The deck chairs

Jun 10, 2015
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Hello,

I am new around here and not particularly expert on anything to do with the Titanic, although an enthusiastic casual reader of various books and websites on the subject from time to time.

My question is this. It's often stated that various people - Andrews and Joughin are often cited - threw deck chairs into the water for swimmers to try and cling onto to await rescue. Is there any evidence or testimony that any of the handful of people who were plucked from the water made use of these?

Apologies if it's either a daft or an oft-asked question!

Great website and forum, by the way. Many hours of fascinating reading!
 

Bob Godfrey

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Joughin did throw deck chairs into the water (about 50 by his reckoning), but when it was suggested at the British Inquiry that he had done so to help others he stated that his intention had been to provide himself with something helpful if he eventually had to jump! In the event, he made no use of them but perhaps other did. Possibly there was at least one attempt to tie chairs together to make a raft. Gus Weikman (First Class barber) swam towards a dark object "which proved to be a bundle of deck chairs, which I managed to climb on."
 
Is there information available concerning other attempts to get floating
furnishings into the water? Judging by my reading, I would suspect that
officials would have attempted to prohibit this. White Star Line charged
the surviving band members for lost instruments, after all!
 

Seumas

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Mar 25, 2019
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Is there information available concerning other attempts to get floating
furnishings into the water? Judging by my reading, I would suspect that
officials would have attempted to prohibit this. White Star Line charged
the surviving band members for lost instruments, after all!
None of the ship's bandsmen survived.

Can you please provide a source for their families being charged by the White Star Line for lost instruments ?

White Star did not actually directly employ the bandsmen. They were employed by an agency who hired them out to numerous British shipping companies.

Jock Hume's father was presented with a bill by that agency for an unpaid uniform bill of his late son's but it is not believed that the elder Mr Hume ever paid it.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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White Star didn't charge anybody for lost instruments, but Jock Hume's father got into big trouble over his son's two violins. He had both of them "on approval" from a dealer. One was an Eberle and the other a Guardagnini. They would be worth many thousands today, especially the Guardagnini. I don't know how it all ended.

As for the stuff in the water, there is plenty of evidence that chairs were thrown in. Maybe other things, such as boxes were thrown in too, though they may simply have floated off in the chaos. A few people benefited from them.
 

Seumas

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Mar 25, 2019
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White Star didn't charge anybody for lost instruments, but Jock Hume's father got into big trouble over his son's two violins. He had both of them "on approval" from a dealer. One was an Eberle and the other a Guardagnini. They would be worth many thousands today, especially the Guardagnini. I don't know how it all ended.
A possible solution - perhaps eventually the dealers reluctantly decided (or else were advised) to put the loss of the violins down to "an act of God" and left it at that ? It may have occurred to them that pursuing an old man grieving a son lost in a great sea disaster might not have been a good "look" for the firm.

What do you think Dave ?
 
Nov 30, 2019
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St.Petersburg, Florida
Interesting, thank you! So the deck chairs may have worked for at least one survivor, then.
I have also wondered about this. After seeing the wife and kids off on a lifeboat and then faced with the situation of dying, nobly going down with the ship, or trying to save myself with ANYTHING that could float, I would attempt the latter. Cold shock or hypothermia I think only happens if the body is immersed in water and stays there. What if a chair or door or table were dragged to the lowest (closest) point to the water and "launched" from there? Crouching on it might give your knees/legs frostbite, but the heart and lungs will keep pumping. As the Titanic (I think) went down slowly and steadily, any knowledge or suggestion as to why more did not try this?
 

Seumas

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What if a chair or door or table were dragged to the lowest (closest) point to the water and "launched" from there?

One deckchair is not enough to keep a person out of the water.

Depending upon ones height and weight, maybe half a dozen would be needed keep high and dry. Several lengths of rope or cord will be needed lash these chairs very tightly together. Doing all this will take precious time. In the final minutes before the break up, the lights were dying and glowing a dim, eerie red/orange colour, which would make the task of constructing such a raft more difficult.

Plus if you were on the starboard side going down to meet the water as it were, you'd be fighting through a massive crowd of panicking people, trying to get to the collapsible lifeboat the crew were desperately trying to get away.

And even if such a raft were constructed, who is going to stop dozens of panicking nearby swimmers from trying to seize it for themselves ? Likely pulling it apart in the process.

There is actually scene in the film A Night to Remember where one of the firemen tries to quickly build a feeble raft for himself out of deckchairs lashed together with his belt only for it to disintegrate upon hitting the water.

The best chance of survival a man had that night was to be by the starboard boats under Murdoch's supervision and to get his nod of approval to hop in.

any knowledge or suggestion as to why more did not try this?

For all we know a few people may have but we'll never know. Nearly 1500 people never got the chance to tell their story. It's not impossible that some victims may have tried to improvise crude rafts that were ultimately inadequate. The evidence however, just isn't there.

Most people still aboard by the end chose to jump into the sea whilst a number of people were swept overboard by the powerful wave that hit the forward boat deck as the bridge went under.
 
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Mike Spooner

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Jan 31, 2018
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Hi Bob, Thanks for your article on lifeboat seating plan. I have a question if all those are all seating around the outer edge facing inward. How does ones row? As I see the ones seating on the outer edge are in the way of the rowers!
 
Nov 30, 2019
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St.Petersburg, Florida
I think this plan is that there is no rowing once the people are congregated together. The life boats are turned into very crowded stationary rafts that would have been lifesaving platforms - no immersion in freezing water means the people survive until the Carpathia got there.

I still think the idea of anything that floats could have been an idea. I would have to review the time line, but depending on how soon they realized the ship was a goner, if they had mobilized every able bodied man with fire axes and whatnot to remove doors, tables, anything capable of keeping the torso out of the water, it could have been a real plan. If the people had worked together (specifically not every man for himself) and methodically piled up float-able stuff, it is surprising what can accumulate in a short time. If they were working together as an organized team, with an organized evacuation on to the launched stuff, there would have been less of a panic. However the fact that the sinking was an unplanned shock, and there had been no expectation for such a catastrophe, makes all of this a 'hindsight is 20/20' kind of thing.
 

T Gerard

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Feb 26, 2019
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Do we know what type of debris Fang Lang was floating on when Lowe picked him up in boat 14? All I can find to go by is the deleted scene from the 1997 movie, but I take some of the lesser known historical things from that movie with a grain of salt.
 

Bob_Read

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Mike Spooner: Stuart is right, In the theoretical plan I proposed there is no rowing once the boats are tied together. You are just waiting for rescue on what amounts to two large rafts.
 

Mike Spooner

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Wow I find that amazing you are just waiting for rescue! Makes you wonder why bother having ores, mast and sail, compass, rudder, anchor and rope etc. So how does an officer decide how many in the boat? As the early boats are told to row for a ship light about 5 miles away and return.
 

Seumas

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Do we know what type of debris Fang Lang was floating on when Lowe picked him up in boat 14? All I can find to go by is the deleted scene from the 1997 movie, but I take some of the lesser known historical things from that movie with a grain of salt.
Fang Lang has been described as having been floating either on a door or simply "a board". Whatever it as, it was big enough to keep his body out of the water which gave him that vital half-chance of survival.

Harold Phillimore was described as having been floating upon the debris of wooden staircase.

Wow I find that amazing you are just waiting for rescue! Makes you wonder why bother having ores, mast and sail, compass, rudder, anchor and rope etc. So how does an officer decide how many in the boat? As the early boats are told to row for a ship light about 5 miles away and return.
No it doesn't. That's all essential equipment.

Regardless of whether we are talking about a luxury liner like the Titanic or a small freighter like the Californian, all ships lifeboats needed oars, sail, mast, rudder, compass, sea anchor and ropes not just for a potential evacuation but also for the following occurrences that could feasibly occur in their service lives such as - picking up people gone overboard, shuttle people back and forth, rescue shipwreck survivors who are not in boats but swimming in the water.

And the boats equipment other than oars were utilised by those in Titanic's lifeboats. Several boats used their ropes to tie together during the night. Whilst Fifth Officer Harold Lowe successfully rigged his sail in Boat 14 and not only rescued those stranded on Collapsible A but also threw a line to Collapsible D and towed the boat toward the Carpathia. A number of survivors also testified that the exercise of rowing helped to keep them warm.
 

Mike Spooner

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Looking at the seating plan of the large lifeboat I can see 64 seats. I can see where the mast, sail, and oars will go down the middle section. However the time all 64 seats are taken I cannot see one can row the boat as well!
 

Seumas

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Mar 25, 2019
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Looking at the seating plan of the large lifeboat I can see 64 seats. I can see where the mast, sail, and oars will go down the middle section. However the time all 64 seats are taken I cannot see one can row the boat as well!
A few survivors in the boats with over fifty people in them spoke of having to stand up and lean back and forwards in unison as each stroke of the oars were pulled.