Should more of the lifeboats have gone back? : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

I have gone back and forth on this one. There was supposedly no absolution (forgiveness) for the survivors. I assume the reasons are that many first class men had gotten into the boats (while there were ~200 women/children of 3rd class still on the ship), and only 1 boat went back after the sinking. There were nearly 1500 people in the water and 700 in the boats which had room for 300 more. In retrospect, one might think that had the boats organized such that 5-6 went back, the 300 more could have been saved. Was there time for this organized activity, given that the boats had rowed away in different directions and people in the water died within 20 minutes? Or should many of the boats have returned, with survivors already in them, running the risk of capsizing from the "swamping" by the many trying to get in and resulting in fewer survivors? I would like to think that I would have been as selfless as Molly Brown, but am not sure if given the circumstances the boats could have saved more. Opinions, please. If any of my assumptions are wrong, please advise as well.

-- Bob Gregorio (, January 31, 1998


Bob: This is one of those "what if" situations to which I really do not believe there could be a definitive answer. I think we all look at this in the past tense and don't fully realize the shock that these people were in. I don't know how I would have reacted but, no doubt, fear had a huge role in what happened after the Titanic sunk. By fear, I mean fear of the unknown. It was pitch black, alot of noise for a short while, and what would happen next. I just could not put myself in to that situation and know what I would do, because I was not there. Your question though, is one that has been asked many times over the last 86 years!

-- Peter Nivling (, January 31, 1998.

Everybody knows how difficult it is to save a person from drowning. People who are in desperate situations, between life and death, act accordingly. Therefore, to return the boats to a sea of desperate people could have been as bad as staying away. Most of the people in the water were probably men and third class paasengers. That meant this people had a physical advantage over the women and some first class men in the boats. If the boats would have returned, things might have been worse. It could have been a continuous fight for a place in the boat, a never ending battle for survival. Like kids fighting for something. Nothing organized could have been done in those circumstances. Only if the boats would have returned only to pick up some survivors who could swimm well enough to reach to these approaching boats (I would say, third class men). Once the capacity of a boat would have been achieved, the boats would have left the scene of the tragedy. I realize this approach would have been discriminating and not fair, but that's the only realistic way I think more people could have been saved. But Cameron tells us the risk when we see Rose in the water after she jumped from the stern, and that guy almost climbed on her before Jack punched him hard.

-- Dan Draghici (, January 31, 1998.

In this way, there would be no major discrimination in saving the survivors. All the first and second class children were saved. Many women from the first class were also saved. According to my plan, some men would have been saved, too, thus allowing for mor men, and balancing the 'statistics' for the surviving group. But I know this might sound too cynical and it is. Although I don't know any other way that might have saved more people. You still had to choose, and thus discriminate.

-- Dan Draghici (, January 31, 1998.

"wait to die, wait to live, wait for an absolution which would never come." they "wait" and yet expect an "absolution." well, "if you don't change your direction, you will end up where you are headed" (forgot who said that, not titanic releated though).. well, the "unsinkable molly" saw the direction she was headed, and she didn't like it, but she couldn't change her direction so she recieved no absolution. BUT had she gone back there would be no survivors. desperate times call for desperate measures, i am sure you have heard it before. what molly failed to realize was the drowning victims, in a state of upmost peril, would lack the insight to act calmly. the thousands of people would swarm the lifeboats.. think about it, if you were in that water, what would you be thinking about? as jack mentioned, all you would be able to think about is getting out of that freezing water, getting away from those thousands of needles sticking into your body.

-- Jordan Gray (, February 01, 1998.

Bob, the best strategy (with the benefit of 86 years of hindsight) would have been to have the boats tie up and shift passengers and crew around, so that several boats with trained crewmen aboard could go back and pick up some of the swimmers. The earliest boats to leave, which were also the least full, certainly would have had time to do this. But here again the lack of emergency training made itself felt. There was no organization of the boats after they left the ship; many struck off in different directions, when common sense dictated that they should stay together to make their eventual rescue easier. To complicate matters further, the crew assignments to the boats were very haphazard; boat 6 (the boat Molly Brown was in) only had two crewman aboard, while boat 3 had a crew of fifteen. So, it might have taken quite awhile just to find enough crew to adequately handle some rescue boats.

Like you, I'd like to think that I would have pressed to go back, but most of those who did were shouted down by their fellows. As the screams of those 1,500 swimmers penetrated the night, many of the first class ladies, who earlier had begged and pleaded for their husbands to be let into the boats, were some of the very ones who protested going back. As Don Lynch said in the A & E documentary, they told themselves, "those aren't our husbands, our sons, our brothers out there; that's someone else."

-- Kip Henry (, February 01, 1998.

Yes, the lifeboats with unused space should have gone back, but, as others have pointed out, it is easy to see why they didn't. The cold, the confusion, the horror of the disaster, the fear of being swamped, and the total darkness couldn't have made people feel too adventurous. One aspect of the film that is not true to life is the crewmen in the lifeboats using flashlights. James Cameron knew this was not the case but made the change (understandably) because, "it was too hard to shoot the scenes in total darkness."

I think the real blame for the situation--people dying while lifeboat spaces went unused--lies with Captain Smith. After learning from Andrews that the ship was doomed, he seems to have shown almost no leadership, at a time when it was most deparately needed. He ordered the lifeboats to be readied at 12:05 and told the wireless people to send out the distress call, but after that seemed to become almost a walking dead man. He was probably in shock.

He should have tried to establish a clear plan for loading the boats. If there was any question about the boats' strength, he should have consulted with Andrews, who was known to have information about EVERYTHING aboard the ship. He should have been clear about who was to be admitted (all women, first-class women, first-class men?) and seen to it that the crew carried out his orders. Many of the things that went wrong after the ship hit the iceberg, such as third-class being held back, no one telling people of the true urgency of the situation, one boat having 12 crewmen while another had but two, etc., happened not because of diabolical White Star policies, but from a lack of *any* policies or plans. In such a situation leadership is crucial, and, sadly, Captain Smith ("My career at sea has been uneventful.") flunked his final test badly.

-- Thomas Shoebotham (, February 02, 1998.

Well, here is a subject that wil be debated until the end of time! I agree with Bob to a point. That point being that Captain Smith gave the order that women and children were to be loaded into the boats. Where he failed was that he did not follow up on his order to make sure that it was being carried out. In all accounts that I have read, he is conspicuosly absent after the first indications that this vessel was going to sink. No one knows why, but my opinion is that he knew, early on, and just completely lost it. The stories of him shouting "be British" and the like may be true but, in all that confusion and noise, who could hear it? Therfore, the leadership really wasn't there and the leadership that was there was disorganized and panicked but did the best that they could do. Just my opinion, such as it is.

Regards, Peter

-- Peter Nivling (, February 02, 1998.

"There is no greater love than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

I couldn't have lived with myself listening to those people drowning and not at least tried to organize some kind of rescue effort. At least Molly tried, and for that I believe there is absolution.

-- Gilded Age Junkie (, July 30, 1998.

I think there is a simple answer for this. More people should have gotten on before the lifeboats were in the water. If any lifeboats went back before most of the people were dead then they would have been killed when everybody tried to get in the boats. By the time that 1 boat went back there weren't many survivors anyway.

-- Samantha (, December 05, 2003.

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