was washed out of my arms."

If the Titanic had better outdoor lighting (lights fixed at each lifeboat station which remain on when a lifeboat is present and extinguish when a lifeboat has left) then there might have been a greater chance for the passengers to see the remaining lifeboats at both far ends of the deck.

The inadequate lighting saved Bruce Ismay's life, because he only got into collapsible C after he looked around for more passengers and saw none, but owing to the dark he could not see them all the way aft, and they had no idea there was a collapsible boat all the way forward. If there had been adequate lighting then a large number of passengers would have come forward and filled the boat.


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Chung Rex

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Dec 25, 2006
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A number of survivors who boarded the last remaining 'aft' lifeboats genuinely believed they were the very last lifeboats to leave the ship. Owing to the darkness and the sheer length of the boat deck very few people I believe realized there were a few more boats all the way forward near the bridge. Ismay could not find anyone around and he decided to get into collapsible C as he sincerely thought there were no other passengers within visual or shouting range from the last forward boats. The crowds had moved aft and remained at the aft boat deck when the last aft boats were being lowered and had left. Third class passengers had climbed up the staircases that led to the aft well deck, and for quite a long time during the evacuation they remained here as there was no direct access to the boat deck from the aft well deck and several of the passengers had to climb up the cranes to reach the upper decks. There was at first great panic when the last aft boats were being lowered down as the passengers thought it was their last chance to leave the ship. A number of survivors said the ship righted herself during this time (port list eased away) and from that moment until the ship broke in two there would have been a somber sense of 'what do we do now?' for the next 30 minutes or so before she broke and rolled over.
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Thanks for your observation. I did not take the issue seriously until you mentioned that there are some passengers wandering near the gangway doors instead of behind "locked gates". Few books mentioned the possible fates of those passengers waiting next to gangway doors. I wonder if anyone finally survived, and if most did perish, their bodies were ever recovered. As you said, some of the gangway doors were close to the breakup position. If so, the passengers should suffer terrible experience similar to Cal's male servant depicted in 1997's Titanic.