Collapsibles A and B


Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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That's why even if there were adequate lifeboats on the Titanic, I would seriously doubt that they would be launched in time.
 
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Terry Adams

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This is my first posting. My wife's great uncle was Carl Olof Jansson, a single 3rd class, Swedeish survivor; who entered the water after CA & CB were "launched" and swam to one of them. All sources in this web site show him aboard CA with a friend (August Wennerstrom (Andersson)). However a newspaper article the family has saved mentions that he was aboard an inverted CB with S/O Lightoller and his friend Wennerstrom. One thing I have found is that Carl's interviews changed drastically over time, which is true of many of the 3rd Class surviving men. I am trying to clear this up. Does anyone know of any accurate evidence confirming his being on Collapsible A and not on B ??
 

Chris Dohany

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Jan 8, 2001
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If I recall correctly some of Wennerstrom's accounts likewise mentioned Jansson being with him. Wennerstrom's description of the disposition of his boat point to collapsible A, as well as his mention of Mr. and Mrs. Lindell being in or at this boat. One of the Lindells' wedding rings was later found in 'A', lending credence to Wennerstrom (and thus Jansson) being in the boat.
 
Apr 25, 2001
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Dear Terry, Carl Olof Jansson wrote a lengthy letter to his parents a short time after the disaster. This letter describes the events in and near collapsible boat A. There is no doubt that he was in boat A.
 
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Terry Adams

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Dear Peter, Thank you for your response. We do have the letter that Carl wrote to his family after his rescue aboard the Carpathia. It only refers to the boat he and his friend were in, as a "raft" and not as Collapsible "A" or "B". However a later newspaper article from his home town (Wahoo,NE)states that he remembered being in a Collapsible boat with S/O Lightoller (which would have been Collapsible B, not A. This article introduces some doubt as to which boat he was in. Can you tell me why you feel "there is no doubt that he was in boat A" ??
 
Apr 25, 2001
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Terry,in his interviews in Swedish, he mentions being on a raft filled with water. As far as I can remember, he never mentioned that the boat was upside down or something to that effect. Either he or Wennerström talked about the Lindells being in or near the boat, and the fact that their wedding ring (the Lindell one) was found in boat A later would confirm their presence in the boat. There was no other Swede with them as far as I know.

Peter
 

T. Eric Brown

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Jun 5, 2005
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Has anyone else noticed that in almost every novel about the Titanic that the hero of the story always jumps overboard and is rescued by Collapsible B? What is the fascination with that boat? After all, a boat is a boat.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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When writing fiction, collapsible B comes in handy because the exact number on board it is a bit vague. A writer can happily add one more. The numbers taken into the conventional lifeboats are far better known. And, of course, it makes the fictional character's escape more dramatic.

As far as I can see, the collapsibles were not known by letters until the British inquiry reported. None of the witnesses mention them by letter in the inquiries or in the press. Their accounts are therefore sometimes a bit confusing.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Agreeing with the points Dave makes. Putting your protagonist on Collapsible B keeps him with the ship as long as possible, then puts him in the water (I've used the male gender deliberately - both historically and, for the most part in fiction, B's survivors were male). It also places him in close proximity to some of the high-profile characters who left vivid accounts - Lightoller, Gracie, Bride and Thayer. Those accounts have helped to give 'B' a higher profile in the past - something noticeable in, for example, the movie version of ANTR.

'A' would serve an author's dramatic purposes as well, but the accounts of her survivors are, for the most part, less entrenched in canonical Titanic literature - at least not to the same degree that those survivors named above have been. I believe Biel touched upon the matter of surviving atop 'B' in fiction in Down with the Old Canoe. Now that the balance is being redressed in research and more accounts of 'A' are available to authors, I wonder if we'll start seeing 'A' creep into fiction more. We saw a hint of it in Cameron's movie, with Cal surviving on 'A' rather than 'B'.
 

T. Eric Brown

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Jun 5, 2005
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Another reason we might begin seeing 'A' pop up more often is because 'B' is becoming cliche. If you add up all the fictional characters that were saved on B, the boat's population likely doubles. A is less glamorous. It's half swamped. The people on it are all soaked with icy cold water. Boat 4 was the only other boat nearby and it's no more special than the other boats. B holds some special place in Titanic lore that I have never fully understood, but have embraced in my short story. (Yes, I fell for the cliche, guilty as charged.) Enjoyed those interesting thoughts.
 
May 1, 2004
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I think there is more room for dramatic tension if the protagonist swims toward the upside-down "B" instead of heading for the half-swamped "A".

I'll grant that there is dramatic tension in "A's" situation. "A's" lot are cold, wretched and probably frantically bailing out water with whatever they found. They had to survive two vessels going down beneath their feet: the Titanic and the collapsible.

But "B's" lot had more trouble. The protagonist had to swim in the frigid saltwater to the upturned boat. (Hypothermia, and the weight waterlogged clothing sapping his strength) He had to pull himself onto the rounded bottom (now the top). I'm guessing that it would have been slick, not an easy grip for a tired man. Those who got on it before him would have tried to push him off, like they tried in the movie of ANTR. Would he have given up, like the gambler in that movie? Or would he assert himself, like Mr. Lightoller did? Also from the film, he would find it hard to keep his balance on the rounded bottom as it bobbed in the waves. And "B" was slowly sinking as the air beneath it leaked out. And if Mr. Lightoller didn't have his whistle, would any of the other boats bobbling in the darkness have seen their plight? "B" provided more tension building "Will our hero survive?" moments than "A" could have done.
Also, Lightoller was a leader, a heroic character. That's how Walter Lord wrote of him and how Kenneth More portrayed him in the film. A vigorous action man is interesting to readers.
Add Harold Bride, the wireless man, to inform the men on "B" [and the reader] that Carpathia is steaming to the rescue. Will Carpathia get to them before "B" goes under? Think of the babble from the men on "B": "What about Olympic? Baltic? That German ship? Aren't they coming?" "What about that mystery ship with the light just over the horizon?" "A" and the other lifeboats probably didn't know when help would come. "B" had some hopeful news, but would Carpathia, or someone, get to them in time?

I don't think "B" is a cliche because, after Titanic, it was the vessel most likely to sink. Therefore it has the most dramatic possiblities.
[Although if I was writing a Titanic fiction, I would write a verbal blow by blow account of what was said and done in Boat 6.]
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Here are some useful facts.

The men on collapsible B may have thought it would sink but in fact it couldn't. Its hull was divided into many compartments filled with cork. Unlike Titanic, it was unsinkable. You might get some dramatic irony out of this.

The men were helped to stay on board by the boat's clinker construction. The ridges gave them footholds. Without them, they may well have slipped off. Modern lifeboats have handrails on their bottoms in case of capsize.
 

Tim Gerard

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Feb 26, 2019
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I know during the actual sinking, collapsible lifeboats A and B, stored next to the forward funnel above the officers quarters, ended up floating off the ship as the boat deck went underwater. But I'm curious, how were those two boats intended to be launched when it was first decided to locate them up there? I read on Wikipedia (for all that's worth) that there was a piece of equipment stored in the boatswain's store up in the bow that was to be used for those boats, but by the time the officers realized that, the bow was underwater. But what was that piece of equipment? Once boats 1, 2, C, and D were launched, what was originally intended to be the process to get boats A and B down to the boat deck, attached to the davits, loaded, and launched?
 

Seumas

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Mar 25, 2019
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Now that is interesting ! Quite ingenious actually.

I'd always been under the impression that A & B were meant to just be heaved off or floated off the roof. But there we have it, there was a workable system to hoist them up and bring them down upon the deck without risk of damage by means of using a block and tackle on the funnel rigging.

It also shoots down the assertion found in a few books and online that "it was a stupid place to store the boats".
 

Kyle Naber

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Oct 5, 2016
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It was a very difficult and lengthly process that nobody ever expected to do. They honestly were more or less intended to be decorations.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Salvage. Look up salvage laws and think about why the captain and often a small number of crew stayed aboard vessels in distress were otherwise evacuated of crew and passengers. It's always been my opinion that the collapsibles on top of the deckhouse were primarily intended as escape boats should the final members of the crew need it.

In addition to preventing salvage claims, some members of the crew had to be left on deck after launching the lifeboats. Those were the minimum four men per side needed to surge the falls as the boats were launched. Plus, there would be any hands left behind on other needed jobs such as the radio operators, and engineers to tend the pumps and dynamos. All-in-all there could be a boatload to be gotten off at the last minute as the ship foundered. And, since nobody knew which would be the high side and which would be the low as the ship rolled, two boats make extreme good sense.

-- David G. Brown
 
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