More boats 'absurd'?


Jack Dawson

Hi, I have a question about Mr. Sanderson's questioning in the British Inquiry.

"19679. I understand that to allay public feeling you have placed extra lifeboats on the "Olympic"?
- We have extra lifeboats.

19680. Collapsibles, I believe?
- Yes.

19681. And I understand that you placed about 24. Is that so?
- You first of all put a larger number on board and then took them off, did you not?
- We started to put on board a number that would be equal to the possible total of people that might be on board. We saw that that was so absurd that we took them off.

19682. And, finally, you took 24 extra boats?
- Yes, we put a number of boats equal to the number of souls on board the ship when she sailed on that voyage.

What was meant by the response 'absurd'? Is that just a lead-in to the part about the decks being very congested with extra boats?

Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
It wasn't just a matter of congestion on the decks. Using the technology of the time, it was impossible to carry usable boats for maybe three thousand people. I emphasise usable After the sinking, ships were equipped with weird mixtures of ordinary boats and collapsibles, with two or more boats per pair of davits. In theory, the boat attached to a pair of davits had to be lowered and the falls retrieved and untangled. Then another boat had to be attached, filled and lowered. And so on! It was all impractical in a real shipwreck. One of the worst examples I've seen is the Orient Line's Oronsay, from 1924. On her stern she had two pairs of davits of the type used on Titanic. They were supposed to serve four normal wooden lifeboats, plus five collapsibles, much like those used on Titanic. The practice of having more than one boat per pair of davits wasn't banned until the 1960s! The problem of carrying boats for all still exists, though the cruise lines don't advertise it. Ships must now carry boats enough for 75% of those on board, plus numerous liferafts. The usual size limit for a lifeboat is 150 persons, but recently the rules were bent to allow Oasis of the Seas and others to carry 370 person lifeboats. The problem of lifeboats hasn't gone away and won't go away as long as ships not much longer than Titanic can carry several thousand passengers and crew.

Jack Dawson

Hi sir, good points. It does sound better in theory than in practice. Titanic (amazingly) floated until nearly every boat had been launched, but that is not something to count on if your ship is taking on water. I'll admit that when I first read of the 'absurd' comment from Mr Sanderson, it was from a 1912 source that was reading arrogance into it. Stepping away from 1912, it is easy to see what he meant.

Boats are useless if they can't be used in time.