Why weren't people constructing rafts and such?


William Oakes

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I am 58 years old.
My love of all things Titanic began at about age 7.
This question has perplexed me for over 50 years.
When the boats were gone, the list was great, the head was well down, and it was obvious that the ship would founder, why weren't more men using doors, paneling, deck chairs, rope, life jackets to construct crude but sustainable flotation devices?
By about 1:15 AM it seemed clear that the ship was doomed.
That would have given men about an hour to tie doors and life jackets together and construct crude rafts and odd flotation devices.
It seems like so many more lives could have been saved.
If this question has been asked before; then my apologies.
This thought and question, has troubled me from the time that I watched A Night To Remember, with my father back in 1967.
I'd have been putting something together to save my Butt!!!!!
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Theres a scene in A Night to Remember where a you see a guy who constructed a makeshift raft out of deck chairs trying to drag it to the fantail but it gets away from him and he loses it. I forget now but there were reports of someone frantically throwing chairs in the water for people. I think they waited too long and were awaiting direction from the crew as what to do. Some situations you have to go with what your gut tells you and damn the authorities. The people who listened to the authorites on 9-11 and went back to their offices got killed. Many of the ones who said screw this I'm outta here made it.

My solution would have been different. I would searched for a bucket of bearing grease...maybe lard from the galley. Stripped down to my skivies...slobbered up my whole body with grease...put my clothes back on and tied them off. Makeing a crude wet suit. I'm a good swimmer. Look for the closest lifeboat and swim like hell. Praying the whole time I could make it. I came up with that idea after reading about those people who try to swim the english channel...coating themselves with grease. Reality check..being in that situation at the time would I have come up with something like that? Highly doubt it. It would have been more like option number 2. A triple sour mash and one last cohiba.

P.S...Adding this. That "someone" I referanced above was according to witnesses Thomas Andrews throwing the chairs in the water. But that timeline doesn't make sense to me if he was actually in the smoking room area when people were people were actually going into the water. Unless he threw them in earlier knowing what was coming and went below later.
 
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William Oakes

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I'm inclined to think I'd have joined you in option 2.
Great observations.
It just seems like a ship that BIG with that much "Stuff" on it, could have resulted in some quickly constructed rafts and such, but then again, hindsight is 20.
 
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That would have given men about an hour to tie doors and life jackets together and construct crude rafts and odd flotation devices.
Constructing anything while a traumatic event was in progress is very difficult at best. It's like asking why didn't people try to construct makeshift parachutes by tying a bunch of umbrellas together before jumping from the burning World Trade Center buildings during the 2001 attacks.
 
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Yeah its a question of time. Given enough time you could probably come up with all kinds of solutions. But on Titanic I would venture to guess most of the passengers had no clue about the lifeboat capacity. So they would have been listening to the crew telling them keep calm everything will be ok. By the time reality hit valuable time would have been lost to come up with an alternate solution.
 
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William Oakes

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Constructing anything while a traumatic event was in progress is very difficult at best. It's like asking why didn't people try to construct makeshift parachutes by tying a bunch of umbrellas together before jumping from the burning World Trade Center buildings during the 2001 attacks.
While I appreciate the comment
I'm not sure I can compare the two.
People in burning smoke filled buildings about to collapse trapped thousands of feet up have far fewer options.
2-3 deck chairs tied together with a few life jackets tied to them and you've got a raft.
They had hours to consider this.
I think it was a function of complacency because they believed 1- the ship couldn't sink, and 2- that The White Star Line had a plan for every contingency.
There are no wrongs answers.
I've just always been frustrated by the nagging question of Why?
Why didn't more people TRY to construct something????
It will gnaw at me forever, I suppose.....
 
Jul 5, 2016
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P.S...Adding this. That "someone" I referanced above was according to witnesses Thomas Andrews throwing the chairs in the water. But that timeline doesn't make sense to me if he was actually in the smoking room area when people were people were actually going into the water. Unless he threw them in earlier knowing what was coming and went below later.

There's no evidence Thomas Andrews remained alone in the smoking room, that is another persisting visual myth based on a stewards account of seeing him there to momentarily collect his thoughts, eventually the smoking room would have been completely abandoned. It's quite possible Andrews made some last efforts offering what little relief he could.
 

Arun Vajpey

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As Sam Halpern correctly pointed out, it is easy to ask seemingly pertinent questions about what people did or didn't do with hindsight. But even the most creative mind and skilled body will not work well under stressful conditions, let alone a matter of life and death. As along as there were lifeboats, most people on board would have hoped and tried for a place in one, even of some of them knew that there were not enough places for everyone. Human mind is like that - we tend to grab at straws no matter what. But after all the launchable lifeboats were lowered, there was not much time and everyone left on board would have known that the Titanic was going to sink from under them soon. Under those circumstances, making rafts would have been difficult even if necessary materials were laid out in order on the deck, let alone improvising from other things.
 
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William Oakes

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There is an account in Walter Lord's book of the baker, Charles Joughin, who as late as 1:45 revisited his cabin for yet another drink. At that time he went back up to the boat deck where he found that all of the boats were gone. He retreated down to B deck and began throwing deck chairs through the enclosed window of the Promenade.
Altogether he pitched about 50 chairs overboard.
This ct must have been quite the character.
Not only did he remain calm and cool throughout the entire night, but he also survived over 3 hours in the water until the Carpathia arrived, due to his well insulated condition.
 
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3 hours seems quite a stretch. Perhaps a chunk of that time is allotted to being onboard the collapsible, only that 3 hours appears to go beyond what's humanly possible let alone 1 hour.
 

Arun Vajpey

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There is an account in Walter Lord's book of the baker, Charles Joughin, who as late as 1:45 revisited his cabin for yet another drink. At that time he went back up to the boat deck where he found that all of the boats were gone. He retreated down to B deck and began throwing deck chairs through the enclosed window of the Promenade.
Altogether he pitched about 50 chairs overboard.
This ct must have been quite the character.
Not only did he remain calm and cool throughout the entire night, but he also survived over 3 hours in the water until the Carpathia arrived, due to his well insulated condition.
That is a complete load of hokum.

First of all, if Joughin was really inebriated like he claimed he was, how could he keep track of the number of chairs he threw overboard or his time in the water?

Secondly, even if he had thrown, say 8 to 10 chairs overboard, what purpose would they have served? Even if one or two landed near a person struggling in the frigid water, how long could he/she have hung-on to a deck chair under those conditions? Probably a few minutes longer than if they were treading in the water no more before they passed out due to hypothermia.

Thirdly, it would have been impossible for anyone to survive for 3 hours in those freezing waters, especially someone who is drunk. It has been known for some time that the idea that alcohol insulates the body against cold is a dangerous myth. People sipping brandy when cold feel warm because of vasodilation of the skin blood vessels; but this happens at the expense of vital organs like the heart and kidneys. In cold weather, the circulation 'centralizes' around vital organs to protect them and that's why the peripheries like hands and feet feel so cold. Alcohol reverses this and so someone intoxicated is more likely to die of a heart attack in frigid waters.
 
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William Oakes

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Well, Sorry to burst your bubble, but I didn't write these facts, Walter Lord, did and he gleaned this information from survivors.
It is well documented that Joughin did indeed survive the 3 hours in the water.
He also did throw many chairs overboard.
Lord estimated it at 50 chairs.
This was also corobborated by witnesses.
I didn't write A Night To Remember, Lord did.
I am only sharing his information.
Thank You!
 

Arun Vajpey

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It is well documented that Joughin did indeed survive the 3 hours in the water.
He also did throw many chairs overboard.
Lord estimated it at 50 chairs.
This was also corobborated by witnesses.
When I said that someone cannot survive for 3 hours in freezing waters, I was not talking through my hat. I am a doctor and know a bit about hypothermia and such.

Secondly, you claim that it is "well documented" that Joughin survived for 3 hours in the water. Documented by whom? Someone swimming alongside the baker for all those 3 hours and living to tell the tale? Or perhaps someone in a nearby lifeboat who decided to see how long the man could survive before being pulled-up on board?

The same thing applies to those 50 chairs. It takes quite while to find 50 deck chairs and throw them overboard and with the ship sinking under their feet, I doubt if someone was keeping count.

Walter Lord's book A Night To Remember is well written but it is merely a sign of the times when limited information was available, based on survivor statements that were often widely contradictory. In the "sequel" The Night Lives On that Lord wrote over 30 years alter and after discovery of the wreck, he duly changes opinion about a lot of things, again based on new evidence that had emerged.
 
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William Oakes

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I'm not questioning your credentials, or your knowledge as a doctor.
There are exceptions to everything.
The man survived.
As for the deck chairs, if they were stacked up against the wall then throwing fifty of them overboard is entirely possible and in a short amount of time.
I don't accept Lord's word as gospel any more than I do yours.
It is simply the best information that we have to go on, since he spoke with actual survivors, who were there ( and we weren't).
We can debate this forever and everyone's perspective is interesting, and neither of us is right or wrong.
I've been studying the subject of the Titanic's sinking for over 50 years and I still don't think that I am anywhere near an expert.
Cheers Mate!
 
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I'm not questioning your credentials, or your knowledge as a doctor.
There are exceptions to everything.
The man survived.
Yes he did, not for three hours in the water directly. Like math, when it comes to science, there are wrong answers, particularly when narrative contradicts biology and physics.

Believe me, there have been quite a few in the Titanic community who don't get that fact.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Cannot recall names offhand but I've read that several male survivors later told during interviews that they had been in the water for improbably long periods before being hauled onto lifeboats. This might be due, at least partly, to guilt complex at having survived when so many others, including women and children, were lost. While the average Western adult male survivor was not vilified by his countrymen and women like poor Hosono was, it was still very difficult for them afterwards.
 
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William Oakes

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Certainly there were selfish exaggerations, and no question that sadly, non-anglos were often falsely made into less than courageous examples.
The funny thing is that this fellow, Charles Joughin, never bragged about himself.
He actually turned down an opportunity to get into a life boat.
He said later that it didn't seem right.
It is almost as if he resigned himself to his fate, and simply kept busy by going back and forth to his bunk and having a stiff drink, raiding the larder and handing out the bread, going back for yet another stiff drink, tossing the chairs over board.
Then going back to his bunk again for one last drink, and finally stepping off the fantail as the ship sank at 2:20
Lord, said that his head didn't even get wet.
I suppose that we'll never know for sure what is fact and what is legend or exaggeration.
One thing is certain though. this chap Joughin was indeed a colorful character, and one whom I personally admire for his ability to remain calm and function under extreme pressure. Even with the help of a bit of liquid courage.
 
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