What happened to the Titanic lifeboats?


jean leysman

Another interesting point: According to american liability laws, insurance claims by passengers had to based only upon the value of the goods (including the lifeboats and their contents) that where brought back to shore after the sinking of the ship. The fare paid by the passengers could also be included in the claims. The value of the lifeboats was estimated at $40,000. The total value of all goods brought to shore was less than $100,000. This was the total amount that had to be shared by all plaintiffs!
British laws were much stricter. Thomas Ryan of Cork County sued White Star for the loss of his brother and was awarded 125 Pounds. It was clear then to all american survivors that they should try their luck in Britain. Ofcourse White Star wanted to beat them to it and they increased their offer to $664,000 total. The plaintiffs then demanded $3,000,000, wich was the amount all parties agreed upon in the end.
More information on this subject is available in the book 'Titanic' by Edward P. de Groot who was also the author of the book "The ship that stood still" (in a co-writer ship with Leslie Reade)

As has been pointed out previously, there was a desperate need for lifeboats immediately after the disaster. Titanic's boats sat unused in one of the warehouses or docks in New York for 7 and a half months! By this time every ship that needed boats already had them. I'm not saying the boats were not used, but we shouldn't rush in presuming where and when they were used.

It was only suggested they eventually rotted away. They may have been used on a ship built later on, but there was so much stuff missing from them and some of the boats were damaged, that it is not unlikely they were never used. Their ‘newness’ would have worne off in almost a year’s time of not being used.

I believe a few of the boats were set adrift after the Carpathia arrived- there was the overturned collpsible, and the one in which was found the body of Canadian Mr Beatie. Im sure i read the plugs were pulled so as to sink the boats. Which boats were abondoned at sea- and were all of the abandoned ones later recovered? The one recovered by Oceanic- was that the overturned collapsible?


Tarn Stephanos

Stefan Christiansson

I think perhaps they used them on the Olympic as she needed more lifeboats after the regulations were changed.

I could be wrong here though.
I've always been under the impression that the boats were redistributed to other WSL ships, but no one knew where because of the 'curse' that was sure to be associated with them.
This has been argued elsewhere on the board. Amanda's ideas is as good as any. One place they didn't go to was Olympic. She was in England a few days after the disaster and didn't leave until she'd been supplied with extra boats.

Eaton & Haas say the boats rotted away in a shed but give no source.

Stefan Christiansson

Perhaps they could have brought the Titanic lifeboats back to Southampton on another vessel and then fitted them on the Olympic? Is this not possible?
I forget was it Collapsable B? that was set adrift with the 3 bodies in it with the plug pulled but month or so later another ship found it buried the bodies at sea and brought the boat back to land...
Oceanic found and brought to New York Collapsible A. Collapsible B was encountered by one of the recovery ships and at least one other lifeboat was seen at sea by a passing ship.

A and B never even made it to the Carpathia, having been abandoned by the boats who rescued the people from these collapsibles. The other 5 boats (4, 14, 15, C and D) were rejected and set adrift by the Carpathia after all the survivors were aboard the rescue ship.


Mark Baber

Oceanic found and brought to New York Collapsible A

Lifeboats aren't my field of expertise, but Oceanic deliberately capsized Collapsible A, didn't she?
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Not according to Eaton and Haas. They have a photo of the salvaged collapsible A in An Illustrated History. (I'm a bit vague on the name of the book, but it's the very big one).

One of the little ironies of the Titanic tale is that if anything was unsinkable, it was an Engelhardt collapsible. They were double bottomed and full of cork.
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Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy page 219 is photo and then there is a writeup on 218, Oceanic found the lifeboat A at 40.01N 30. 56W. It was brought back to NY.

Per Eaton and Haas book.


Mark Baber

About a month ago, I wrote that I thought that Oceanic had deliberately capsized collapsible A when she came across it about a month after the sinking; the source for that is Wade. A couple of folks set me straight, pointing to several of Eaton and Haas' books. Now, to complete the cycle, here's the news from 1912.

The New York Times, 17 May 1912

Three Bodies Found in Abandoned Collapsible Had Been Left by Officer
Passengers of the Oceanic Watched the Services Conducted by Ship's
Surgeon on a Lifeboat
With the arrival of the White Star liner Oceanic yesterday, from
Southampton, with a collapsible boat, picked up at sea on Monday, stowed
on her upper deck, the last of the Titanic's boats has been accounted
for. In it were found the three bodies that were left there at 4 A. M.
on Monday, April 15, by Fifth Officer Lowe of the Titanic, when he took
twenty men and one woman into his boat.

He was positive that the three men were dead, and said so in his
testimony before Senator Smith in his examination at Washington in the
following words:

"As to the three people I left on the collapsible boat, they were dead,
and the people on the boat whom I questioned said that they had been
dead for some time. I made certain of the fact and questioned every one
of them. Then I said to myself, 'I am here to save life and not to
worry about bodies,' and I left them."

The boat was identified by Richard N. Williams of Philadelphia, one of
the survivors, who recognized the fur coat found in the boat with the
bodies as the one he had left behind when he was taken out by Lowe.

Both the officials of the White Star Line and Dr. R. S. French, the
surgeon of the Oceanic, denied emphatically, that there was any truth in
the report printed in some of the evening newspapers yesterday that
there were evidences in the boat that the three men had lived for
several days and died of starvation after devouring the cork in the life

The boat was sighted on Monday at 12:45 P. M. by First Officer Frank,
who was on the bridge of the Oceanic at the time, floating about two
miles away on the starboard bow. The Oceanic was stopped when she was
within 800 yards of the boat. A report that the boat contained bodies
spread through the ship, and passengers of all classes lines the rail.
Third Officer Withers was sent away in a boat from the starboard side of
the upper deck with eight seamen. He returned and reported that the
bodies were not in a fit condition to be taken on board, and
recommended that the be buried from the boat they were in.

Dr. French was then called by Capt. Smith and instructed to examine the
bodies and if possible identify them before they were committed to the
sea. Bo'sun Jones of the Oceanic volunteered to go and sew them up in
canvas, as he had been a sailmaker and had had experience in burying men
in the Red Sea and other places in the East

At one end of the boat was the body, apparently, of a fireman, sitting
on the thwart with one hand twisted in the bight of a chain. At the
other end there was the body of a sailor and the body of a man in
evening dress, which Mr. Williams believes to be that of Thomson Beattie
of Chicago. The sailor had one foot twisted under the wooden batten, as
had the fireman at the other end. In order to get the two bodies
released for burial the bo'sun had to cut away the battens with his axe,
and in doing so he cut through the canvas which covered the cork fender
at the sides of the boat. The life belts were intact, and as they were
filled with solid square pieces of cork it would have been impossible
for the men to have gnawed them if they had been alive, the bo'sun said.

After the tags had been cut form the two coats worn by the dead
passenger for identification, all three were sewn up in canvas, with
firebars, and all was ready for the burial. When Dr. French stood up
in the lifeboat to read the service, the bo'sun and seamen with him
uncovered, and the flag of the Oceanic was lowered to half mast, while
the Captain, officers, and crew stood to attention bareheaded on the
upper deck with the passengers, who followed their example.

As the doctor uttered the words, "We commit there bodies to the deep,"
the sailors let the three canvas-covered bodies sink beneath the waves,
and the boat pulled back to the Oceanic towing the Titanic's boat

By the position the boat was found in she must have drifted seven and
three-quarter miles a day since she left the Titanic. The scratches on
her sides show that she had been launched from the boat deck of the
Titanic, and not slid off, as was believed. There was no fresh water in
her tanks and no provision for carrying stores.

Bo'sun Jones said that the bodies lay naturally and that the men did not
appear to have had a struggle for life. Dr. French said that there
were no signs of the men having died of starvation or from cold. A gold
ring, which was made of two wedding rings, was found in the boat
engraved with the names, "Edward to Gerda." There was no cork in the
mouths of the dead men, Dr. French said.


Carrie Ann McMillan-Tarleton

According to all that I have read the Carpathia only had room for 14 of Titanic's life boats. Boats 4,14,15,and collapsibles A,B,and C were abandoned at sea. On May 13, 1912 collapsible A was found adrift with 3 bodies,Brought aboard the S.S.oceanic and returned to New York To join the other Titanic life boats. *information taken from the book "The Complete Titanic" Authored by Stephen J. Spegnesi.This book is a great alternative to the much more expensive "Titanic: Triumph and tradgedy".Both are Must have books!