What else could have been attempted?


alanzman

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May 22, 2015
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I am trying to compile a list of possible actions that COULD have been attempted by the crew and/or passengers from the moment just after Titanic strikes the iceberg to extend her time afloat (even if only for a matter of minutes) or maximize the number of survivors. Think of the question in terms of using only the resources and manpower available on the ship as of the moment of the accident and assuming that if you were there you could have been able to muster others to follow / carry-out your instructions.
While each idea might only make a small impact, combined they could make enough of difference to either extend the timeline or save additional passengers. Some of these ideas are impracticable but not impossible to pull off given the circumstances.
Keep in mind that while some of the tasks below would take considerable amount of manpower to complete and although there were barely enough crew members on board to get the lifeboats away, you could smartly enlist the help of the able passengers on-board as well as the non-sailor crew members that are available to help out.
I have not included the ideas of counter-flooding or trying to stear the ship back to the iceberg as I believe these would not have helped.

SLOWING THE FLOODING / MINIMIZING THE WATER DISPLACEMENT:
(water was entering Titanic at approximately 25,500 long tons per hour, 425 tons a minute). Ways this could have been reduced and therefore extended the time afloat / prevented the sinking all-together:
1. Immediately after the collision order Titanic to a full-stop to retard the inflow of water
caused by the ships forward motion.

2. Have passengers / crew close as many portholes, gangway doors, open hatches as possible as early into the sinking as possible (important to do so prior to the bow dipping below the waves).

3. Wrap lifeboat canvas or interior carpet over anchor chain openings (3 total) to decrease water that will enter when the bow dips below the waterline. Not sure how to keep this in place (using chains, rope stretched across the bow? Anything to minimize the size of the opening would by some time.

4. Try to “seal” or retard the leaks from outside the ship using lifeboat- cover canvas’, carpet, linens, rugs etc. to plug the opened plates in the #6 Boiler room compartment. If time permits, try to do the same for the other exterior openings. (realizing you would be guessing exactly where the leaks were from the outside)

5. Drop all three anchors (2 bow and one forward) and hope that the chains/anchor holding mechanism breaks when the chain runs out and the chains/anchors detach completely from the ship thus removing 31 tons immediately. (15 ½ for forward anchor, 7 ¾ tons for each bow anchor, plus 150 lbs. per chain.

6. Ensure all pumps in flooding areas are online which I assume WAS done, but could other additional pumps be moved to the flooded compartments from the ones in the stern area? (not sure if they were transportable or if they had maxed out the # available to come on-line at once); Total water removal capability: 1,700 long tons per hour.

7. Was there a way to drain the swimming pool, fresh water supply, or dirty water supply without minimizing the pumps already pushing out the inflowing ocean water?

8. Use electric cranes from the cargo hold to unload the heaviest of cargo items from the hold and dump into the ocean. Even if only a few crates make it overboard that could a few tons removed = extra time. This would require someone trained in its operation in coordination with those in the cargo hold, something that might not have been feasible considering how quickly the bow flooded.

9. Have passengers toss overboard: deck chairs, furniture, anything not tied down to remove additional weight. Sure many of chairs will drift off the boat deck in the course of the sinking anyway, but why not get the weight off earlier and help out with prolonging the sinking as well as provide items to cling on to while in the water?

10. Have the lifeboats filled to capacity leave within the 1st hour of the sinking; this would remove both the weight of the lifeboats + ~1,100 passengers.

WAYS TO MAXIMIZE SURVIVORS: (~2,224 on board, ~1,500 deaths, ~705 survivors); assuming that each minute earlier that the Carpathia or other rescue ship arrives could mean a life saved from the effects of hypothermia/exposure:
1. Immediately after realizing the extent of damage start loading lifeboats with women and children first, then men and fill each lifeboat to or near maximum capacity; this saves around an extra 420 lives; lowers death toll from 1,500 to around 1,100. The first lifeboat was away at 12:45, but what if the first lifeboat could have been away 30 minutes earlier? This would have left more time to have an organized and effective loading of all the other boats, not to mention free up time for the remaining crew to prepare their own means of survival once reaching the water (makeshift survival rafts).

2. Send CQD and SOS morse immediately after the collision (within 5 minutes of the impact, requesting ships to come to the rescue. These ships could always be turned-around if the damage is not serious)

3. Issue an “abandon ship” order immediately following the inspection of the damage to the ship. Alert of those on board of the abandon ship order and provide instructions to the crew and passengers on the evacuation process. Might cause a panic, but then again might save lives.

4. Launch distress rockets/flares as soon as the seriousness of the damage was realized. This earlier timeline for the rockets might make the difference in how the Californian reacts.

5. Blow the ships horns almost continually (or as often as possible to create an auditory signal that something is amiss with the ship).

6. Start at fire on the deck of the ship (bow, forepeak area) to get the attention of a nearby ship. This part of the ship would be out of the way of the passengers egress.

7. Have passengers tie a series of life vests together with deck chairs (using ropes, bed linens, etc) to create small floating makeshift floating platforms that survivors could grab on to. (think Rose in the ’97 Titanic) Wait until just before she goes under to push them off the ship for those remaining to jump to.

8. Once lifeboats are away, have the remaining passengers and crew still on-board the ship shmear lard from the galley (bring lard to the boat deck) over their skin as an attempt to add a layer of insulation against the freezing water.

9. Once all remaining lifeboats have left, instruct those still on board to remove their life-vests from around their neck but hold on to them in their hands prior to jumping into the water. This might prevent some from breaking their necks on impact with the water.

Feel free to debunk these ideas or provide any others that could buy time or save lives additional lives…
 
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Alex F

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Nov 8, 2013
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10. Send "A" (as SOS by Morse) by switching off/switching on all the lights of the ship
11. To verify carefully the position of the ship (SOS position)
12. To ask vessels coordinates of the icefield island (20 miles long x5 miles wide) to land the passengers and direct the boats with
13. Use rope to chain people and life-boats
14. Use drums as boats
15. Switch to emergency transmitter (powered by battery)
16. Send farewells in bottles
 

Adam Went

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Apr 28, 2003
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Interesting discussion! I think other ideas that have been suggested in the past like letting the ship sink on an even keel have been largely debunked and may have actually meant that Titanic would have sunk sooner, so we can perhaps discount those.

Aside from some of the options already mentioned, the only way that I can possibly think of would have been to try and strengthen and enlarge the watertight bulkheads somehow, so that they did not overflow/give way so quickly. If the water could have been kept at bay for a bit longer, perhaps more lives might have been saved but then you would also need the improvised lifeboats as virtually all of them had left the ship by the time she went under anyway. It wasn't the amount of damage which sunk the ship, it was the amount of distance that it covered. So that's the only way I can think of - find a way to localise the flooding as much as possible. But it would have taken multiple options working together to have made any significant difference.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Nov 13, 2014
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One reason that so many passengers refused to board the early lifeboats was caused by the actions of the crew.
The orchestra was playing ragtime, the lights were shining brightly, it was warm inside the Titanic compared to the freezing air outside on deck, and the stewards were constantly comforting the passengers saying there was no danger.

What if the orchestra would have played dark music or hymns from the beginning? What if Chief Engineer Bell temporarily killed all lights? What if all steam would have been used for the engines to keep the wireless system alive, turning it chilly even inside? What if the stewards would have been running around, screaming, and shouting "Abandon ship!" and "We're sinking!"

I know there might be some disadvantages about purposely causing a panic, but the big advantage is that almost nobody (except for Ida Straus of course) would refuse to board a lifeboat, saving lives.
 

alanzman

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May 22, 2015
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All of these are interesting ideas. I recently read that the steam release from the funnels was interfering with Titanic's wireless operations, as I belive it was so loud that they couldn't hear the incoming messages from the other ships and at some point after 12:30 they requested to the bridge to stop blowing off steam so frequently. So continually blowing off steam to alert nearby ships wouldn't have been practical.
 

alanzman

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May 22, 2015
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Interesting idea to enlarge the bulkheads, but not sure how they could have succesfully done that. Your right about localizing the damage, it came down to Boiler room 5 as being the key to whether she stays afloat or sinks. If they could have somehow kept the water from filling up BR#5 she would have stayed afloat at least for several more hours. Not sure what more could have been done other then repair the damage from the outside or raise the height of the bulkhead during the sinking.
 
Nov 13, 2014
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it came down to Boiler room 5 as being the key to whether she stays afloat or sinks.
BR#6 was the key to whether sinking or floating. The situation quickly deteriorated when the watertight bulkhead between BR#6 and #5 gave away, but the ship would have sunk anyway, even if the damage only extended to BR#6. Thomas Andrews made the final conclusion "Titanic will founder" over an hour before the bulkhead failed, and he didn't speak about damage in BR#5, only in BR#6. This suggests Andrews didn't know BR#5 was damaged.
 

Adam Went

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Apr 28, 2003
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Christophe:

Could that be partially because the crew themselves didn't believe that the ship could sink? Andrews, Smith, the officers, etc might have known but they were determined not to create a panic. There wasn't much point to that exercise anyway until the boats could be prepared for lowering.

Yes, Titanic would have sunk anyway but if the bulkhead between boiler room 5 and 6 had held or been able to be reinforced somehow, it surely would have increased the amount of time Titanic had left.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

JMGraber

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Apr 22, 2012
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Would eliminating too much weight from the stern increasing the sinking since there would more weight towards the bow?
 

Adam Went

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Apr 28, 2003
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JM:

There was tons of water flooding into the ship every minute, so I don't think that weight displacement of any kind would have played a significant role.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Chung Rex

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Dec 25, 2006
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The matter that only 705 people survived is indeed largely MANAGEMENT problems. By calming down most passengers and believing in the myth of "Unsinkable", that is the result. Titanic should be a lesson of every manager.

Lifeboats can indeed be overloaded when some of the passengers entering lifeboats were children whose mass was smaller. 1 or 2 lifeboats were slightly overloaded (~5 - 10%) without any problems, especially when Titanic sank inside extreme calm environment of cold core anticyclone. In my opinion, about 1,300 passengers could have been saved: If more alerts were given, lifeboats could have been loaded at 0:30 or earlier, giving enough time of loading collapsible A and B successfully.

Is Lightoller's "Women and Children only" policy a fallacy that caused many lives? Astor could have been saved. Boat #2 or #4 would not founder even if he entered the boat. It was another story if Lightoller shot anyone when boats were FULLY loaded.

Another crazy idea, obviously unworkable under the situation, but can be made as a reference for future ship-making is that evacuating everyone in the first 3 to 4 watertight compartments, and then the foremost part is completely detached from the remaining part of ship (and therefore that part sinks) to save the remaining parts from sinking.
 

dazjstuart

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Apr 16, 2015
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Its very difficult, I have always maintained that the officers did a commendable job of getting as many people to safety as they did. Yes given the flat calm conditions and relatively long time it took to sink they could have saved more but how? The later boats were filled to capacity as people realised the ship was sinking. The early boats were not filled because people did not want to get in them, why would you on an apparently unsinkable ship that is showing no obvious signs of sinking, some of the men that wanted to get in were prevented from doing so, this was indeed the only think I can think of that was a definite mistake. If anyone wanted to get on an underfilled boat that was going to be launched anyway then they should have been allowed. Having just said that though, if I as a man had watched a few boats allowing men to fill them half an hour ago I would be more than a little annoyed when that was no longer allowed, which again might have caused crowd control issues, compounding the problem.

The crew were trying to re-assure passengers, if they had not there would have been hysteria and pandemonium a lot earlier on, this may have prevented some of the boats from being successfully launched or even sank some of them, which would have increased the death toll. Its a real catch 22 situation, you want enough people to be aware of what's happening to fill the boats but not so much that everyone wants to get on them.

Of course I do believe the occupants of some of the 3rd class cabins in the bow would have been far more aware of the reality of what was happening, were they prevented from reaching the boats? Thats a different argument all together. I have always argued that the survivor numbers are victims of lies, damned lies and statistics, people look at proportions rather than the overall numbers. Yes there were far more 3rd class on board so obviously far more of them were going to die, but when you look at the actual numbers only 40 less women from 3rd class were saved than from 1st class (1st class women undoubtedly got 1st dibs on the boats) and roughly equal numbers of 1st and 3rd class men were saved. You also have the problem that a lot of the 3rd class were large foreign families who did not want to be split up, the majority of 1st class were couples or small families, i.e. it was easier for a first class couple to get 2 seats in a boat than a 3rd class family of 8.

Anyway I digress. You mention that if they had started loading boats earlier more would have been saved due to being able to properly launch collapsibles A and B. Perhaps but then you are risking even more of the early boats being underfilled as people were not panicking, loading them earlier could have potentially killed more people.
 
Nov 13, 2014
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I don't think the boats could have started launching earlier. The order to evacuate the ship was given just after midnight, and the first boat departed at 12:45 A.M.

Before any boat could be lowered away, the captain first had to know for sure if it was necessary to evacuate the ship. Once he investigated the situation, he can give the order 'Abandon Ship'.
Next, the officers had to prepare the boats for launching. The new davits required lots of manual work, and the crew was inexperienced with these new davits.
Finally, the officers had to fill the boats with passengers and crew.

It takes around an hour to perform all these actions before the first boat can be lowered away.
 

Chung Rex

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Dec 25, 2006
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The stuffs officers could have achieved "as humanly possible" and practically include two things: Women and children first, in contrast to what Lightoller did. In alternative scenario, Mr. Astor could have survived and also many more 1st and 2nd Class men; overload slightly (~70 to 80) for boats with mainly babies and children. Not much stuffs could have been done otherwise.

The best scenario that most passengers could have survived was indeed carried by "god of luck": the stern broke completely at 2:18 with the bow, and the condition of the stern was "healthy" enough to stay afloat until morning. In that case, most passengers could have survived (excluding those died early at the bow or who jumped early). But how the ship broke was not controllable, sadly.
 

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