The Average Lifeboat


Susan Leighton

I cruise this board nearly daily and have been a member for several years. I post on topics and threads where I think I might have something to contribute OR where I think I might learn something. I am going to say something here that you may not like, and I hope you will view it as constructive. You are aggressive in many of your posts in a multitude of threads on this board. You are prone to 'shoot from the hip', and then 'backpeddle' and claim to 'be misunderstood'. You say things like ‘don't do this’, or ‘don't do that [to me]’ and follow with’ ‘I will not tolerate that’. You are not a Moderator, and those are the folks on this site who get to use those kinds of words. The members here don't take too kindly to that kind of aggression. And posting your credentials each time you feel challenged, only diminishes your credibility. I wish you could see that. It comes across as defensive and arrogant, and you should know that privately, you are building a reputation for yourself that may not be as favorable as you would like.

I urge you try to tone down your responses. Stop apologizing for real or imagined misunderstandings. Perhaps take a moment to realize where these people are coming from before becoming so defensive about perceived character assassinations. From my perspective, many of the board members have been quite patient with you, and you have been given much latitude. I speak genuinely as I say this, Mark, that if you don't take heed and tone down the discussions, I fear you will be in for a disappointment, because people will stop responding to you...and you will find that you are an island unto yourself.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>Maybe, but a degree of common sense goes far, plan or no plan. <<

I'm not disagreeing with that. The problem is that were looking at all of this through the lens of 20/20 hindsight and sometimes, it appears to me as if some just assume that Titanic's officers and crew had the same understanding of the situation that we do. I can't and won't speak for anybody else but this is an assumption I'm not about to make.

Could things have been done better?


Could the leadership have been more proactive?


Could they have acted more wisely and perhaps compassionately?

Sure they could.

Could we have done as well or better in the same situation having only the knowladge and understanding that *they* had at the time????

Maybe, but I'm not so sure.

We weren't there and they didn't know what we know. Not the whole of it anyway and we don't know the whole of what they knew either. While we need to make some judgements on this, I think this much is a good reason to be careful of the judgements we make.
Jun 12, 2004

Yes, I know I tend to shoot straight-from-the-hip at times, and I can also be quite intense. These qualities within myself I know all too well. That is one reason I apologize, because I realize that I come on strong.

I mean not to offend or alienate anyone. I am here for the same reason that everyone is - to gain further understanding on the Titanic in a way that makes sense to me. True, I know what I think and I am assertive about expressing that, even to the point of putting people off. That has been a monkey on my back for a long time, and it's been difficult to shrug away.

As for others, I alway try to be respectful, kind, and helpful (when help is needed), but I also stand up for myself, too. I have not been the only person on this board to confront or be aggressive to another, and I have been bulldozed many times (here and at other places, online and face-to-face), so I automatically take a defensive stance. Sometimes it is reflex, but it has become a learned condition that also has served as a double-edged sword to me, helping me and, at the same time, hurting me.

Believe me, I have been quite patient with others here, too, as I've not been the only one with annoying faults.

As for the way I talk, the idiomatic expressions and phrasing I use, I am aware of how that has been perceived as well, and I have also apologized for that. As said in a post above in this thread , I have been misunderstood my entire life, so I tend to get apologetic and explicative about what I say and do. This, too, has become a learned condition.

I try not to share my credentials, as they really have no bearing here (so, yes, I see the actual effect their presentation brings). I share them not when I feel challenged (hey, I like a challenge), but when I feel as if I am being treated as if I'm, perhaps, dense or insipid, which I am not (again , being misunderstood). I perceive things, too, just as does everybody else. Sometimes I'm right-on-the-nose, other times I'm am not, but, as you've said, I tend to react to them right off-the-bat, which has not been a pleasant trait even to me. That is something on which I am working.

I take things too personally, and I am trying to get myself to let things just slide off. That would be so much better.

I was a moderator, too, at a few other sites long ago, and so I am used to responding in certain authoritative ways. Of course, at the Journal I use polite directives or ask rather than command, because I respect those with whom I work. They are like family to me, and I hold steadfast to the Golden Rule, which is always good advice. ;)

I appreciate your advice, Susan, especially since you've spoken up. You have been straightforward to me, which is what I prefer, and I respect that (hey, if you don't tell me what's on your mind, how am I to know?). I ask that if any person should have a problem with me they are welcome, and encouraged, to direct their concerns to me through email. That will, at least, get the issue off the board, and it will remain private. I value honesty and straightforwardness exponentially.

Regarding my behavior, I am taking note of my tone and trying to phrase my words so that I may get a point across without offending others. That's a day-by-day process. Believe me, as an editor, I know how important it is to talk with others in a cordial, respectful manner. Being crass and sharp would turn writers, and other editors, away, and we don't want that. I remind my editors of that all the time.

I also ask that others take time to get to know me, so they may understand me instead of judge me. This is one reason I am explaining myself now and posting here for all to see. I hope everybody who has taken offense by me at one time or another has a chance to see it.

As for living on an island all by myself, that has been a way of life for me, so I am all too used to it. In the long run, I'm afraid, that's the way it shall always be.

I thought I was making friends here. I guess I must have been mistaken. Oh well, many of you have been nice, and that will always be appreciated.

Take care and peace.
Jun 12, 2004
>>We weren't there and they didn't know what we know. Not the whole of it anyway and we don't know the whole of what they knew either. While we need to make some judgements on this, I think this much is a good reason to be careful of the judgements we make.<<

Yes, I agree. In the end, it really doesn't make any difference now. Things transpired as they did, and our speculation and theorizing, although allowing us to understand those events much better, won't change what happened.

Ernie Luck

Nov 24, 2004
I agree with you Michael, we can debate this for ever. They had two and a half hours.

Should we be surprised that third class got a raw deal? James Cameron's movie and ANTR never depicted otherwise.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy....Susan, Mark, I'll not take sides on personal differences and perceptions of each other. I think you've both made your points and if you have anything further to say to each other outside the scope of this thread's topic, please be so kind as to take it to e-mail.

>>Things transpired as they did, and our speculation and theorizing, although allowing us to understand those events much better, won't change what happened.<<

I think you're correct on both counts. I like the part about understanding things better but one of my concerns is that we may not know or understand quite what we think we do. Two out of three people on that ship took their stories with them to the bottom of the North Atlantic that night, and as a consequence there are gaps in our knowladge that will never be filled. Captain Smith as well as officers Wilde, Murdoch, and Moody being among the dead couldn't speak for themselves. All we have are the perceptions of other witnesses.

>>Should we be surprised that third class got a raw deal? James Cameron's movie and ANTR never depicted otherwise.<<

You're right. They didn't, however, I wouldn't make any judgements based on anything as portrayed in the movies. Whatever you can say about them, in the end, they're movies and not history. Even ANTR. In my own opinion, I think it might be more useful to take a look at the culture as a whole and the attitudes that went with it. It's often been said that 3rd class was not so much kept down as they were simply forgotten about. It might be worth exploring some of the attitudes of the period towards people in the lower socio/economic classes to understand why this would be.
Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
As a corollary to what Mark Twain said, I think there are three kinds of truths: the truth, the whole truth, and statistics.

You are correct Michael when you said that "Two out of three people on that ship took their stories with them to the bottom of the North Atlantic that night, and as a consequence there are gaps in our knowledge that will never be filled." But there have been many myths that have been taken over the years as fact. One of the those was that priority was given to women and children and everything possible was done to save them. In this case the stats do not lie, and we have enough information from those that were there and survived that night that strong, effective leadership was a bit lacking.
Jun 12, 2004
>>Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy....Susan, Mark, I'll not take sides on personal differences and perceptions of each other. I think you've both made your points and if you have anything further to say to each other outside the scope of this thread's topic, please be so kind as to take it to e-mail.<<

Understood. As said, I posted my response here merely so others could read it as well. I'll be taking a leave-of-absence. Damanding scendule is taking up more of my time.

>>It's often been said that 3rd class was not so much kept down as they were simply forgotten about.<<

I know we have to be careful about that distinction, but what about the locked doors Senan mentioned? Is there any confirmation as to whether they were locked to prevent the third-class from emerging to the first-class area/boat deck, or could they have simply been locked for the night and just forgotten to be unlocked? I try not to assume...

Noel F. Jones

May 14, 2002
Is this a private fight or can anyone join?

I appreciate this has been gone into here and elsewhere with a finetooth comb but:

Having regard to Titanic being under-provided with lifeboats on the premise that they would only be used to ferry passengers to rescuing vessels, and that potential rescuing vessels were perceived to be in the vicinity and indeed actually in sight, can a point be fixed whereat it became apparent that the situation had changed from a ferrying operation into a life-or-death situation wherein unevacuated persons became at risk of death by immersion?

Put another way, did it commence as a ferrying operation rather than a life-or-death predicament? Of course any such change in criticality might have become apparent to different people at different times.

Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>I know we have to be careful about that distinction, but what about the locked doors Senan mentioned?<<

If I recall correctly...and I might not...these doors were seperating points between third and second as well as some crew areas that were kept locked as a matter of course. Given the apparant attempt tp play things down, it may not have occured to anyone to open them up. If the idea was to keep third class down, I don't know that they would have been all that effective by and of themselves. These people had four days to explore their part of the ship and figure out ways to get up and out.

Hell, some of them might have even done it.

Those who didn't would have been caught between a rock and a hard place trying to work their way out of the maze of the lower decks or waiting on the stewards to let them up.
Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
The fact the Titanic had any lifeboats to begin with was because the BOT required them to carry a certain number. Otherwise I bet they would have carried a few cutters for emergency purposes only. Those were the only boats that they thought would ever be used.

Senator BOURNE. Fire drills and lifeboat drills every day; is that customary?
Mr. HICHENS. I did not see them. The only thing I saw was the emergency boat. There is one emergency boat on each side of the bridge, just abaft the bridge, which is kept, in case of accident always swung out.
Senator BOURNE. There was a daily drill for the emergency boat?
Mr. HICHENS. Yes, at 6 o'clock in the evening, usually.
Senator SMITH. You know, do you not, that the second officer and other officers say that there were no daily drills; that the only drill took place at Southampton, when two lifeboats were lowered?
Mr. HICHENS. Yes; as regards drilling, that is true, sir; but what I am talking about is the emergency boat. They mustered the men every night at 6 o'clock, in case of emergency, in case they should want the emergency boat on account of a man falling overboard or anything else.
Senator SMITH. Do they muster these men every night at 6 o'clock?
Mr. HICHENS. Yes, sir.
Senator SMITH. Where?
Mr. HICHENS. On the bridge; they muster them there with an officer.
Senator SMITH. And what do they do - lower the boat?
Mr. HICHENS. No; I have never seen them do that. I have been in the wheelhouse at the time-
Senator SMITH. You did not see them?
Mr. HICHENS. No; but I have heard the report, and I have seen the officer as I was going to the wheelhouse; and one evening I might be on the dogwatch, from 6 b 8 o'clock -
Senator SMITH. But you do not know what they did - whether they lowered the boat to the water?
Mr. HICHENS. No, sir.
Senator SMITH. And that is the drill you referred to?
Mr. HICHENS. No; I am not referring to any drill; I am only referring to the mustering of the men at 6 o'clock.
Senator SMITH. How many men are mustered?
Mr. HICHENS. About 8, I think; 6 seamen and the quartermaster and an officer.
Senator SMITH. Every night at 6 o'clock?
Mr. HICHENS. Yes, sir.
Senator SMITH. But they go to those two boats, one on the port and one on the starboard side?
Mr. HICHENS. Yes, sir.
Senator SMITH. And what they do when they get there you do not know of your own knowledge?
Mr. HICHENS. No, sir; the boat is always kept in readiness to be gotten out at a moment's notice an case of accident.

WSL was quick to point out the ship was actually equipped with more lifeboat capacity than the BOT regs specified at the time. And I understand they equipped the Welin davits in anticipation that those regulations were going to change and they would eventually have to carry more.

So did it start out as a ferrying situation? To ferry someone you need someplace to ferry them to. They started to uncover the boats and swing them out before they knew what ships were about or how far off they were. When they started to load the boats it was already a life-and-death predicament.
Oct 19, 2007
Here I am joining the party five years late. Well, I was always tardy in school... But I have just read the article and its conclusions seem to be very sound.
However, as regards to the posts there seems to be one question left out--were the first and second class women and children ever "mustered" and directed to the boats or did they just happen to be close by? Was there ever a general mustering of anyone? This would answer the question of outright prejudice and exclusion.
No doubt there was general prejudice of the third class. It is also true that they were looked down upon, even by the crew, but it still might have been a case of not so benign neglect instead of outright exclusion. There seems to have been times on boat deck when the officers were looking for women and children to come forward, but none were around. This seems to suggest to me that there was no outright plan to exclude the third class women and children, but by the lack of direction it, de facto, left them to die.
As to parents being willing to put their children on lifeboats was there not a case of one lifeboat (13 or 15 maybe? My memory is getting fuzzy. I think I saw it on Cameron's Ghost of the Abyss) where mothers refused to allow their children to enter the lifeboat without them and thus crowded the boat?
Being a poor orphan in the early 20th century was probably terrible. I imagine most third class passengers would not have had relatives willing or able to take on another mouth to feed either in Europe or in the U.S. That would probably mean the orphanage or the work house for a child left alone, but of course, that is just a late night thought.
Oct 19, 2007
>>The problem here was not so much that there was an outright plan to exclude the 3rd class as there was no plan at all!<<

That is absolutely what seems to have happened. In a disaster, true colors tend to show and people revert to old habits and prejudices. They were not ever really concerned with the third class and, without a clear plan, simply ignored them as they normally would.

Jim Currie

Apr 16, 2008
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Hello Andrea!

The class system will never go away. Class is based on wealth and power - the words are synonymous. The advent of the credit card and and sub-prime loans has helped to reduce the ranks of the '3rd Class' but only by redistributing the lucky ones between the next two classes.

Perhaps the funniest, but sadly true, illustration of how Brits. viewed social class in 1912 and up until fairly recently, was a sketch by John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in a UK TV sketch many years ago. Sadly I do not have a picture to show you but imagine the three men standing in line with Cleese, the tallest, on the left, Barker in the middle and the diminutive Corbett on the right. The conversation between them went as follows:

Cleese: (In bowler hat, black jacket and pinstriped trousers) I look down on him (Indicates Barker) because I am upper-class.

Barker: (Pork-pie hat and raincoat) I look up to him (Cleese) because he is upper-class; but I look down on him (Corbett) because he is lower-class. I am middle-class

Corbett: (Cloth cap and muffler) I know my place. I look up to them both. But I don't look up to him (Barker) as much as I look up to him (Cleese), because he has got innate breeding.

Cleese: I have got innate breeding, but I have not got any money. So sometimes I look up (bends knees, does so) to him (Barker).

Barker: I still look up to him (Cleese) because although I have money, I am vulgar. But I am not as vulgar as him (Corbett) so I still look down on him (Corbett).

Corbett: I know my place. I look up to them both; but while I am poor, I am honest, industrious and trustworthy. Had I the inclination, I could look down on them. But I don't.

Barker: We all know our place, but what do we get out of it?

Cleese: I get a feeling of superiority over them.

Barker: I get a feeling of inferiority from him, (Cleese), but a feeling of superiority over him (Corbett).

Corbett: I get a pain in the back of my neck.

Brilliant! and says it all.

It was not so far fetched as might be imagined. I am old enough to remember the exact situation described. However I also have the distinction of having served on Single Class passenger ships which carried onward and return passengers to and from the far-east. These passengers were from three class system ships which crossed the Atlantic to and from the US.
When they came on our ships, the class 'thing' completely disappeared. It was very strange but true.

The point in this story is that people who were on the receiving end -and 'end' was truly the best word to use in the class system - did not really resent their lot. Most of them who went to America on 'Titanic' would hope to some day achieve the status of the Astors and the JP Morgan's of their world. To rise to the dizzy heights of aristocracy like the Rothes and such was beyond their expectations. Simply, they were going to The States in the hope they might just climb the class ladder.
Then, America was the land where such hopes might be realised. These were not members of today's 'hand-out' society or the 'God given' or 'Human Rights' lot. They truly believed in the now infamous Nazi claim that "Arbeit Macht Frei" - 'Work makes you free'. The treatment - real or imagined - that they are alleged to have received on 'Titanic' was normal. The ordinary sailors on board would certainly feel 'superior' to the 'steerage punters'. However is there any record of Captain Smith stipulating " women and children of 1st and 2nd Class passengers first?"
No, of course there isn't. If selection was made - who made it and when?
If there was any hold-back at all, it was done by members of the same social class - stewards etc. We all know that the worst snob in the world is a superior servant!
As for lifeboats - I don't subscribe to the rich first and all the rest after' camp.

This was a new ship. Anyone who has served knows exactly what I mean. Until a new ship is at sea and the crew have settled down to their daily routines, life is utter chaos. Sure, all the 'old hands' know exactly what to do. More so if they are 'Company Men'. But on a ship like Titanic with such a huge crew, many of whom were 'first trippers, a non-drill emergency must have been the Chief Officer's worst nightmare. Having said that, the reports of how the sailors performed on that fateful night was a credit to them. Ask yourself: 'how would I perform if I was awakened out of a deep, untroubled sleep to find myself in a life or death situation, with hundreds - no, a couple of thousand people all in an anxious state of mind depending on my actions?'
These guys were brilliant! They did not have enough time top recognise each other, never mind differentiate between First and Third Class passengers. The whole affair went rapidly from a mild irritation to a full blown emergency within half an hour. Two hours later it was all over. More than half of all the souls on board that ship were gone.

As for the loading of the life boats. The problem was one of lack of familiarity versus knowledge of simple physics.
The officers had often seen lifeboats raised and lowered with a full manning crew of about 8 men on board weighing about half a ton - no problem. However, None had any idea what might happen if the the same lifeboat suspended at either end, was loaded with 65 people weighing somewhere in the region of 4 tons(weight concentrated in the middle when lowered slowly with jerking motion from a height of 70 feet to the water.

Too may people nowadays are wallowing in wisdom after the event!


Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998

Thomas Andrews, the Card Sharp, the Stoker.

The Stoker (for it is he): "Blimey! That there is Mr Andrews, wot told me to wipe away those cheeky references wot I possibly indulged in, with regard to 'is 'Oliness the Pope, on the flue box, that time 'e deigned to visit us dahn below. E is the real Pontifex Maximus, if you ask me."

The Card Sharp, next to speak: "Ah pride mahself on knowin' mah mark... And ahma shamed of mahself for tryin' tah inveigle Messa Andrews into a game of mah jongg. Ah'm sorry, I don't mean mah jongg, that's a private mattah, I mean Mah Jongg.., but changin' tha subject, who is this swarthy enda-vidjewel to mah left, anyhow?"

Mr Andrews: "He is the Stoker. His industry enables you to rob people blind.
You, Sir, trump diamonds with your tricks and cold heart, but we club him, the spade...
You'll find it all works out wonderfully for all of us."

The Stoker: "I can see right behind that Hamerican gentleman's hat, and wot is the Ace of Hearts doin' there, I hask myself? But my job is not to question, it his to go back to bein' in the dark."

The Card Sharp (hissing): "Quite right. Be off with you."

Mr Andrews: "Yes, back to work, my good man. Do not inconvenience the passengers in their game of chance while we dice with the meteorology, there's a good fellow."

The Stoker "Why, Yes, Mister Andrews, Sir, hand may I saw wot han honner it is to be even spoken tew out hov the side of your mouth, wivvout yew even looking at me. I dew feel honnored."

Mr Andrews: "Quick about it, there's a good fellow."

(Exeunt omnes).

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