What if all of the lifeboats went back after the ship foundered


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I have been thinking about this for the last couple of days and I wanted to get someone else's opinion on it.

I am sure that it has been said that if more of the boats went back immediately after the ship foundered more lives could have been saved. My question is this:

If all of the boats went back, how many would have made it back to the site before hypothermia kills the swimmers and how many swimmers would those boats be able to take aboard safely? (Assume for this question that going back into the swimmers would not pose the risk of the boats being swamped and overturned. )

I welcome your thoughts.
 
>>(Assume for this question that going back into the swimmers would not pose the risk of the boats being swamped and overturned. )<<

Since it's not realistic, I would assume nothing of the kind and if you want any sort of opinion to be just as realistic, I submit that you shouldn't either. In point of fact, it was for exactly this reason that was one of the reasons most of the boats didn't go back. It was a completely valid concern as well. Trained seamen who could have carried out a rescue were in very short supply and a waterlogged body...alive or dead...can be rediculously difficult to handle, especially in an open boat that wouldn't need a lot of persuasion to roll on you.

They might have been able to pull a few dozen people alive from the water, but that would have been outweighed by the potential for just as many if not more to end up in the water had any of the boats been swamped. The first duty the crew had was to the people in the boats and it would have been reckless to gamble with the lives in their trust and care.
 
>>if you want any sort of opinion to be just as realistic, I submit that you shouldn't either<<

I admit this is not a realistic scenario and I agree with you that they did the right thing in not going back. Doing so would have been suicide and would have just added to the death toll.

I should have phrased my question better. I was putting forth a hypothetical scenario. What I am looking for here is which boats could have made it back in time and how many people could those boats have taken aboard to put them at full capacity if they weren't already?
 
>>how many people could those boats have taken aboard to put them at full capacity if they weren't already?<<

Probably not as many as you might think, even if you could get to all of them before they froze to death. The cubic feet allocated for each passenger assumed statistical averages and in the real world, the ideal never measures up to the reality. The boats were scattered all over the place and for those close enough to do anything, the trick would be finding them in the dark. Unfortunately, it's not possible to know which or even how many boats were close enough to make a difference.
 
Don't get me wrong, Mike. I see and understand the concern, so I agree that they did the right thing by not going back--at first.

I know that Lowe said this in Cam's movie, but didn't either he or someone else say in real life: "We waited too long"?

There is a chance that they could have safely gone back earlier than Lowe had in 14. The people in the water who weren't yet dead had grown weak, perhaps too weak to cause swamping, so going back earlier than he had would have likely rendered Lowe more survivors.

IF a few other boats had considered the same thing . . .

This would have been the extent of that possibility, though.

Still, that's a "What if" scenario that cannot be applied to Titanic because it didn't work out that way.
 
Most of the boats were at least half a mile away when the ship went down, and with inadequate crewing could not be moved quickly or precisely. Even if all the boats had started back immediately, it's likely that the majority of people in the water would have been too far gone by the time they were located. Boat 4, which didn't need even to go back because it was already on the scene and was better crewed than most, pulled only a handful from the water after the sinking. Of those, at least one was already unconscious and two died in the boat from the effects of exposure.
 
The trick is to have faith in the brand new boats and load them to rated capacity right from the outset. Many were certain to die, as there was not enough space, but a number of various failures caused many extra deaths.
 

Inger Sheil

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quote:

I know that Lowe said this in Cam's movie, but didn't either he or someone else say in real life: "We waited too long"?
He never actually said that, or anything similar, that has been recorded - on the contrary, he always stated that he had to wait as long as he did. The closest comment on record to expressing regrets is a remark he made later in 1912 saying that he wished he could have saved more lives. His son, however, did believe that his father wished he had returned sooner, and according to some of accounts from the lifeboats under his charge he had expressed a wish to return sooner than he did, but encountered resistance to the idea.​
 
quote:

Boat 4, which didn't need even to go back because it was already on the scene

Um, Bob, wasn't boat 4 one of those in Lowe's flotilla? I presume that you mean this boat was on the site of those in the water before meeting up with Lowe and the rest?​
 
I am not entirely sure what this question is about. Is it in fact TWO questions, that is to say:

1) What was the maximum capacity of all 20 boats if they had been properly filled in the first instance?

2) How long can one stay alive in the North Atlantic?

If the question is the latter one, the answer would seem to be simple. I believe that The Royal National Lifeboat Institution have calculated that those in the water after a marine accident will be dead (or at least beyond all hope) within 5 to 20 minutes.
 
>> I am not entirely sure what this question is about. Is it in fact TWO questions<<

No, although the second question does play a part in it. If a person can stay alive for no more that 20 minutes in the water, which boat(s) were still close enough to them after the ship went under to get back in less than 20 minutes and how many could said boat(s) take aboard to reach the boat(s) rated capacity.

For example, Bob Godfrey said in his post above that most boats were at least 1/2 mile away. Could a boat that far away have made it back to the swimmers in under 20 minutes. If it could make it back in that amount of time and had say 40 passengers out of a possible 65 it could conceivably save as many as 25 people.

I know that most of the boats were probably too far away to get back in time but I want to know which ones (if any) were close enough and how many each one could have taken aboard. As I have stated before I know this would never happen in reality because it would have been suicide.
 
Matthew, the point about boat 4 is that it was already in position to take swimmers aboard and was doing so within minutes of the sinking, but even then they didn't find many in the darkness and those that did reach the boat were close to death and some could not be revived. Even if Lowe or any other boat commander had started back from their more distant locations with no delay at all and with a crew of Olympic rowers they would have been too late for the majority of those still in the water. The number of empty seats does not realistically equate with the number of people who could have been saved.
 
>>Even if Lowe or any other boat commander had started back from their more distant locations with no delay at all and with a crew of Olympic rowers they would have been too late for the majority of those still in the water.<<

Bob, I was pretty sure that that was the case but being that I am just an enthusiast I wanted to get the opinions of more knowledgeable people such as yourself.
 

Inger Sheil

Member
To elaborate on Bob's excellent responses and to answer your question, Mark, Lifeboat 4 pulled survivors from the water before it joined up with Lowe's flotilla of boats. It was close enough that some swimmers recalling making for it, whereas others say that the did row back a bit for survivors before pulling away and joining the other boats.

Intriguingly, one survivor recalled that Lowe was initially reluctant to pull too far from the sinking vessel as he wished to be in a position to pick up anyone coming over the sides.
 
>>The trick is to have faith in the brand new boats and load them to rated capacity right from the outset. <<

The rated capacity was none too realistic in the first place since it assumed that a given passenger would take up a given amount of space. An assumption based, as I said, on statistical averages. A couple of big fellas could easily take up the space that would be occupied by three or even four average guys. Even if everybody had been "normal" the boats still would have been overcrowded.

>>For example, Bob Godfrey said in his post above that most boats were at least 1/2 mile away. Could a boat that far away have made it back to the swimmers in under 20 minutes.<<

If fully manned up by a completely trained crew which knew what they were doing, it's at least hypothetically possible that they could get there. The catch is that they weren't. The problem was severe enough that the boats had to be crewed with scratch crews of seamen, engineers and even passengers. Hardly the sort suitable for boat races on the North Atlantic, and way over their heads as far as rescue operations go.
 
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