Why Were The Port Hole Windows Opened


A

Aaron Quirey

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Why were the port hole windows open during the sinking? Was it the terrible smell of paint? and could this have caused the ship to list more to port?

Testimony from Survivor Emily Ryerson
(First Class Passenger)

- She left Titanic on one of the last port side lifeboats at 1.50am

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Q. When you went down into the water, from the boat, did you notice anything about the portholes in the side of the ship?

A. Yes, a great many were open.

Q. Did you notice anything in particular about the portholes on the water?

A. Yes, the water was washing in the portholes. You could see far inside the cabins and see the water washing in and around the gold furniture and decorations. It was brilliantly lighted, which deck I could not tell.

Q. Did you notice any of the lines of portholes disappear after you got in the boat?

A. Yes, she was sinking very rapidly then, we saw two lines and then we saw only one.




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Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Where did you get that material? Ryerson never testified in the US inquiry. She made an affidavit, which was sent to Senator Smith. All she said about portholes was "I could see all the portholes open and water washing in, and the decks still lighted."
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>She gave further evidence to the inquiry.<<

Better take a closer look. That affidavit is from the Limitation of Liability hearings which were a very different breed of cat from the formal inquiries. You'll notice at the top that the deposition is dated in 1913. By this time, the inquiries were long over.

The Limitation of Liability hearings were all taken in relation to the civil lawsuits which followed.

As to why the portholes were opened, there could be a lot of reasons for that. Some passengers just liked fresh air, even if it was cold. The issue of paint fumes can't be ruled out either. The sort of bases and volitiles used in contemporary paints could be extremely unpleasant.
 

Steven Hall

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Dec 17, 2008
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More like the people were smoking.
But like Mike said, fresh paint would have been quite strong. I dare say new carpet, varnished timber . . . ., etc all added to the want for fresh air.
And yes, some people just like to have a window open.
How may ports were open ???? Just think how much water was coming in from a hull opened to the sea no larger then your kitchen door.
Again, people may have just opened them to have a look out side.
But yeah, they should have closed it again when they left.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Be careful when someone refers to "port holes." In her case they were rows of windows on B and C decks I believe. Steve, weren't some of the port holes on the ship constructed to allow fresh air to come in but automatically seal closed if the sea rose to cover them?
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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>Again, people may have just opened them to have a look out side.

Could the portholes simply be swung open? I thought that there were tools needed. Maxtone-Graham mentions a common injury to passengers' knuckles, which would occur when they tried to re-open portholes that had been secured for the night by stewards.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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So far as I remember it were the windows on B Deck as they were also described by Mrs Stephenson and Miss Eustis who report about water on the deck with square windows. Both were in the same boat (No. 4) as Mrs Ryerson.

Sure more were open also on the other decks.
 

Steven Hall

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Dec 17, 2008
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"Steve, weren't some of the port holes on the ship constructed to allow fresh air to come in but automatically seal closed if the sea rose to cover them?"

I believe there were. I'll check about that tonight. But there was a simple locking device I believe that kept them open.
I'll look into the Britannic also.
 

Adam Francis

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Might it have had something to do with ventilators being shut down? I seem to remember something to that effect, but I thought it was in reference to the boiler and engine rooms.

It would appear the heaters were functional during the sinking, if it were hot wouldn't they shut off the heaters in their staterooms?

Just seems that it must have had something to do with a lack of air circulation, with as many people milling and wandering around inside it probably got warm especially to those wearing heavy clothing to keep them warm.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Actually Augusto, there were complaints that the heaters in some of the cabins weren't working. Out on the North Atlantic, even in April, can get mighty durned cold. Unless you were in the boiler rooms or the galley, overheating wasn't much of a problem.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Be wary of making judgments based on modern lifestyle. In the historical period in question (and for long after) it was commonly thought to be unhealthy to sleep in a bedroom with the windows closed, even on the coldest of nights.
 

Bob Godfrey

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I'm not talking about what I've heard or read about the past, Augusto. I've been around for a very long time, so I'm remembering how things used to be. And was not The Painted Veil set in the Far East during a cholera epidemic?
 
Jan 28, 2003
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I expect people's window open-or-shut preferences were merely about their own experiences. Yes, Bob, our grannies thought fresh air was good, but they never experienced cholera epidemics - the deadly "miasma". On balance, though, I think people in 1912 though fresh air was good, for obvious reasons. Well, obvious to them. Stuffy, smelly atmospheres could spell disease, no matter how science was already explaining contagion. So you'd be tucked up in bed with the porthole open, most probably. And the better-educated you were, the more you were likely to subscribe to the open-porthole theory.

I've no idea really. But my granny, who was in her teens in 1912, certainly thought that fresh air was mandatory all her life.

Neither she, nor my other granny, cared much about the Titanic, which is odd since it happened in their lifetime. But they did care about ventilation and their own children.
 

Bob Godfrey

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My mother (born 1920) spent much of her childhood at one of London's State-run 'open air schools', where lessons took place in classrooms which had no walls and the pupils were required to risk pneumonia daily by napping in sleeping bags outside in all weathers. These institutions for the promotion of good health had originated in the Edwardian era and were fully endorsed by the health authorities of the time. Decades later I was born at the height of the coldest winter in living memory, during which I was bedded down every night in a room with the window open. Throughout their lives my parents and grandparents, along with most of their generations, firmly believed in the simple philosophy of open window good, closed window bad.
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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Hello!

There was nothing really odd about the older generation's silence concerning Titanic. They had two World Wars and a recession to occupy their minds.
My Mother and father were the youngest of their families when Titanic went down. I never heard them, my grandfather or any of my 8 aunts or 8 uncles (4who served in WW1) ever mention Titanic until I went to sea school 38 years after the event. Then it was in the form of a joke... 'hope you don't sail on Titanic!'
When I did go to sea.. everyone, including passengers, kept their port holes open at sea. For all kinds of reasons. Not the least of which being; it might be the only route left to you in the event of a collision, a fire or if the ship rolled over. There was the fresh air thing too.
Most ships did not have AC until the early 60s. The modern ones before then had what they called punkha-louvres.. modern aircraft have similar little blowers mounted over every seat. In most cases; depending where your cabin was relative to the sea and spray, the port glass was lowered onto the port hole securing lugs or'dogs'. These normally swivelled into position after the porthole was closed, securing it tight against rubber seals. However, if the 'dogs' were swivelled into the port hole aperture before closing the port, they prevented it from closing fully, leaving an inch or so gap. Thus you could get fresh air without wind driven rain or spray. The only time I ever closed my porthole was when in port to stop thieving ba......s stealing the few things I owned. That would never happen at sea!
In the many years I was at sea, I cannot recall a discussion about Titanic. Sailors did not tend to talk about these things. Even although most of those I knew had had a ship shot from under them at least once. I will no doubt make myself even more unpopular by observing that Titanic OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is almost entirely a land-based affliction to which I, Unfortunately or otherwise have been smitten. That said; I enjoy my 'illness'.

JC
 

Bob Godfrey

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Good news, Jim. Doctor Bob pronounces you free of Titanic OCD. The old canoe never enters my mind except during my (generally brief) visits to ET, and I'm sure that's the case with you. The same cannot be said of all who frequent this forum, of course. For them, organisations like Titaniacs Anonomous are there to help. Except for those who are too far gone. No names mentioned!
 

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