Floating on matresses


Damon Hill

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Jun 13, 2004
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Dragging mattreses up from the cabins up to the boat deck would have been a job and a half and would have taken ages, and i doubt they would support a persons weight, especially as they would start to become water-logged as soon as they hit the water.....I'm no bedding expert mind you. I don't recall anyone ever mentioning mattresses as having bobbed to the surface as debris after she went down, I could be wrong though. I know that the remains of some "Orex" spring mattreses have been spotted in the debris field. Someone once mentioned something about using mattresses to stuff in the holes made by the iceberg though! Gives a new meaning to the term waterbed.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Kyle, I'm inclined to agree with Damon on this one. Not that this might not have been a workable plan on some level, but as the mattresses would have become thoroughly and completely waterlogged and would barely support even a single persons weight, this is the sort of thing that would have been helpful only in much warmer waters.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Getting wet was the real killer, wasn't it? Apart from a very few extraordinarily tough people like Col. Gracie, Rosa Abbott etc. Even if they had thrown makeshift rafts overboard, like 1st and 2nd class wardrobe doors, tables etc., I can't see how anyone could have got to them without getting wet. Not that it might not have been worth trying, and I'm sure that with a bit of organisation, quite a few wardrobe doors etc. could have been ripped off and thrown over the side. But the habits of normal times die hard, don't they, and they seemed more concerned with locking bedroom doors for security at the beginning. It would also have caused panic to see men throwing the furniture into the sea early on in the emergency, so I doubt it would have been a solution favoured by the officers. I don't think anything would have saved more lives really, except more boats and electric davits.

Didn't electric davits exist then? I suppose they can't have, but didn't they have electric winches? Similar sort of technology one would have thought. But I suppose they knew they needed the winches every voyage, but didn't think they'd need the lifeboats.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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As a matter of fact, at least a few crude rafts were made by lashing deck chairs together. Gus Weikman was one survivor who got a little benefit from one of these.

The problem was not keeping afloat. There were plenty of lifebelts for that. The water was so cold that only about 50 people survived being in it. Quite a number made it to boats, but still died after being taken on board.

There were electric winches that could retrieve some lifeboats. They were used to test boats before sailing, but in normal use the boats were handled purely by muscle power.
 

Steven Hall

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Dec 17, 2008
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I don’t think the passenger crew would have entertained mattresses being removed from the rooms. They appeared quite strict right to the end.
Perhaps slipping down to the kitchen areas and covering yourself in cooking fat might have helped keep out the cold for a short period.
I would have grabbed a few willing lads and removed and inverted the forward cargo hatch. It would have been waterproof and held 15 + men.
As Monica said — getting wet was the death knell. If you didn’t have a strong constitution to start with, you’re all but gone as soon as you’re wet.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Answer to my own question about powered davits here.
http://www.hospitalshipbritannic.com/history.htm
A rather succinct site, which I've not seen before, although I'm sure many other members have.
Brittanic seems to have benefited from the Titanic wisdom of hindsight, plus the fact that she sailed as a war-time hospital ship probably concentrated minds on safety even more. Still didn't save her, though. You can never quite win against the sea, can you? Or at any rate, against a well-positioned mine.

Covering yourself with lard is an idea, Steve, but it might have made scrambling into a lifeboat even more difficult, even had you made it to one.

Nervous though I am to mention it, Robin Gardiner's conspiracy theory book had some very interesting information, respectably referenced, on the effects of very cold water. I would have succumbed to hydrocution the moment I plunged a toe into the Atlantic that night. However, other aspects of the information seem to be less well documented. Although only about 50 people survived after getting wet, that still seems to be more than the authorities on this subject would have expected. The role of alcohol is puzzling. Authorities say it is the worst thing you can do, to give someone a nip of brandy. And rubbing extremeties to get the circulation going seems unwise, too. Yet it is these two actions which people seem to do by instinct, and it certainly seems to have worked for some survivors.

Personally, if I was likely to go due to hypothermia, I'd rather go with people pressing a nip of Napoleon on me, and doing their best to warm me up. Even if it did go against modern theory.
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Doesn't most of our current medical knowledge of the effects of the cold and hypothermia come from experiments done by the Nazis on concentration camp victims?
 
Sep 22, 2003
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Floating Mattresses? Interesting, Though so far I agree w/ the Opposing Arguments, and find 1 other problem w/ floating Matresses. How would These Large Bulky Mattresses be Transported to The boat Deck? If its Anything Like Carrying Mattresses house, it would be very difficult w/ navigating Halls and Stairs. Also take in mind that most mattresses are heavy and due to awkward shape require 2 people to carry them. And Nevermind Throwing Mattresses out Portholes, They are simply to Large to fit out Portholes.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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I don't know about most of our current knowledge coming from that source, Paul, but certainly the basis did. And I also recall a scientist - either British or American - I forget which, and I also forget whom, who subjected himself to the most unwise experimentation in the pursuit of knowledge.
 
Sep 5, 2005
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i thought of the mattress theory as well, but was too afraid to ask. although many may not have wanted to get on or hold onto mattresses or doors in the middle of the ocean, it might have beat nothing at all. by the time it became clear that there were no more boats, you could have gotten some lads or even dressed up gents to get some mattresses or doors out and throw them overboard. i imagine no one thought of trying it or didn't realize it might have helped. might seems to be the operative word here. when the option is certain death, it certainly would have been worth a try. i would have tried a mattress or a door rather than die for sure. but i'm sure not too many folks were thinking rationally then, even if they put up a brave front.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>As Monica said — getting wet was the death knell. If you didn’t have a strong constitution to start with, you’re all but gone as soon as you’re wet.<<

Yep, you sure were. Unfortunately, some never recovered fully from it. Between the hypothermia and his diabeties, that may well have been what led to Colonel Gracie's somewhat premature death.

>>I guess but people in new orleans were using matresses to float around the flooded city and that was working.<<

Mmmmmm...Kyle, the people in New Orleans weren't trying to get around in 28° water. The people on Titanic were and it killed them.
 
J

Jeffrey Beaudry

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>>I guess but people in new orleans were using matresses to float around the flooded city and that was working.<<

But were they air mattresses? I would imagine that air mattresses would work better than the mattresses of the early 20th century. By the way, what were mattresses made out of back then?
 
Jan 28, 2003
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What were matresses made of then? I don't know for sure, though I bet someone will, but if it was kapok then you'd have sunk like a stone.
 
May 3, 2005
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>>Getting wet was the real killer, wasn't it?<<

Not necessarily getting wet, but getting wet with sub-freezing temperature water (28F or so). Most of the recovered bodies (those found in their life jackets) had very little if any water in their lungs and most died of hypothermia rather than drowning. Would they have lived if the water temperature had been warmer ?

>>Did they have metal springs in the mattresses?<<

1912 was in the days before the "innerspring" mattress ? The metal springs were separate and the mattresses were probably of cotton, horsehair or some other material which would soon have gotten waterlogged and sank.

>>Didn't electric davits exist then? I suppose they can't have, but didn't they have electric winches?<<

All of the "Titanic" movies show the lifeboats being lowered manually with a crew member at each end of the ropes controlling the lowering. Is this historically correct ?

PS- Pardon my double negative in a previous post . I should have said "It was not possible to reverse the turbine engine ?"
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Dec 3, 2000
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quote:

Would they have lived if the water temperature had been warmer ?

Perhaps. But if those waters were shark infested, then they wouldn't have stood a chance. Especially if the sharks were hungry.

quote:

All of the "Titanic" movies show the lifeboats being lowered manually with a crew member at each end of the ropes controlling the lowering. Is this historically correct ?

Yes, it is. That issue has been discussed on here previously in this thread:

https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5665/87395.html?1087958412
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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"...if it was kapok then you'd have sunk like a stone."

Bloody hell, Monica! All our lifejackets were kapok. Were they trying to get rid of us?

Noel
 

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