Rowboat TheoryApplication to Californian

Alex Watson

Dec 16, 2005
Hello everyone.

I am a huge fan of the titanic ship. I have just registered for membership, and I am looking forward to meeting all of you and discussing inteesting topics surrounding the titanic.

I must warn you that I am an amateur and I have absolutely no knowledge in the field of engeering or mathematics. In other words, I am a mere laymen in this area.

I have a theory that I would like to share with you. I warn you though, this theory is ridiculous and is not based on research. Read at own risk :p

I introduce a new theory called the RowBoat theory. The theory is based on the premise that boats could have been launched to ‘search out’ the nearest ship for rescue. The theory is applied to the Californian. According to the American and British Inquiries, the Californian must have been closer than 19 ½ miels(31 KM) away from the Titanic. Because the exact distance is not known, we have an unknown variable X. Assume X(distance) can fall between 0KM and 31 KM. That means there is a 1/31 chance or 3% chance that the distance is a certain value. Assume that a life boat is launched at 12 A.M and told to go in a certain directinon Z. Further assume that it contains a competent oarsman who can row at about 3-6 KM an hour. Assuming rowing is continous, 6 KM at worst and 12 KM at best can be reached at best going in a particular direction in 2 hours. If the boat heads in one direction and covers 6 KM in two hours, the probability of reaching the Californian would be (0.25 x 6/31). The probability that the boat is heading in the right direction is 25%. The probability that the boat will be found within 6 Km is 6/31 or 19%. So, the probability that the boat is heading in the right direction AND boat will be found within 6 Km is (25% x 19%) or roughly 5%. Multiply that by four boats, each going a different direction(South, West, East, North) and reaching 6 KM in two hours, the probability of finding the boat would be 6/31 or 19% with four boats! Wouldn’t that be worth the gamble? Now, suppose you have 4 boats with each boat reaching 12 KM in 2 hours, the chance of reaching the californian would be 12/31 x 100%(since all directions North, South, West, East, covered) or 39%! Now let’s resort back to our conservative measure of 19%(we assume four boats and each reaching 6 km in two hours)->let us factor in half an hour(30 minutes) lost due to inefficiency(i.e people getting scared, organization, etc…), each boat would reach 6 x ¾ Km in two hours, 4.5 KM in two hours-> so probability of finding boat would be 4.5/31 or 15%(assuming all four boats are launched and covering north, west, south, and east). I argue that it would have been 15% possible at worst, and nearly 40% at best, averging about 27.5% (1/4) that more lives could have been saved if this operation were adopted.
Dec 4, 2000
Alex-- your theory may work on paper, but it doesn't fit the world of wooden lifeboats manned by only one or two true seamen and primarily women and children passengers. The oars were relatively clumsy bats compared to those used on racing sculls. I doubt that any of the boats could have maintained even 1 knot speed for any duration.

The boats were equipped with sails, but for the duration of the sinking it was virtually dead calm. No wind, no go for sailboats.

However, the major problem with your idea is the scattering of even four lifeboats of the fleet. A group of boats has the best chance of being spotted by a rescue ship. Individual boats scattered to the points of the compass would have to rely on "dumb luck" for some other vessel to find them. Starvation and dehydration in a small boat is a far uglier fate that anyone deserves.

If they had followed your plan, there was no way for the successful boat to have communicated its finding of a rescue ship to the other lifeboats. So, the other three boats of your proposal would have continued their searches, ever-widening the distances between them.

Titanic's crew performed well at getting boats into the water without injuries. They did not do quite as good a job of keeping the fleet of lifeboats together. It is probably only because rowing was so difficult that the boats actually remained in a confined area for easy rescue by Carpathia.

Bottom are probably correct in your calculations, but the equipment and communications available did not allow for a plan like yours.

-- David G. Brown

Marion J Morton

Some of the boats where even full and some boats only had a few people in them. If they were full to capacity they would have recused a lot more people than what they did.

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