The Average Lifeboat


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Jul 20, 2000
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Having a passing interest in the statistics of the Titanic Disaster overall [even if his calculations are based on the outdated British Inquiry figures] I applaud the thrust of Senan's paper and its highlighting of the inadequate loading of Titanic's lifeboats. However:

1] I am puzzled when Senan states:
"THERE were 712 Titanic survivors, according to the British Inquiry. The more correct figure, widely accepted today, is 711. (The discrepancy is represented by Lorraine Allison, the Inquiry believing that all First Class children had been saved.)"

My copy of the British Report says 711 survivors. That number includes Lorraine Allison - First Class: Female children (all saved) ..... 1
It has also now been proved that there were in fact 712 survivors.

2] I am equally puzzled by:
"16 out of the 18 lifeboats that reached the Cunarder were standard lifeboats of the larger size. They were each certified to carry 65 adults."

That is wrong. There were fourteen 65 seater boats, the two 40 seater cutters and boats C & D which were each 47 seaters. This means that 62.22 seats per boat based on:
"Capacity for each of the eighteen boats has been adjusted for the smaller accommodation of the two cutters. This results in 62.22 seats per boat. " is also wrong. - That figure should be 60.22.

3] In passing my own personal opinion based on Senan's own use of halves:
16.5 women (41.63) [Eight first class, four and a half second class, four steerage]
is that statistically the "third child" would have been better divided equally between 2nd and 3rd Class.
 
Jan 21, 2001
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I read this 'statistical' analysis with some puzzlement. Senan chose as his base (ie, the denominator for the calcs) the number of those saved - not the number of persons who embarked.

So true, the 212 crew saved made up 29.8% of the 712 saved, but that's still *less* than the overall average of 32.2% (711 out of 2201). And the crew overall still had the lowest survival rate at 23.9% (212 out of 885). Third Class had a slightly higher survival rate at 25.2% (178 out of 706). In general terms one still had a slightly better chance as a Third Class passenger than as a member of the crew.

So I don't really get the point here -- other than it proves the adage that numbers will confess to anything, if you twist and torture them long enough.

Dave Billnitzer
 

Susan Alby

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What did you think of "The Average Lifeboat" by Senan Molony? In case you haven't read it yet, here is the link
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/item.php?id=4247
I was surprised at the high pc of crew that got a place on the lifeboats instead of passengers, especially those in 3rd class.

'So the crew, with 12 occupants [in each lifeboat], are the Kings of Representation in the average lifeboat — a far cry from the British Inquiry’s portrayal of them as the least favoured and most slaughtered.'

And if 'Women and Children' were indeed first, why did 52 children from steerage perish in the sinking while there were still many empty seats in the lifeboats?

Molony blames this on the 'lack of a coherent chain of command for a mass undertaking' as the culprit and 'an inexcusable failure of leadership'. Ouch!
 
Jan 21, 2001
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Susan:

Crew on board: 885
Crew saved: 212 (24%)

Third Class children on board: 76
Third Class children saved: 23 (30%)

Granted neither group fared particularly well, but would you prefer to have taken your chances on the Titanic as a member of the crew, or as a Third Class child?

The reason that surviving crew outnumbered Third class children in the boats is that the crew outnumbered Third Class children on board by a factor of 11.x to begin with. In survival rates, the crew did indeed fare the worst of all, as Lord Mersey's report correctly concluded. Molony's analysis looks at the mix of lifeboat occupants, but not the survival rate of each class of travellers. The math behind it might be perfectly correct, but it's a misleading use of statistics.

Dave Billnitzer
 

Susan Alby

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Dave- Yes, certainly the crew nor the third class children fared very well in the sinking. But the point that Molony made in his article was the Lifeboats were intended to be used for the Paying Passengers, the Crew was only supposed to board them if it was necessary.
 
Jan 21, 2001
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Susan -

I don't believe there was a rule that lifeboats were to be used *only* by Paying Passengers. There was certainly no such White Star policy, nor international law, etc. One of several issues that arises from that rickety premise is that some Paying Passengers would not enter the lifeboats. Should the Crew have been needlessly sacrificed? Sauve qui peut.

Besides, it does not follow that had the 212 surviving Crew remained on board the Titanic and died, additional Paying Passengers would have been saved. It's idle speculation. Such a practice might have only served to lengthen the list of the lost. The presence of only 212 of them in the lifeboats is still less than what we would expect if the crew had been given at least equal treatment as the passengers.

Don't misconstrue what I am saying here as an apology for the lack of discipline that night; that's not my intent. I also don't intend to play God and decide who has more *right* to a seat in a lifeboat - a paying passenger or a company employee. My point is that the crew did suffer the highest loss as a group, and Mersey's analysis was accurate in that regard. Even if the Crew had suffered worse, it doesn't follow that the Passengers would have fared better.

Dave Billnitzer
 

Dave Gittins

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An interesting aspect of the story of third class is that most of the third class men saved were unattached. Not being PC, I suspect that towards the end there was a good deal of pushing in by these men, to the detriment of third class women and children. Slightly more third class men than first class were saved.

If you go for a cruise today and your floating gin palace sinks, you'll find there are places in lifeboats for the passengers and the crew to manage them. On many ships, most of the crew will trust to liferafts. Times have only changed a bit.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>On many ships, most of the crew will trust to liferafts.<<

And on some, the crew will bag butt outta there in the boats and leave the passengers to their own devices as some did on the Yarmouth Castle and the Oceanos.
 

Susan Alby

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>>One of several issues that arises from that rickety premise is that some Paying Passengers would not enter the lifeboats.<<

True, but for every First class passenger who chose to give up their seat on the lifeboat, many 2nd and 3rd class Passengers were sill waiting to get in one. A Passenger should not have had the "luxury" of choosing to enter a lifeboat for whom they were intended for when not in possession of of all the "facts".

Admittedly, the Crew should have exhausted every effort to get ALL the children on the Titanic into the lifeboats before the ship went down.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>A Passenger should not have had the "luxury" of choosing to enter a lifeboat for whom they were intended for when not in possession of of all the "facts".<<

Errrr...ah...can we clear something up here? The boats were not intended for passengers to the exclusion of all others, and as David Billnitzer pointed out, no rule existed stating any such thing. The idea behind the boats was to be able to transfer passengers and crew from a distressed vessel to a rescue vessel. This works out great if the ship takes a long time to go down as was the case with the RMS Republic but it ain't so hot when the ship sinks fairly rapidly with no help in sight. That's the rock and hard place the Titanic found herself in vis a vis a surplus of bodies and not enough boats to stuff them into.

>>Admittedly, the Crew should have exhausted every effort to get ALL the children on the Titanic into the lifeboats before the ship went down.<<

And from their point of view, they may have thought they had done exactly that. The problem...as always...is one of communications which is a snag in any shipping casualty even to this day. There was no such thing as a public address system or hand held voice radios back in 1912 so that makes any attempt at co-ordination a massive problem. Most all of the deck crew was needed to get the boats away and there was enough of a shortage of them that engineers and even some passengers were being drafted to serve as scratch crews for the boats. That leaves who to round everybody up?

You guessed it: The hotel staff of stewards, maids, valets, cooks, etc. and people like this rarely had that much training in emergency proceedures. Especially in a situation where the right hand literally has no way of knowing what the left is up to.

The dilemma the officers faced was "How do you choose???" and they faced it knowing that no matter what choices they made, people were going to die. A really ugly fix to be in and I don't envy anyone who has to make a call like that! In a perfect world, we would have a One Right Answer to all of this, but then in a perfect world, ships wouldn't sink either.

Could they have done better?

Of course they could have, especially in a world where hindsight is 20/20. But let's at least give them their due credit. As flawed as any course would have been, they did the best that they could. When you get down to it, that's all that anyone can ask for.
 
Jan 21, 2001
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Susan:

Here's the closest analogy I can make to Senan's logic, and why I take issue with it. Instead of a sinking ship, let's imagine that a department store crowded with shoppers on several floors is suddenly found to be on fire.

Are *all* the store employees required to stay inside the burning building while security officers are sent to round up every last shopper?

And if a small percentage of employees do manage to escape (a smaller percentage than shoppers, for that matter), are they at fault for the loss of shoppers who couldn't be found, might have been trapped, thought they were safer where they were, and so on?

David Billnitzer
 
Mar 18, 2000
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I think we also have the issue, especially with the boiler room crew, of what to do?

When the third class men were flooded out of the bow area, early on, where can they go? Up to the well deck, which becomes a dead end, since they are blocked from the first class areas. Or - to the stern third class area. Where their friends and loved ones may be, and where they have a clear and easy route to.

What about the firemen whose quarters are even farther forward? They really can't go into the passenger areas. And if they are not on duty, where to go? The Boat Deck is the only place I can think of.

So, who is more likely to get into the lifeboats being loaded? The people who are standing there on the Boat Deck, waiting for something to happen.
 

Susan Alby

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Considering all of this, here is how I think they should have done it....

The Third class should have gotten onto the lifeboats first, then Second class and and then leave First class to go down with their wealth and money.

Cheers, hope everyone has a Happy Holiday!
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Susan,

"The Third class should have gotten onto the lifeboats first, then Second class and and then leave First class to go down with their wealth and money."

To simply put it, that wouldn't have worked. Plus, it wouldn't make sense for the first class passengers to have to wait. First class passengers were to board the lifeboats first, then the second class passengers and then third class, that was the standard procedure in those days.

If that had happened, it could very well have been a lot worse and possibly a lot more panic, as the other passengers realizing the fact that Titanic was sinking beneath their feet, probably would have gotten impatient waiting and would have attempted to board the boats. As if there wasn't already enough panic during the last forty five minutes or so.

As Michael pointed out, the officers could have done better, but they should be given credit where credit is due.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>The Third class should have gotten onto the lifeboats first, then Second class and and then leave First class to go down with their wealth and money.<<

Would you have all the children in First class go down as well? What is the assumption being made by the above? That any one group has some sort of entitlement to the absolute expense of any other? I don't think you're going to find anyone willing to go to that sort of extreme even in 1912 and even fewer willing to buy into that one today.
 

Jim Kalafus

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About the department store fire analogy:

If the department store burned extremely slowly- say for 2 and a half hours.

And the nearest fire department was 58 miles away, leaving staff and customers to their own devices.

And there were a certain number of staff in the store whom, by nature of their jobs, should be expected to possess the expected lifesaving skills appropriate to the situation.

And there were 16 fire escapes on the upper floors, plus two functioning supplemental escapes and two which, by design, were useless.

And a selective policy was enforced regarding who could use the fire escapes, based upon gender and which side of the building one gravitated towards during this slow moving fire.

And I were permanently separated from my spouse or son who COULD have gone down an underutilised fire escape but were barred from it by the enforcement of an "unwritten law."

Or if we were in the budget department, where not only were we given quite a time handicap in gettting to the fire escapes BUT also allowed access (for the most part) to only 8 of them, shared by the occupants of every department in the building except for those in the jewelry, fur, and China departments who had access to 8 escapes of their own PLUS the two functioning supplemental escapes.

And I discovered later that 212 of the 710 or so survivors were staff members to whom, apparently, the same "unwriten law" did not apply, AND that the majority of them had nothing to do with the store fire squad or evacuation team and were, in terms of "usefullness" in the emergency situation, of only equal or perhaps lesser value than my friends and relatives who died.

I am sure that I would not CARE that the 212 represented a small percentage of the original number of department store staff. Like the vocal Mrs White, and doubtlessly others, I would have been furious at circumstances which allowed approx. 1 in 3.5 of those saved to have been staff and, yes, would begrudge them their lives.
 
Jan 21, 2001
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Jim:

You would "begrudge them their lives" even though they did not create the situation they managed to escape (with the possible exception of Ismay)? Wow.

Are you saying they should have stayed behind, even though that wouldn't necessarily have saved anybody else? Their only "crime" was being in the right place at the right time when a chance to escape presented itself.

Dave Billnitzer
 
Mar 22, 2003
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What's the point here? The ship did not have enough lifeboats to save everyone on board. They had no lifeboat drills, there was no plan ahead of time to follow, there was no GA system on board. It was improvise on the spot. The important thing was to avoid a panic which have resulted in much fewer people saved. And to this end, they were for the most part successful. Even many in the crew did not believe the ship would ultimately founder. Many people felt they would rather stay on the ship then get into these little lifeboats.

QM BRIGHT: "There were lots that were asked to get into the boat and they said they would rather stay on board the ship; lots of women said that."
 
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