These boats may buckle

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Jan 15, 1998
Hi, This question has perplexed me for awhile, I was curious as to why the officers on the Titanic thought, that the lifeboats may buckle if filled to full capacity? why would they think such a thing? they seemed very sturdy to me. Does anyone have the answer to this Perplexing question. Thank You


Hey Jen,
I read somewhere...this may be true or not said that the officers had thought they had been tested only in the water with 60 or so men and did not know if the life boats would buckle under the weightvery high from the waters because there were no supports in the middle just the davits on the side ....I also head that they were not sure the new davits could withstand the stress.


Paul Rogers

Jun 1, 2000
West Sussex, UK
Hi Jen / Trent.

(Reference: Titanic - The Full Story Of A Tragedy by Michael Davie.)

Davie states that it emerged at the American enquiry that Lightoller and Lowe, (and therefore the other Officers as well?), feared that it would be hazardous to fill up the boats when they were still suspended from the davits, as either the boats might "buckle up" or the davits might give way.

Harland and Wolff had tested the davits and established that they would carry the weight of the lifeboats filled to capacity, but no-one had seen fit to tell the Officers of this fact! (Although I would've thought Smith would have been aware of this, surely?)

I remember in Titanic 1997 there was a scene where Thomas Andrews tells Lightoller to fully fill the boats, and Lightoller expresses the above fear. Not sure if this actually happened though.

Lightoller's plan was to partly fill the boats and then send them to an open hatch at the bottom of a gangway, to fill up with more passengers. He sent a team of men to open the gangway doors, but they were never heard from again.

I deduce from the above information that in older ships, there existed a real danger of either lifeboats collapsing under the full weight of passengers when still suspended in the davits, and/or the davits wouldn't stand the strain. So, Lightoller and Lowe could have been working under an old and incorrect assumption: It's better to save some passengers, rather than break the boats and lose them all.

Perhaps a non-landlubber can confirm the fear of collapsing boats/davits which may have existed pre-1912?



Mike Herbold

Dec 13, 1999
Even as a landlubber, my mind quickly multiplies 40 passengers times about 150 pounds each. 6000 pounds seems like a lot to stretch between two ropes.

William Conrad

I heard that when they filmed the '97 movie they were worried because the davits flexed when the lifeboats were lowered fully loaded! It seems that these davits and lifeboats were perfectly capable of taking a full load, but they just looked flimsy to the casual observer...

I don't blame 'Lights' for being cautious that night. After all, maybe he feared that the flimsy looking lifeboats might just break in half, plunging the poor passengers into the ocean 60 below? If that had happened, then we'd all be saying he should of been more cautious, wouldn't we! I guess we're all guilty of judging the actions that night with the confidence that hindsight brings...

I think that the fault was with insufficient lifeboat training/drill for the officers, crew and passengers alike. If 'Lights' had been trained in loading and launching these boats at full load, then perhaps he wouldn't of let so many boats go away half loaded in the actual disaster...
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