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Launching the lifeboats

Discussion in 'Events during Sinking & Subsequent Forensics' started by Logan Geen, Jun 18, 2004.

  1. Logan Geen

    Logan Geen Member

    I remember reading somewhere that Titanic was equipped with electric winches for her lifeboat davits, and I believe that there were 4 placed on the boat deck overall. Were these winches designed only for raising the lifeboats back up or were they also equipped to lower boats? If they were indeed designed to lower, no one seemed to remember they were there that night. With the placement of the winches, would they even be able to hook-up to all of the davits?

    I just wondered about that. I suppose no one can be blamed for overlooking the winches but still...it would have made things a tad easier.
  2. The winches, to the best of my knowladge, were designed for recovery. The boats themselves were lowered by the old fashioned way of the deckhands tending to the ropes.
  3. Logan Geen

    Logan Geen Member

    Hi Mike,
    Forgive my delinquent reply and my ignorance of this technology but....why design winches only for recovery? It would seem natural to design them to lower as well. By the time Britannic sailed onto the scene, her gantry davits were electric. It just seems odd that winches would be designed for recovery but either were not designed for lowering or were incapable of lowering.

    By the way, the only source I've read that mentioned this was John Maxtone-Graham's The Only Way to Cross, which briefly makes reference to the winches not being used.
  4. Logan, I don't make any pretense of knowing what Harland & Wolff's rationale was on this matter.

    There could be a lot of good reasons for it, ranging from economies, to avoiding the appearance cluttering up a boat deck, to having the fewest number of machines to keep an eye on and fix. It's not as if anyone ever expected to have a very great need for them. If the occasional boat was used to...say...recover somebody who had fallen or jumped overboard, manual deployment and one machine to recover would be all that was needed. If all the boats had to be used, it's unlikely any would be coming back anyway, so why have a lot of machines you won't ever need?
  5. Bob Godfrey

    Bob Godfrey Member

    A fully-loaded lifeboat would have weighed several tons. The 4 boat-hoisting winches were designed to handle loads of no more than 15cwt at about 100 feet per minute, and none of them were positioned adjacent to the emergency boats. Can anybody state (or estimate) the weight of an empty lifeboat? And does that load limit take account of mechanical advantage through the pulley systems?
  6. Alicia Coors

    Alicia Coors Guest

    Perhaps the answer lies in the rationale for the boats themselves: they were envisioned as being useful to ferry passengers to another vessel. In such a scenario, it would be desirable to recover the boats as quickly as possible so they could be reloaded for another trip.
  7. Logan Geen

    Logan Geen Member

    Alicia and Mike,

    What you've pointed out does indeed make sense. Thanks. I'm still glad however that should I ever take a cruise, at least modern ships are equipped with eletric davits happy.gif
  8. Alicia Coors

    Alicia Coors Guest

    Logan, some food for thought:

    In certain types of casualties that occur with alarming frequency, the first thing to go is the generator(s).
  9. Logan Geen

    Logan Geen Member

    Hmmm, very true. I assume that modern davits are still equipped to be lowered the manual way?
  10. Lifeboats must not require anything beyond gravity and human muscles for launching. As is obvious, electricity and other forms of power can be the first things lost in a catastrophe. To date, gravity has never failed. This was true in 1912 and is true today.

    As for recovering boats, only a few winches were necessary. The plan was obviously to bring only one boat up in each of the four embarkation areas at a time. That would probably have been sufficiently fast in a transfer operation given the time needed to reload boats and unload them at the rescue ship.

    One thing strikes me..the location of the after winches. They are placed P&S of the after 1st class entrance. That location required boats from 11 to 16 to have increasingly longer falls so there would be enough tail to reach the winch drums. With the stern rising, the distance to the water became greater for those boats. It may be that serendipitously the extra tail on their falls for recovery purposes allowed the aftermost boats to be launched safely. I'd be curious to know if anyone has information on the lengths of the various boat tackles.

    -- David G. Brown
    Mike Spooner likes this.
  11. >>In certain types of casualties that occur with alarming frequency, the first thing to go is the generator(s).<<

    Oh boy, have you got that right! I always carried a flashlight on every ship I was stationed on and it came in handy more then once. Some of my shipmates would ridicule me for doing this, but guess who everyone was screaming for when the lights went out!

    During the 1983 fire on the USS Ranger that Parks mentioned, the electricty was the first casualty. We were on the emergency generators for several hours because of that.
  12. i am glad to be a new member here and would like to tell you of one of my personal theroies .

    As we all know Titanic's lifeboats were not Filled to capacity, my Question is may that be because the davits could not support the weight.
    In the 1997 movie Titanic the Davits can be seen vibrating in several shots. however the davits used were made by the some company but a bit stronger also the boats in the movie were Fiberglass and much lighter than the real wooden ones. directer James Cameron said he was concerned with the situation on set as well
    so if the stronger less loaded davits were doing this what were the real ones doing that night?
  13. >>As we all know Titanic's lifeboats were not Filled to capacity, my Question is may that be because the davits could not support the weight.<<

    Nope. The lifeboats and davits were tested in Belfast at their full load and shown to be plenty strong enough for the job. The problems were on several levels, not the least of which was at first, few people really understood the gravity of the situation. (Why take to a cold uncomfortable boat when you don't believe the ship you're on is sinking in the first place?) By the time everybody realized just how much trouble the ship was in, it was way too late.
    Mike Spooner likes this.
  14. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    I wonder if the davits on the real ship were stronger than those on the movie set. The real davits were of forged steel. I suspect Cameron's were built up from steel pieces. Parks Stephenson would know.

    My e-book contains much information of the boats and davits, some of it courtesy of Bruce Beveridge. The situation is not as simple as is generally made out. For one thing, the official boat capacities were highly imaginative. The crew's work in loading them was not as bad as many think.
  15. For one thing, the official boat capacities were highly imaginative. The crew's work in loading them was not as bad as many think.
    I can usually follow you, Dave, but this time you have me floundering slightly. "Imaginative" - plus or minus? Like, could they have got more in, or less? Or was it easier to load the boats than people think, and more should have been piled in?

    Personally, I think the capacities of the lifeboats were pure fantasy - 70 odd, indeed. If you look at the photos of the boats arriving at the Carpathia with relatively few survivors according to the official loading statistics, but yet so comparatively heavily loaded, one is hard put to imagine so many others on board. Especially if you factor in the usual Atlantic conditions - waves, bad weather etc. Is that what you were getting at?
  16. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    Monica, I don't want to reveal too much of my book. A man must eat!

    Your remarks about "fantasy" are not far off. I've done work on the boats never before attempted and the results are not flattering to the Board of Trade. I didn't work from the photos, but I did use them to reinforce other material. There's also material from 1912 about the inadequacies of the boats.
  17. Reminds me of a ferry I boarded in Greece in about 1972. Captain stood beaming on the bridge, bawling into his loudspeaker, "Plenty room!" as the people, goats, chickens etc. piled on enthusiastically. The plimsoll line had long sunk beyond view by the time I doubtfully boarded. The chickens and I stayed distrustfully on deck as we floundered through the storm, with my friend and I wondering whether or when to release the chickens (very British). The Captain sang "Che sera, sera" to us over the roar of the weather. We made it, though. A month or so later, he sank.

    PS the chickens weren't mine....
  18. Did the slant of the deck have anything to do with it?
  19. Question Time..........

    Is there anything I wrote several weeks ago about the probable abandon ship procedures on Titanic that wasn't understood? It would appear so by the above posts and I do get the feeling that I've been wasting my time here.

    (1) The lifeboat davits were as big and as strong as they get apart from the double banking set up.
    (2) Of course the lifeboats were,nt filled to capacity. If any of you out there thought they should have been, then you had better tell us all how you would have gone about it and I'll try and keep a straight face. (capacity has a diffrenet meaning to what one may think in such a situation)
    (3) Dave Gittings and your e book by courtesy of Bruce Beveridge. The mind boggles at the wealth of experience in such matters or perhaps, more likely, the wealth of experience in what has been read somewhere!
    (4) ''The siuation is not as simple as generally made out.'' You can bet your boots they weren't ! You can thank your lucky stars you weren't there mate!
    (5) ''Boat capacities being highly imaginative.''
    Why is everyone concerned about boat capacities on such a night and did they have time to go around counting bums on seats? Without experience you will find it hard to believe that in an emergency abandon ship situation, especially on such a night as in April 1912, you shouldn't believe all you read.
    (6) The inexperienced in such matters always talk about ''official this'' and official that'' or '' B.O.T. this and that'' when that's the last thing on peoples minds when they are trying to save lives.
    Never forget, officialdom, rules, Merchant Navy acts etc. are a nonsense in emergency situations, are the last things on seamans minds and much of it, like common law, is for guidance only. Practical semanship kicks in, believe it or not and if you haven't got it,then comment on it at your peril!
    (7) ''The crews work in loading them was not as bad as many may think.'' Really! Then tell us all David Gittings (without reading your books) just how you would have done it all so differently from those professionals in 1912. If you hazzard a reply, try and think about temepratures and ice in the lay of ropes along with frozen fingers if at all possible.
    (8) ''Work on boats never before attempted.'' Where did you get the lifeboats and davits from.? This I must hear about!

    (8) ''Fantasy and flattering to the Board of Trade.'' Typical diatribe from the inexperienced.
    (9) Miguel Murdoch. You may have a long wait for someone to answer the lowering of boats down the side of a listing ship without skates.
    There are several methods but I'm saying nothing whilst with you, I wait for the experts!
    (10) Finally, There are good reasons why boats were lowered half full and if I had been there, I may well have done the same had I been a cox in such a boat.
    But why? You tell me!

    David H
  20. No, David, I'm not disputing the fact that there were probably understandable reasons why many of the boats were lowered at less than full capacity under the circumstances - people refusing to get into boats, time pressures etc. I'm the very first to admit I know nothing about loading and lowering boats.

    All I was saying, as a matter of observation, was that if you look at the boats arriving at the Carpathia, it seems very optimistic to think you could safely get 70 odd people in them. I'm sure they could take the weight of all those people i.e. dry sandbags, or something, in a test in calm waters, but I can't quite see the boats accommodating the bulk of all those people. They also wore much bulkier clothing than we do, which would often have got soaking wet in rougher seas, thus increasing the weight and making the boats ride lower in the water, even if you could have crammed them all in in the first place, which looks a bit doubtful from the photos. Wool and cotton can hold a lot of water, so if you really wanted to test the boat capacity, you should determine how much 70 heavily-clad, soaking-wet adult Edwardians would have weighed, then tried to squash them all in, and rowed them out to a rough bit of the North Sea and observed what happened. Well, they couldn't do that, of course, but they could have done a bit better in their calculations maybe?

    I quite agree it probably wouldn't have made any difference on that calm, dry night.