The Gangway Door

Dan Kappes

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Sep 26, 2018
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Apple Valley, Minnesota, United States
According to the real-time sinking video on YouTube, the D-deck gangway door was opened at 12:44 to assist in loading the boats, but it was never used.

Did people forget that they were opened or were they useless because the boats rowed away?

I think that open door also increased the flooding rate of the ship once it went under.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Apr 21, 2009
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There is the possibility that Bo'sun Nicols and his gang realised that it was of practical value in the evacuation and closed it again. When Lifeboat #6 went past sometime between 01:10 and 01:15 am, no one saw any gangway door open.
 

Bob_Read

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May 9, 2019
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Hi Dan: The real problem that night was that there was no plan for loading the boats. To load them full at the boat deck was dangerous. If they were going to be loaded from any gangway, the aft E deck gangway doors were the best candidates because there were accommodation ladders which were available for rigging to these doors. The D deck doors would have required passengers to descend down a Jacob’s ladder.
 

Bob_Read

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May 9, 2019
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Hi Dan: The boats were mostly loaded from the boat deck with some loaded from A deck. Some passengers were transferred from heavier loaded boats to more lightly loaded boats after launching.
 
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Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Is there any evidence that the bosun ever opened a door? I thought he and his men simply disappeared without reporting.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Is there any evidence that the bosun ever opened a door? I thought he and his men simply disappeared without reporting.
IF Lightoller really had ordered the Bo'sun to take 6 men down and open a gangway door at 01:05, the chances are that they tried it. But I find it hard to believe at all 7 got caught and drowned in the attempt. IMO, a more likely scenario is that they opened the D-deck door but realised the impracticality of using that as a lifeboat loading platform and closed it again. That would explain why no one on Lifeboat #6 saw an open gangway door when it went past that point at around 01:12.

No one knew the identities of the 6 men chosen by Nichols and so if they then had dispersed for other duties but eventually went down with the ship, none would be wiser. Likewise, upon his return from below Nichols himself could have easily missed Lightoller, who was by then down on Deck A trying his stuff with Lifeboat #4. IMO Nichols also worked elsewhere on the ship till it went down and he with it. If things happened that way, we would only have Lightoller's impression about the fate of Bo'sun Nichols and his men.
 

Seumas

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Mar 25, 2019
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Presumably they were planning on using rope ladders to get people down from the gangways and into the boats ?

Wouldn't the rope ladders be in the same lockers as those containing the block and tackle for correctly launching Collapsibles A and B - but which would have went underwater early on in the sinking ?
 

Jessie M.

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Jan 13, 2019
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So after watching a couple videos and reading around here some I found something intriguing. I forget which deck - either D or E - but at some point during the sinking a large metal door (Gangway door? Not sure.) on the side of the ship was opened in order to help with loading lifeboats and the theory is that that door was left open, causing the flooding to progress faster than it would have had it been closed.

But here is where it gets iffy. I'm finding sources that say the door was closed (and not mentioning the flooding pattern afterwards) and other sources that say the door was left wide open as it appears on the wreck.

I personally believe the door was opened and then shut... just not properly. A big heavy door like that usually has a fancy lock on it from what I've seen and I doubt the people that opened it had the time to lock it again when they realized opening the gangway door would do them no good. During the ship's descent to the sea floor it might've swung open, causing what we see today.

But I'd like your guys opinion on the matter. What do you think happened? :)
 

Arun Vajpey

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Apr 21, 2009
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The way I look at this Gangway Door scenario is as follows: Let us assume that Lightoller really did order Bo'sun Nichols to collect six men and go and open a Gangway door for additional loading. This would have been around 01:05 am. Nichols would have been familiar with the men and so it probably would have taken him only a minute or two to round-up his six. Like Nichols, they would have been experienced sailors and IMO would have checked to see the position of the door they would have to open in relation to the waterline. Therefore, the scenario of 7 experienced sailors opening a gangway door that was partly submerged and then being washed over to their deaths seems highly improbable.

More than likely, they decided that it was more practical to open the higher (and further aft?) D-deck door but almost immediately decided for a combination of reasons that using that to load passengers would not be practical and likely very dangerous. So, they closed that door again and returned to the boat deck, with the men dispersing to other tasks while Nichols went to report back to Lightoller. But by then Lightoller was down on A-deck trying his futile tricks with Lifeboat #4 and so Nichols probably reported to someone else - either Captain Smith or First Officer Wilde - about the Gangway door and then went about other duties. Judging by reports of his sighting afterwards, he was probably in the stern section on the starboard side helping with loading of #13 and #15 initially and later elsewhere. Eventually Nichols remained on board and went down with the ship.

That would explain a number of things - why Lightoller never saw Nichols again, why no one on board Lifeboat #6 saw an open gangway door (it was already re-closed by the time #6 went past around 01:15 am), the reported sighting of Nichols near the stern section on the starboard side by Barrett etc.
 

T Gerard

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Feb 26, 2019
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I apologize if this has already been posted, I searched the forum and couldn't find anything.

I've been hearing more and more recently about how Second Officer Lightoller ordered the gangway door on D-Deck opened so partially-filled lifeboats could row back and more passengers could board the boats through those doors. I know that no boats actually did row back and the open gangway door, and all it accomplished was to possibly speed up the rate of flooding. My question is, if lifeboats did row back, how was Lightoller planning to have passengers get from the ship into the boats? Did they have a Jacob's Ladder or some kind of rope ladder? Or wait until the door got closer to the waterline and people could enter the boat directly?
 

Athlen

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Apr 14, 2012
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Lightoller said that it was the forward E Deck gangway near No. 2 Hatch in his testimony and his memoirs. At the British inquiry he was asked why. His reason was that he didn’t think the ship would really sink.

IIRC both Pitman and Lowe testified that Murdoch asked for boats to “hang around” the after gangway. I think that’s a wholly separate order — bluntly, because it makes sense. Lightoller sent around 10% of the deck department from the boat deck to open a gangway door in a part of the ship that was either already flooded or just about to be. That makes less sense.

He also said he planned to use a “companionway ladder” at the British inquiry. Mersey asked him and others about the gangway often (Smith at the US inquiry did not).