Lifeboats still on wreck

Aug 15, 2005
Darwen, United Kingdom
I don't know whether it has been confirmed or not, Jim, but it certainly looks like it to me.
I know that some were never launched, so it's pretty plausible that they are lifeboats.
Regards, Ryan.
PS That was a great pic - do you have any other links?
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
Those may look a little like lifeboats, but I think you may be decieved by anomolies in the sonar image. Aside from the fact that the shapes are too low on the superstructure, it helps to know that the boats were made of wood. After 90 years, I don't think you'd find much left of any of them.

Jeffrey Beaudry

Even if those aren't the lifeboats, is it possible that the remains of them are still on the boat? Not the entire boats, but the metal ribs (not sure what the correct term is) of the lifeboats. I've seen pictures of the Empress of Ireland wreck, and the remains of the lifeboats are still there. Here is a picture of one (pardon the picture, my house has not upgraded to scanner)

Jeffrey Beaudry


Sorry I had a little problem with the last post, so here it is.

Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
Empress of Ireland had 16 steel lifeboats. There's no comparison with Britannic's wooden boats.

Ken Marschall doesn't show any boats in his painting of the wreck. That's not conclusive, but he's probably right.

James Smith

Dec 5, 2001
Hi Michael--

I wouldn't think a wood lifeboat would last long under those conditions either, which is why I posted the question. I am a complete novice to the ins and outs of sonar and I realize that with sonar all is not always as it seems, but those some of those shapes look pretty darn convincing--and interestingly, they don't seem to show up further aft or in the forwardmost boat positions.

You mention that the shapes are too low on the superstructure, but the A deck windows are clearly visible and the boat-shapes are immediately above it--right where they should be, as far as I know. What is odd is that the superstructure appears to continue above this level more than it should. Perhaps if the top layer had slid off the ship and spread out on the bottom that would account for the sonar image, but the interview with the expedition leader on the website makes no mention of this. (Incidentally, this image was done in 2003).

The only plausible explanations I can think of for the apparent exaggerated height of the superstructure are ripples in the mud caused by the ship's impact with the bottom, or perhaps overlapping runs as the sonar data was being collected.

Which still leaves the question of what those shapes are, if not lifeboats. As you and Dave say, I agree that it's pretty darned unlikely that the boats would still be there--but those shapes are so regular that it's awfully hard for me to dismiss them . . .

Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>Which still leaves the question of what those shapes are, if not lifeboats.<<

As I indicated, they're probably anomolies. The sort that comes with the territory with this sort of technology. I've seen photos of the wreck, including photos of the superstructure, and you couldn't see even a trace of a lifeboat in the lot. I've also seen Ken Marschall's painting of the wreck. While that in and of itself can hardly be called definative...and I believe Ken himself would be the first to throw in that caveat...I'm confident that if they had been there to be seen, he would have shown it that way.

Personally, I think you're seeing the end result of some sort of reverb along the window edges of both B and C decks.

Jeffrey Word

Wow Inger. Cool link. I didn't know anything about that one! Thanks! That's kind of freaky. Lifeboats upright on the ocean floor as if they're still trying to get away from the sinking ship.

Thanks again for providing that link. It's interesting also about the number of passengers in question. There's a huge gap between 500 or so, and 1,500. I admit, I don't have time to read through the whole site right now so I may have missed my answer, but I'm wondering why they didn't have a better idea of how many people were aboard. Because of the whole "ferry" thing and they don't necessarily take passenger "role" on each crossing? I'll check the site out later and make sure I just didn't ask a stupid question.

Thanks again Inger for the link, I found it most interesting. Have a great one!

Mar 18, 2000
Neat stuff, Inger, thanks for sharing!

But Ray Palmer wrote the article? Does the JLA know what he's doing when he's not saving the world?


Inger Sheil

Feb 9, 1999
Hallo Jeffrey -

Officially, there were 650 souls on board the Salem Express - 578 passengers and 72 crew. There have been persistent rumours that she was carrying considerably more than that on board. The official death toll was set at 470, although some estimates put it at around 1,600. I suspect that the actual number was considerably less than that, but we'll probably never know for certain - the Egyptian authorities pulled as many bodies out of the wreck as possible before it was deemed too dangerous to continue and interior penetration of the wreck was sealed off.

For years after the sinking the sea floor around was littered with very human reminders of the disaster such as duty free bags and personal effects - most have been carried away now, I understand.

The Atom, eh, Bill? He'd have sorted it all out! I was always more Marvel orientated...until I discovered Independants...
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>There have been persistent rumours that she was carrying considerably more than that on board.<<

That wouldn't surprise me in the least. Overloading ferry's is a popular passtime and not just in the far east. An illegal, if often winked at practice.
Nov 3, 2005
Hi. Sorry this is late but I've only just found this brilliant forum. I was one of the divers on the last (2003) expedition and if there were any lifeboats we would have found them, although I have to admit that Bill Smith's sidescan image does show what looks like lifeboats. I'll go through my video this weekend and see if I can work out what the pattern is.
Jan 5, 2001
I hadn't been following this forum, but I did want to welcome you to ET, Kevin. It's really great to have one of the 2003 divers 'on board' and I'm sure we'll all be looking forward to, and be appreciative of, any insights you might have.

Best wishes,


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