Life vest float or sink

matthew ewing

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Oct 10, 2005
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based on the research that i have done, people were better off without the life-preservers. the reason: the material that was on the inside of them, would obsorb water after so long, making them sink! just a little known fact for ya. if you don't beleive this, give me a site where it says other wise and i'll admit my mistake. but i did find this on a credited site; just don't remember which one it was, i do a lot of research.
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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Izzatso? Then remember to leave your lifejacket in the rack when next emergency stations sounds at four o'clock the morning, matthew. Best of luck...

Noel
 

Mark Baber

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Dec 29, 2000
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if you don't beleive this, give me a site where it says other wise and i'll admit my mistake.

It doesn't work that way, Matthew. You made the statement, so you have to back it up if you can, not challenge others to prove it's wrong.

i did find this on a credited site

What does this mean?

just don't remember which one it was

Citing a source you can't identify is effectively the same as citing no source at all, since no one else can check it out and assess its reliability.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>based on the research that i have done, people were better off without the life-preservers. the reason: the material that was on the inside of them, would obsorb water after so long, making them sink!<<

By that time, they would have already frozen to death. I'm sure you're aware that the water temperature that night was around 28°F, and I'm sure you're also aware of how fast hypothermia does it's work.

>>but i did find this on a credited site; <<

Then perhaps you would be so kind as to take some time to find that site and offer a link.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Matthew, on this forum we use sources that are rather more credible than some turkey's web site.

In Board of Trade Circular 1453, page 34, rule 52, lifebelts were required to be capable of floating for at least 24 hours while supporting 15 pounds of iron in fresh water.

I might add that for upwards of a month after the sinking bodies supported by lifebelts were being found by several ships. So much for faulty lifebelt design.
 
May 3, 2005
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And as Michael and Dave have pointed out, most of the bodies that were recovered were still floating . Most of them had little or no fluid in their lungs and died of hypothermia instead of drowning, of course.
 

Ariel Lowes

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Jan 4, 2008
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I'd believe it, but like Michael S. said, they would have already been frozen to death. Don't you think that the dead weight wasn't enough to sink them?
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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There were a number of well publicized disasters in the ten years prior to the Titanic, all involving U.S. coastal vessels, in which lifebelts DID absorb water and turn into anchors. In one west coast grounding, after the Valencia disaster (1906), passengers were advised by the crew "Don't wear the life jackets. We always bring our own when we sign on with Pacific Coast Navigation." The Valencia lifebelts had absorbed water and acted as anchors, something crew aboard other ships remembered quite well. Several General Slocum mothers (1904) commented on the odd fact that the children they threw overboard wearing life jackets sank, while the children thrown overboard without them managed to remain struggling on the surface. These were the two most notorious incidents, but there were others.

In the case of the Titanic, the number of bodies recovered in life jackets is the best evidence that such was not the case in April 1912, as has already been said.

However, anecdotally, there seemed to be a distrust of the lifebelts provided by liners. A number of Lusitania first class passengers took the time to purchase "superior" life jackets before embarking, a fact attested to in letters mailed from the ship on May 1, and accounts written May 8-14. This distrust MAY have reflected a wider spread belief in the inferiority of onboard lifejackets, and may also indicate that, regardless of the truth, the sinking lifejacket story might have attached itself to the Titanic. From which the 'credited site' might have drawn information.

That said...several of the crumbling lifejackets from the General Slocum's companion vessel Grand Republic passed the '15 pounds of iron' test after the disaster. Which makes me wonder about the efficiency of the test. 15 pounds of iron is a fairly large sinker, but on the other hand is a minor weight compared to the dead weight that a woman of 150- 175 pounds, wearing three or four layers of ankle length, soaked, cotton skirts, plus shoes, would have generated.
 
May 27, 2007
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I always wondered if the General Slocum was in Titanic Passengers minds in regards to the Lifebelts. Supposedly to Edward O'Donnell's "Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy Of the Steamboat General Slocum" The Life Jackets where out of date. Quote=
According to Kahnweiler & Sons Life Preserver Company in 1904 "No new boat had been delivered to the Gen. Slocum since 1895, and possible as far back as 1891, The year the vessel was launched
P.270 of Edward O'Donnell's Ship Ablaze! So supposedly we have 9 or up to 13 year old Life Jackets. No wonder they didn't work. They should of Called the Knickerbocker Steamship Company,
The Kickback Deathship Company. It was quite a tragedy and Scandal at the time and being in 1904 Titanic's Passengers would of known of it.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I recall reading Ship Ablaze and one of the claims made was that by the time of the distaster, the cork in the lifejackets had decomposed to something that actually absorbed water. Small wonder that anybody wearing them sank like a stone.

Whatever the case may be, had they been in prime condition, one has to wonder if anybody using them wouldn't have been killed anyway. Depending on how high up you are when you jump in, having one of these things on would be an invitation to a broken neck.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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I am now wishing I hadn't had the pool, where I performed the immerse myself in ice water to monitor the physical reactions and see how long I could tolerate it Titanic experiment, removed. I'd like to tie 15 pounds of iron to various objects (commercially available child's life vest; commercially available adult life vest; plastic inner tube; genuine inner tube; a block of cork equivalent in weight to my Morro Castle life jacket) and then repeat the experiment, monitoring the effects of having an adult utilise each object. Just to better understand what the 15 pounds of iron, presumably acting as dead weight, was meant to establish.

I can do this a bit later in the summer, if I can overcome my revulsion of lakes.

Yeah, lifebelts can act as neckbreakers. They can also flip you into a jackknife position if worn improperly. A Morro Castle friend of ours went overboard in an ill-adjusted belt and subsequently had to keep moving all morning~ if you stoppwed kicking andf paddling, the belt would flip your hips up and out of the water while driving your head and shoulders under. Governor Moore, of New Jersey, who flew over the disaster while it was in progress, recalled seeing "fannies" of people who had been killed by their lifebelts inverting, dotting the surface of the water.

I dont really understand what happened with the General Slocum lifebelts. Mike's Athenia lifejacket, and my Morro Castle one, remain hard as rocks after the passage of nearly 7 decades. For a jacket to be in such bad shape that it physically collapsed, leaving someone holding shredded canvas with cork dust at one's feet, tends to imply that the jackets (manufactured, I believe, by the NonPariel Cork Works) were seriously flawed to begin with.

In the case of the sinking West Coast life jackets, they were stuffed with Tule reed. It was fiercely debated, after the Valencia wreck, as to whether....and how quickly....lifebelts so constructed turned to anchors. But, in that case, bodies were recovered by hook from the sea floor (the Valencia was lost in 15-30 feet of water)wearing sodden life jackets.

The current passenger ship versions are orange, come equipped with reflective strips and whistles, and one is given instructions on how to jump from a great height in them without breaking one's neck. I've not cut one open, but I assume that they are stuffed with styrofoam.
 
May 27, 2007
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The current passenger ship versions are orange
I remember back in the late 90's when I was working as Deckhand on Catfish Riverboat Casino painting the name and numbers on them on the Hurricane Deck. I remember the strips being white and the jackets being fluorescent orange. Of course this was more then 10 years ago.

For a jacket to be in such bad shape that it physically collapsed, leaving someone holding shredded canvas with cork dust at one's feet, tends to imply that the jackets (manufactured, I believe, by the NonPariel Cork Works) were seriously flawed to begin with.
Probably didn't help that they were 9 to 13 years old. I think most of them lost their buoyancy due to age.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Probably didn't help that they were 9 to 13 years old. I think most of them lost their buoyancy due to age.<<

That's very possible, however, it doesn't explain how the lifejackets which Jim mentioned can still be in great shape after all these years unless the ones on the General Slocum weren't properly cared for in the first place, which I suspect is what happened.

My own read on the Slocum is that the ship herself wasn't in the greatest condition to begin with. I need to reread the book to re-aquaint myself with the details, but if Knickerbocker wasn't looking after the ship properly, it's not much of a stretch to see that incidental lifesaving equipment would fare any better.
 
May 27, 2007
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I need to reread the book to re-aquaint myself with the details, but if Knickerbocker wasn't looking after the ship properly, it's not much of a stretch to see that incidental lifesaving equipment would fare any better.
Just goes to show how sometimes the almighty pursuit of saving money can have terrible consciences! I think this was a case of just not giving a damn!