Was there a general belief that there were lifeboats for everyone?


Sep 10, 2012
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Greetings, all of you.

I apologize if there is already a similar thread (though I could find no one in my search), but well, again, I got to wonder if someone could answer a question that I have. I also apologize if it is posted in the wrong area.

As I think many people know, there is a scene in James Cameron's movie during the ship's tour when Rose says that she did the sum of the number of lifeboats and the capacity mentioned by Andrews, and that she came to the conclusion that there weren't enough lifeboats for all people aboard, which Andrews then confirms.

I know that such an equivalent of that scene most likely did not take place on the real Titanic, but conversely, in A Night To Remember, a character who seems to be a counterpart of Cosmo Duff Gordon says that there will be room in the boats for everybody, when his wife asks him why they are "standing there" (on the port side) when the gentlemen are going in the boats with their ladies on the other side. And well... I got to wonder: can anyone tell me if, in real life, the passengers at least believed that there were enough lifeboats for everyone by the time they boarded one?

I know Lawrence Beesley wrote in his novel that those in Lifeboat 13 were not sure of how many life-saving devices were aboard by the time they left the ship (the most exact reference I could find is "(...) we did not know how many boats she had or how many rafts."). But did any other survivor say that he or she had believed, at the time they left the Titanic, that there were lifeboats for everyone?

Yes, I know that such a remark is not necessarily the sort of thing that may be relied on blindly, as that is the sort of thing that could be perceived, whether rightly or wrongly, as an excuse to board a lifeboat (at least if the one who said it was a man).

But I couldn't help but to wonder.

Thank you to all those who took the time to read this.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I got to wonder: can anyone tell me if, in real life, the passengers at least believed that there were enough lifeboats for everyone by the time they boarded one? <<

Honestly, I don't know that anybody even gave the question any sort of real thought. They took it for granted that the largest ship in the world had to be the safest. (Bad assumption, but nobody knew that when they boarded.)
 
Jul 31, 2012
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I don't know that anyone was thinking of it. You must remember that aside from those first and second class passengers that had access to the boat deck in the days prior to the sinking (and took advantage of that access), there was no real reason to think of the lifeboats, certainly less so for those in third class that couldn't even see all the boats (unless they were on shore).
 

Dave Gittins

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Those who knew anything about ships would have known that none of the big liners had "boats for all". Only ships that carried few or no emigrants had "boats for all". Titanic was no worse than many ships and better than some. I rather agree that most passengers gave no thought to the boats when they bought their tickets. Modern Cruise ship passengers generally don't realise that they may be on a ship that has only enough boats for passengers. They still go cruising!
 
Sep 10, 2012
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Honestly, I don't know that anybody even gave the question any sort of real thought. They took it for granted that the largest ship in the world had to be the safest. (Bad assumption, but nobody knew that when they boarded.)

Well... I meant to ask whether people thought that by the time they left on lifeboats, not by the time they boarded the ship. And I know that those who boarded the later lifeboats (such as #13, #15, #2, #10, #4, and Collapsibles C and D) were probably too worried to give that issue much thought. I meant if anyone knew whether any of the survivors who left in the early lifeboats (such as #7, #5, and #3) later on said that he or she had thought there were boats for everyone. I know that some if not most of those people were boarding those lifeboats only to go along with the crew's coaxing, but there might have been someone who actually went in because he or she was scared of remaining on board.

I don't know that anyone was thinking of it. You must remember that aside from those first and second class passengers that had access to the boat deck in the days prior to the sinking (and took advantage of that access), there was no real reason to think of the lifeboats, certainly less so for those in third class that couldn't even see all the boats (unless they were on shore).

Like I wrote above, I meant whether people thought that (that there were lifeboats for everybody) by the time they left the ship, not in the four days of relaxation prior to the collision.

Those who knew anything about ships would have known that none of the big liners had "boats for all". Only ships that carried few or no emigrants had "boats for all". Titanic was no worse than many ships and better than some. I rather agree that most passengers gave no thought to the boats when they bought their tickets.

Well, in my humble opinion, they may not have given that much thought when they bought the tickets, but everyone certainly ended up wondering about it at some point after the collision. The real issue is how soon they thought about it, and the conclusion that each person arrived to (and in the case of male passengers, which side they chose to go to).

Modern Cruise ship passengers generally don't realise that they may be on a ship that has only enough boats for passengers. They still go cruising!

Well... please forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't it legally required today (exactly because of the sinking of the Titanic) that all ships not only have enough lifeboat seats for the maximum amount of people they can carry, but that they have enough men trained in the act of lowering them to get all of them away in fairly quick succession should it be necessary?

Just a thought.

Thank you all for your replies.
 

Dave Gittins

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"Boats for all" is a popular fallacy. The law actually requires a passenger ship to have enough boats for at least 75% of those on board. Any deficiency must be made up with liferafts. It's a bit much to post all the details, but some rafts must be under davits (little cranes) and others may be the usual rafts in cases with ropes to open them. An extreme case may see a ship have boats for 75%, rafts under davits for 25% and loose rafts for 25%.

The rules are constantly being bent. Normally a lifeboat is limited to 150 persons but on Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the seas there are 370 person boats. I hope these floating buses are never used!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Well... I meant to ask whether people thought that by the time they left on lifeboats, not by the time they boarded the ship.<<

I think my answer would be the same. The expectation was that the ship would act as it's own lifeboat and up until late in the sinking, I don't think it occured to a lot of people that rescue wouldn't arrive in time. By the time it did, their feet were already getting wet.
 

Dave Gittins

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People were very reluctant to give up hope. Some on Carpathia still clung to the belief that some survivors may have been picked up by other ships.
 
Sep 10, 2012
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Well, it seems it is indeed true that one learns new things every day... as well as it seems I have a bit of trouble envisioning how people who were there actually felt at the time. I guess it comes with the over a hundred years of hindsight and elapsed time that we have today.

Again, thank you for your answers.
 

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