What happened to the Titanic lifeboats?


Steve Santini

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Nov 29, 2000
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Hi,

Nor would any superstitious passenger have been too pleased to know that they were travelling on a vessel carrying one of the ill fated Titanic's lifeboats!

This may have been one of the reasons that they simply "disappear" from record.

I for one happen to think WSL was far too practical to simply junk the boats when they were in fine shape.

Steve Santini
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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My guess is that the boats were not in fine shape after spending a New York summer out of the water, pending their release by the court. This didn't happen until October. Clinker-built boats must not be allowed to dry out, or they'll leak like crazy. Once they leak, they are finished, as caulking only forces the planks apart.
 
D

David Haisman

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Hello David,

You're guess is about right regarding leaking clinker built boats.
As mentioned some time ago in some of my previous posts, we would ''drench'' these boats when in the tropics during washdown to keep the planking tight.
New clinker lifeboats, as they were on the Titanic, would be termed as ''green'' by many an old sea dog and when hanging off of davits with a boat load of people,the dry planking would have been under tremendous strain. I know lifeboat 14 leaked on entering the water and did so throughout the night.

David
 
Dec 4, 2000
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I worked at a factory which built lapstrake "clinker" boats. Since then, I've been repairing them.

David H. is undoubtedly correct that about the lifeboat leaking that night. The nature of clinker construction is that it relies on the swelling of the wood to keep the seams watertight. All new boats will leak until this takes place. Titanic's boats weren't waterborne long enough to have swelled shut.

Clinker boats do dry out over winter in my part of the world. The old solution was to launch 'em in the spring and fill 'em with rocks and water so they would sink. After a week or so, the boats would be tight as new.

Dave G. is correct that you cannot caulk the seams of a clinker boat using 1912 techniques for timber construction. Pushing oakum into the seams would do little except drive the planks apart and loosen the clinched nails. Today, I use a polyurethane adhesive/sealant in the seams which not only waterproofs them, but also provides strength to the boat.

The tightness of the seams is a large part of the overall strength of the boat. This should have been considered in the scantlings of the design. A lifeboat does not have to be an easy boat to row or handle, so adding more strength of materials is acceptable than in a one-man pulling boat. Titanic's boats were new enough that drying out should not have created any strength problems with regard to launching them fully loaded. On an older ship where the boats might have been in their chocks for a decade or longer...????

One technique for "fixing" a leak that resisted swelling was to fill a can with sawdust (composted horse manure works better). A board would serve as a lid to submerge the can upside down beneath the boat. Then, the board would be removed and the sawdust would float upward, some being sucked into the opening where it would swell and staunch the leak. Sometimes.

Honestly, I do not believe that a summer in a hot storage room would have destroyed the boats or even caused serious weakness. Hot, dry conditions cause wood to shrink, but not rot. Consider the oldest boats in the world were preserved by hot, dry sand in Egypt.

Undoubtedly, Titanic's boats would have suffered open seams and cracked paint under such treatment. But, in the hands of a skilled boat builder they could have been made serviceable again. It is possible to "buck" the roves (clinched nails) and re-tighten the seams. Even a deteriorated plank can be replaced for far less cost than producing a new boat. In 1912 there were literally thousands of men trained in the ways of repairing boats.

My guess is that as soon as it was possible White Star disposed of the boats for a variety of reasons. They represented Titanic in any liability claims. And, they represented the result of unsafe navigation to the general public. Could they have gone to other White Star ships? Possibly. But, there were thousands of ships needing lifeboats in those days. Thanks to Titanic, there was quite a demand.

-- David G. Brown
 
D

David Haisman

Guest
David Brown,

Yes, I agree with some of what you say on this topic.
Many clinker boats on older ships when I was at sea in the early 1950's were built by the methods that had been used for many years and naturally, clinker boats would have meant that many of them would have been constructed much the same as in Titanic's day.
This would have included some kind of wood preservative,a mixture of boiled oil and red lead may have been used and the planking overlapping and bedded in one on top of the next.
The garboard strakes were secured each end by a mortice and tenon joint, cut into the the stem and stern posts using a mixture of tallow ,grease, animal or horse shoe glue, with wedged pegs although in later years copper rivets or nails were used.
As a point of interest at the end of the 1940's some boats still had pamphlets carried in the food tank titled '' Advice to those in lifeboats and life rafts of merchant ships ''
There was a sub heading which read '' A copy of this pamphlet is to be carried in the food tank of every lifeboat in foreign going merchant ships''
These pamphlets were of waxed waterproof paper of about 20 pages and would relate to rationing, first aid and safety matters etc.
It's amazing what was around and still in use some 50 years ago and quite an interesting topic when we consider clinker use in the Royal Navy as well.

David H

[Moderator's note: This post and the six others immediately above it were in a separate thread outside of this subtopic, but have been moved to the pre-existing one, which is discussing the same subject. JDT]
 

Roy Howes

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Oct 21, 2006
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Hi all, been a long time since I visited. I know somewhere in this labyrinth of knowledge I was reading a thread or threads relating to how parts of the lifeboats were being stripped for souvenirs almost immediately and I also thought I read how some were recommissioned to other ships..? I might have read this elsewhere but if anyone can advise as to which of the lifeboats are still in existence, where they might be (either private collections, museums or exhibits) and what condition they are in. Thanks
 
Mar 15, 2001
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No one has a lifeboat from the Titanic in their private collection. No one really knows what happened to the lifeboats. Most of what I have ever read was that they were stripped of their name plates and used on other ships.

[Moderator's note: This post and the one above it were in a separate thread in another topic, but have been moved to the already pre-existing one discussing the same subject. JDT]
 
Dec 29, 2006
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There is a rumour that a collapsible boat from a White Star liner can be seen at Brodsworth Hall in Yorkshire. Although this is not a Titanic boat, it is said to be of the same design. Does anyone know anything about this?
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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There is a collapsible boat at Brodsworth Hall, but it's not from a liner, nor is it an Englehardt.

It's a 12' Berthon collapsible that originally belonged to Charles Thellusson, a rich yachtsman. It's been restored in modern times. (From a series of papers about Berthon, published by the Test Valley Archaeological Study Group.)
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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The Walter Lord collection has details of a collapsible boat, alledgedly from the Titanic, which wound up in the Bahamas. I'll be checking up on this in a month's time.
 
Feb 4, 2007
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>>>>I'll be checking up on this in a month's time.<<<

It will be interesting to learn what you find. Do keep us posted.
happy.gif
 
Jan 29, 2007
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I have just opened this topic. As part of our Shipwright apprenticeship in the 1960s we were put into pairs to build 14-foot clinker dinghies using Honduras mahogany; Canadian elm; etc. These were varnished inside and out (TITANIC's were painted outside and probably varnished inside) and the paint would have sealed any unlikely gaps. The only way for a boat to leak would have been through the cracking of both inner and outer layers. The lifeboats on the LAKONIA (ex JOHAN van OLDENBARNEVELT) had been painted so often that apparently they were stuck to the davits! Our apprenticeship boats were built upside down with planking laid over formers and the ribs fitted after the main hull had been completed. Planking and ribs were placed in a steamer to give the wood pliancy.
 

Mike Poirier

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Dec 31, 2004
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Hi David-

This is all very interesting. I remember a survivor of some shipwreck talked about water in the bottom of the boat because the joints hadn't expanded... Or something like that... I wish I could remember who said it and what ship! Ah... the Lakonia... That was a tragedy.
I owe you an email.

Mike
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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The lifeboats were painted inside and out, as can be seen in photos. At least one leaked.

I find it interesting that two abandoned collapsibles were found, well after the sinking, but the three lifeboats abandoned by Carpathia were never seen again, in spite of being fitted with buoyancy tanks.

The painting story is no joke. Years ago, in Port Adelaide, inspectors ordered a ship's crew to demonstrate they knew how to lower a lifeboat. The boat was smartly hoisted from the chocks, leaving a good deal of its bottom behind.
 

IanMcD

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Jun 9, 2013
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Hello Esther. I have a 1978 edition of Walter Lord's book, 'A Night To Remember' and on page 181 there's a photo of Titanic's remaining lifeboats in New York. The caption reads, "Thirteen Titanic lifeboats were brought back to New York by the Carpathia. Men were quickly put to work removing the Titanic's name-plate from each boat".

It seems likely that the boats were later given to other ships and were simply forgotten about.
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IanMcD

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Jun 9, 2013
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Poulsbo, WA
Thank you for the response. Do you know where they were kept in New York? Did the White Star Line simply put them in storage? Perhaps they thought it would be bad luck or bad publicity to put them back into service. I just assumed they were reused on other ships.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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The boats were put on the 2nd floor loft at piers 58 and 59 in New York and remained there until December 1912. They were then used for the Limitations of Liabillity. The value of the boats and its contents were add to the total sum for compensation. [There had been plans to bring the boats back to Southampton in May 1912 but this plans were dropped again.]
 

timberwolf

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Jul 28, 2016
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Is it possible that one of Titanic's life boats was locked up in a warehouse in some navel yard or some boat yard I'm looking 4 any thing that could lead me to a possible lead to the truth of a mystery I knew a person who survived the titanic and it would be a shame to give up

[Moderator's note: Two threads addressing the same subject have been merged to form this one. MAB]
 
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