A second row of lifeboats

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

Thomas Andrews designed Titanic to have two rows of lifeboats, unfortunately the higher-ups thought that would make the first class promenade too cluttered. Since there were 16 regular lifeboats, and four collapsables, I'm assuming there could have been another 16 with capacities of 65 that could have saved another 1040 people. Would there be time to fill those boats up? I heard that Collapsible C was cut loose minutes before the ship sank. Did they keep full boats from being lowered to keep people's hopes up at the end that there will be a boat for them? Funny how after 86 years there are still all these "what if's."

-- Jen (jendrew@hotmail.com), January 13, 1998


Jen: The Titanic had Welin Davits. The ship I was on in the Navy (a troop transport) had Welin davits that we carried the landing craft on so I am familiar with how they work or at least how they worked in 1968. A welin davit can hold THREE boats: one on chocks on the deck, one on chocks above that one that can swing out of the way, and one on the davit falls themselves swung outboard of the ship. So,conceivably, the Titanic could have had three times the lifeboats it had. The design of the davits in 1912 were probably much different so that they probably only considered 1 more boat per davit rather than 2. Also the davits in 1912 were powered by muscle and timing was critical. The davits of today are all motorized and syncronized. The way they work today is: the outboard boat is lowered and loaded then launched. The empty falls are raised, the davit "arms" pivot inboard, pick up and load and launch the top boat, falls raise, arms pivot inboard,"swinging chocks" for the top boat swung out of the way, pickup the loaded boat on the deck, pivot out, lower and launch. Sounds pretty simple but if one was doing this by hand cranks it would be pretty difficult. None the less, Titanic could have had at LEAST one more boat per davit. The number of boats required was set by the British Board of Trade based on Gross Tonnage, not passenger capacity and bear in mind that the Titanic was at no where near full passenger capacity when she sailed. Having said all of that, would there have been enough time? I believe yes, had they had life boat drills and did not have to pick and choose who would be allowed into the boats. As you say, another one of those thousands of "what ifs".

Regards, Peter

-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), January 13, 1998.


Actually, Harland and Wolff designed the Olympic class ships (Olympic, Titanic and Brittanic) to accomodate up to 60 lifeboats; the plans called for 48. Yes, there were objections about cluttering up the boat deck with boats (imagine!), but cost was another consideration. Not only would it have been more expensive to outfit these three superliners with the necessary number of lifeboats, but White Star might have felt compelled to do the same for the rest of their ships as well (As one H & W executive at the time put it, "it would have drawn attention").

If the additional boats had been in place, there **should** have been enough time to load most if not all of them--IF the officers and crew had been properly trained and drilled in the evacuation procedures. Tragically, the crew simply weren't prepared to evacuate the ship. Remember, the Titanic was a new ship; her officers and crew were pulled together from other White Star ships, some joining up the morning she sailed. They weren't given the time to drill in handling the lifeboat equipment (the crew's lifeboat assignments weren't even drawn up until after the ship left her last port of call at Queenstown; the passengers were NEVER assigned lifeboats). The situation was compounded by Captain Smith's apparent inability (or unwillingness) to take lifeboat drills seriously. He held them only in port, and used the same handpicked team each time. Consequently, when disaster struck, there weren't enough trained hands to handle the evacuation efficiently.

There were only two teams to launch the 20 lifeboats; the port crew under 2nd Officer Lightoller, and the starboard crew under 1st Officer Murdoch. Instead of loading and lowering the all boats simultaneously, each team could only launch one boat at a time. The lack of hands forced the crews to rush the loadings, which is why most of the early boats left the ship less than half full. The officers also were afraid to load the boats to capacity for fear they would buckle under the weight. Here again, proper instruction would have cleared up this misunderstanding, and a lot more lives could have been saved.

As for the collapsibles, C and D were launched in the normal manner from davits vacated by regular boats. Collapsibles A and B were stored atop the officers' quarters, with no mechanism for getting them down to the deck. They somehow managed to get boat A down, and were trying to launch it from the davits when the bridge went under; it was cut loose and floated off the ship. Collapsible B also floated off, but upside down; 2nd Officer Lightoller, Colonel Gracie, Jack Thayer and Junior Wireless Operator Harold Bride, among others, wound up balancing themselves atop this overturned boat throughout the long, cold night.

To sum it all up, they could have used the additional lifeboats, to be sure. But Smith didn't have enough trained hands to efficiently handle the boats he had, so more boats may not have helped all that much.


-- Kip Henry (kip-henry@ouhsc.edu), January 13, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ