1. Welcome to Encyclopedia Titanica
    or subscribe for unlimited access to ET! You can also login with , or !
    Dismiss Notice

Saving more lives

Discussion in 'Lost and Saved' started by Michael Tennaro, Nov 5, 2000.

  1. Hi all,

    in a another thread Parks recently wrote:

    I maintain this is proof that Smith knew the ship was doomed to sink before he could reach his destination and that he needed to bring the ship to a stop so that lifeboats could be lowered. He had to make that decision quickly, because of the time he knew it would take to launch the boats. As it was, he waited a bit too long...Titanic sank before all her boats could be launched.

    My question is:
    I have read this statement more than once: that Titanic sank before all her lifeboats could be launched, and therein lies my confusion.

    the only two lifeboats that were not launched were the two collapsibles on top of the officer's quarters. it is my understanding that the reason these two were not launched was not because the crew ran out of time, but rather because these two lifeboats were stored in such a way that there was no way to get them to the davits.

    these two collapsibles were stored upside down, and lashed to the deck. there was no equipment to cut loose the lashings. I seem to recall that one of the crew even had to borrow a knife from (I think it was) Bride. once loose, there was no machinery to move them from where they were stored over to the davits.

    I realize we are not talking about a great deal of time at this late stage in the sinking, but wouldn't it be a fair statement to say that if these two collapsibles had been stored next to the davits, like the others, there would have been enough time to launch them?

    to my mind there is a significant difference between the crew not having enough time, versus the crew not having any way to launch them. or do I not have my facts correct here???

    all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T.
  2. Mike, sounds like you have it pretty much streight. Storing those two collapsibles lashed to the deckhouse upside down was a costly mistake, one made even worse by the fact that there was no way to move them short of Swiss Steam...which is to say, brute musclepower.

    I think it would have been enormously helpful if the ship had not gotten underway again as seems to have been the case. Nearly an hour of precious time was lost as a consequence of this.

    Michael H. Standart
    SmileyGirl likes this.
  3. The collapsibles on the roof of the Officer Quarters were expected to be lowered by rigging them to cables provided for that purpose. However, this was an manpower-intensive, timely operation....clearly, not a practical design when the ship is settling beneath one's feet. Michael, you are correct in your assertion that the collapsibles would have been of more use if they had been stowed on the Boat Deck, next to a davit.

    But this is obscuring the point I was trying to make...at around 0010, Smith only had a general idea of how long it would take for the boats to be cleared, manned and lowered. He also had only Thomas Andrews' estimate of how long it would take for the ship to sink. Witnesses disagree on Andrews' estimate, but the greatest reported was 1.5 hours, which would be about 0130. At the time he had the make the decision, Smith did not know that ship would stay afloat until 0220...we can only argue that figure today with the benefit of hindsight. As it was, the last lifeboat (not collapsible) was lowered around 0155, 25 minutes after the estimated time Andrews provided Smith. In fact, at 0130, 6 of the standard lifeboats (I'm including the Emergency #2) were either in the process of being lowered or had yet to be lowered. My point is, Smith knew he did not have the luxury of time to chase after a light or steam to Halifax...he had to stop and commence loading and lowering the boats before the ship sank.

    I am aware that this is covered in Dave Brown's book, but I haven't read that portion yet. The assumption I am making for this argument is that Andrews reported that the ship had an hour and a half to live, this based on BOT testimony. If he reported that the ship could float until morning, then the argument changes.

  4. Addendum to my last...I realise that 0130 is not a time on which to base a serious argument. Not only was Andrews' estimate related secondhand (the Bos'n told Hemmings that Andrews was putting out the word that the ship had only a half-an-hour to live), but we don't know if the "hour to an hour-and-a-half" clock started ticking during Smith's conversation with Andrews or Boxhall. We also don't know exactly when Smith and Boxhall had their conversation. I explain this in anticipation of the point being brought up...I did not overlook the margin of error in the time estimates...I used the 0130 time only to illustrate my point. I still maintain that when Smith had to make the decision to prepare the boats for lowering, he was faced with the possibility that he might not have enough time to launch the boats. As it happened, the ship stayed afloat longer than anticipated.

    I wonder, out of curiosity, how long Smith thought initially that it would take to get the boats away. Did he under- or over-estimate the actual time?

  5. Dan Cherry

    Dan Cherry Active Member

    The Titanic was supposed to have a block and pulley system installed in the eyehooks of the funnel stays on either side of the boat to launch these collapsibles. Photos of this pulley system can be seen on Olympic (see book 'Titanic and her Sisters') and other White Star ships (see E.E. O'Donnell's Last Days of Titanic') around this time. The blocks and pulleys were probably not on Titanic, or stored elsewhere onboard (I would tend to think they weren't onboard, since the only place to store them would be hooked up). All photos of Titanic show the eyehooks empty.
    The collapsibles were not stored upside-down. How they are portrayed in Cameron's film is correct. They were stored right-side up in chocks, canvas sides collapsed, and covered.
    It appears that Olympic did not have a collapsible boat set on top of the officer's quarters originally. A std. photo from March 1912 appears to show collapsibles A and C stacked on top of one another, with B and D on the port side likely in the same fashion.
    The officers on Titanic did the best they could with what little time they had. It probably would have made a difference if the collapsibles were stacked as on Olympic - lift the first up, load and drop, then repeat. Having it right there and not needing to rig oars and ropes to pull them down wasted precious minutes.

    My .02
  6. I wonder if Thomas Andrews estimate of an hour came before or after the engines were restarted and Titanic tried to make Halifax? If after his estimate is pretty dead on!

  7. No book is long enough. The numbers that follow were developed for my book, Last Log Of The Titanic, but were eliminated due to the limited number of pages available.

    Based on the capacity of a standard Titanic lifeboat (65 people), it would have taken at least 34 boats to carry all of the passengers and crew aboard that night.

    The new Welin davits made launching the boats relatively quick and easy (According to Lowe's testimony). Simple math shows that the crew launched a boat every 4 minutes and 45 seconds once they began lowering.

    There are four possible o'clock times when it would have been logical to launch boats. In round numbers they are:

    11:50 pm after the ship first came to a stop. In retrospect, this was the time to begin as Titanic was mortally wounded. Based on the actual performance of the crew, there would have been time to launch 32 boats, 2 fewer than needed to rescue everyone.

    00:15 am after Captain Smiths tour of damage and flooding. In fact, it would not have been possible at this time because the ship was still "shooting" forward as it coasted to a stop. However, if launching had been attempted, there was only time to put 26 boats in the water.

    00:30 am when the ship would have lost way and it would have been safe to launch lifeboats. If they had started now, they could have launched up to 23 lifeboats in the time available.

    00:45 am the actual time when the first boats were lowered. There was only enough time to launch 20 boats before the ship sank.

    The implication of all of this is a very sobering thought. Even if Titanic had carried two boats in each of its Welin davits, there was not enough time after the accident to launch all of 32 of those boats. Based on the math, it appears that even if the ship had carried enough lifeboats for everyone...there wasn't enough time to use all of them properly.

    One problem on Titanic was the number of crew trained in handling the davits. It appears groups of men launched a boat and then moved to another. That explains the long period of time between the first and last boats. Today, each lifeboat is required to have its own crew trained in launching procedures. In theory, this means that all of the boats could be launched at the same time. While this sounds good, a lot of the so-called "trained lifeboatmen" have never actually launched a lifeboat from a real ship. Many lifeboatmen on merchant ships have obtained their certification by launching a scale model located in the classroom of a training facility.

    -- David G. Brown
  8. Ouch! David, I take it this simulator doesn't take into account things like a marginal to heavy list and rough seas or equipment damaged in whatever accident makes evacuation of the ship an imperative in the first place.

    Michael H. Standart
  9. In the aftermath of Titanic, the public decided that lifeboats were they key to everyone's survival. I don't believe that sailors have ever put much trust in lifeboats to save everyone under all circumstances. One of my merchant marine acquaintenances was pleased earlier this summer when his evacuation station was changed from an old-fashioned lifeboat to an inflatable raft. He thinks he has a much better chance of surviving in rough weather.

    However, Titanic sank under classroom conditions: calm seas, little if any wind, and a relatively upright vessel. As a result, that's the image most people have of a major ship disaster.

    -- David G. Brown
  10. A reletively upright vessel(Snort) Somebody ought to show the public some photos of the Andrea Doria. How about the Prinsendum for calm seas?( Or maybe a cruise off of Cape Hattaras or through the North Sea in the dead of winter.) The Morro Castle was a nice study in how useful lifeboats for all can be when the gear is rusty or painted over.

    And wasn't there a ship or two which sank off of South Africa in conditions so stormy that it was the helicopter or swim call?

    Michael H. Standart
  11. Erik Wood

    Erik Wood Member

    Good Morning All,

    I do most sincerly apologize for my late entry. But as a Captain he did need to stop the ship before launching of the boats could begin. However this was already done by the time they were ready to do so. I have contested in another board whose name presently escapes me that with more lifeboats not all that many more would have been saved. The types of davits that Titanic had would have required filling the first group of boats from the Promenade deck which as we know Lightoller had a couple problems with. This would have caused a delay and may have in the end cost more lives and time.

    Just my opinon I have been known to be wrong from time to time
  12. It seems that everyone always comments, "If only they had the extra lifeboats, or enough for everyone on board." Any Titanic researcher knows that Andrews had put in special davits to allow for an extra row, but that Ismay had vetoe'd the idea in favor of deck space. However, it seems to me that if it took an hour and a half to launch all 20 boats, the two collapsables which were not even 'launched' and of course the fact that they were only half full, would the extra boats have made much of a difference? In fact it seems that they would never have been launched for the most part and that the loss of life would have still been great.
  13. Amanda-- you are right from a practical standpoint. Because they waited until about 12:45 a.m. to start launching lifeboats, there would not have been time to use the extra boats properly even if they had been fitted. The next question to ask is, "Why the more than one-hour delay in launching lifeboats?"

    --David G. Brown
    SmileyGirl and Mike Spooner like this.
  14. That is a question I've wondered for years and as I read the back posts here I see that it has been brought up manytimes. Forgive me if I rehash anything as there are ALOT of posts here to catch up on happy.gif I gather from the converstatoins that the Titanic did indeed restart it's engines before stopping again and lowering boats. What I can't figure is if they immidiatly sent for Andrews, he most certainly knew of the damage almost immediatly. Is there any indication that Andrews was NOT immidiatly notified or that Captain Smith didn't immidiately come to the bridge as is claimed? In my research I've never found any reason for such a delay. Also, if Boxhall went down to inspect the damage, but didn't go far enough into the ship to realize the extent of the problems could this have caused a delay until the phonecalls came in about the flooding below?
  15. Cal Haines

    Cal Haines Member

    Amanda wrote:
    ... Any Titanic researcher knows that Andrews had put in special davits to allow for an extra row, but that Ismay had vetoe'd the idea in favor of deck space. ...

    Hi Amanda,

    Even if Titanic had been fitted with the second row of lifeboats, it's not clear that they would have worked as well as envisioned, and the engineers at Harland & Wolff knew this. The problem is that the falls (the rope and tackle used to lower the boats) twist up, cork-screw fashion, as soon as the boat is released. You can't just pull on the end of the rope until the tackle is back on deck. Seamen would have to drag the ropes back up on deck, straighten out the rope and get it back through the tackle before they could fit it to the next boat--a pretty time consuming process. And time was not something they had enough of. This probably figured into the delays in launching the collapsible.

    Have a look at what Wilding had to say about the davits at the British Inquiry: British Inquiry, Day 19, Wilding beginning at #20535.

    Warm Regards,

  16. Cal is right about overhauling a tackle that is not hoisting enough weight at the end. The easiest solution would have been to have each boat carry its own set of two-blocked tackles to be attached with snap hooks to the davits at the appropriate time. But, there is a deeper message in what Cal said about overhauling the tackles. That is, nothing is quite as easy as it looks--especially when done at night on the deck of a sinking ship. If they had been fitted, the second set of boats would have required more work and more time to launch than the first.

    -- David G. Brown
  17. Then most likely, the boats would have just more or less floated off of the deck like the colaspable did then?
  18. On that assumption, assuming that the boats were also freed from the ship, and not caught up in debree, rope etc, can we assume that several more lives would have been saved by climbing aboard so long as they didnt' freeze, as with the collapsibles. I would think that when they saw that Titanic was in her final moments, the crew would have tried to cut these boats free as well.
  19. More boats = more survivors. But, don't put any real numbers into that equation.

    The final moments of Titanic were quite chaotic. We cannot say what would have happened to boats left on deck to float free. Some might have come off upright, others would likely have been capsized. The real question is this: how would you keep untrained people sitting quietly in a lifeboat as the ship broke up beneath them?

    --David G. Brown
  20. I am currently working on a model of the titanic, which includes fiber optics to light the ship up. While doing this one day, I had a thought. Recalling some facts, we all know that there must have been a ship nearby, whether it be the Californian, the Samson, or some other ship. The ship did not have a wireless (Or did not have the wireless on in the case of the californian). Further, the rockets from the Titanic were not interpreted as signals of distress. Finally, the Boxhall's attempt to raise the ship by Morse lamp failed (Perhaps mistaken for a flickering mast light.) This last part is the key to my idea: What if the electricians turned the power on and off in a block of five or ten cabins on B deck with large windows (Or perhaps in the cafe parisian) to create the signal SOS? Surely whatever ship that was nearby would have noticed a large signal like this? I realize that there are other factors involved, such as whether or not the mystery ship could have navigated the ice to get to the titanic in time to save anyone, but I still think it an interesting idea. I would love to hear from anyone who is more familiar with the electrical configuration of the Titanic, and whether or not a plan of this sorts would have been possible and practical.

    Brian R.
    SmileyGirl likes this.