Thursday 12 April 2012: Titanic ~ Women and Children First
"There was no panic, everybody was cool, and when the boats were ready the usual order was given, 'Women and children first.' That order was carried out without any class distinction whatever. In some cases we had to force women into the boats as they would not leave their husbands."
~ Joseph Scarrott, Able Seaman
The image shows the thirteen lifeboats being assessed in New York harbour after being dropped off by Carpathia. The lifeboats are the only salvage to be recovered from Titanic.
When the plans for Titanic were originally drawn up, she was to be supplied with 32 lifeboats, in anticipation of a change to the Board of Trade regulations surrounding the provision of lifeboat capacity. The rules current in 1912 were based on cubic footage formulated in 1894, which considered as its largest vessel, one of 10,000 tons and a provision for 960 passengers. At 45,000 tons Titanic exceeded the outdated regulations several times over. When the changes did not materialise, Titanic owners White Star Line, decided that the extra boats cluttered the decks too much and ordered the davits which had been double loaded, reduced to a single boat. Even with this reduction, Titanic still exceeded regulations with a final lifeboat provision of 1,178 passengers. It should be noted that in the final analysis, with only 712 survivors, not even the lower capacity of the regulation was exceeded.
There has been much discussion over the loading of the lifeboats and why only 60% of the capacity was used. It is true that there was no proper boat drill or muster performed on board, but there were no statutory requirements to perform them either. That said, in order to receive her certificate to sail, two boats were lowered and the crews exercised, an inspection which they passed. It is true that the officers were not aware of the strength and capacity new type davits or boats and they were intentionally under loaded with the intention that they remain on station to pick up survivors from the water, which did not always take place. It is also true that some boats were launched in excess of their capacity.
Perhaps one of the saddest events, was the ordering of one of the portside gangway doors on deck D to be opened. This was done to allow loading of the under filled boats from the gangway. In reality, it is thought that this actually sped up the rate of sinking since the door led to a passage all the way forward on that deck. It wasn't until her discovery in 1985 that it was proven that the door was left open and there will never be an explanation of why it was never closed again when the water reached the deck.
Of all the stories regarding the boats and survivors, perhaps the one hardest to accept is that of lifeboat 1. Controversy followed when it was revealed that Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, 5th Baronet of Halkin had presented a cheque for the sum of £5 to each crewman after the disaster. According to some, this was a bribe not to go back to assist survivors in the water, but his testimony to the Wreck Commission was that this was a gift to allow the men for among other things to replace personal equipment for which they would not be compensated by their employers. The Commission accepted his version of events and cleared him of any wrong doing, the secretary even going so far as to pen a letter to officially do so. The fact remains that this boat had a capacity of 40 persons, yet left Titanic with only 12 souls, 7 of whom were crew and none of whom took responsibility for returning to pick up survivors, a fact which none of the passengers reminded them.
The last boat to leave Titanic was collapsible D. 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller ordered the crew to link arms. Only women and children were permitted to pass through the circle. Two of the last passengers to be saved on this boat were the sons of Michel Navratil, Michel and Edmond. Their father had kidnapped them in an effort to save his faltering marriage. His final act was to pass them into the care of the women leaving the ship on the final lifeboat.
Boats 1 & 2. Emergency Lifeboats - capacity 40 per.
Boats 3 - 16. Lifeboats - capacity 65 per.
Boats A - D. Collapsible - capacity 47 per.
12:45am Boat 7 (27 per.) is launched.
12:55am Boats 6 (28 per.) and 5 (41 per.) are launched.
1:00am Boat 3 (50 per.) is launched.
1:10am Boat 1 (12 per.) is launched.
1:20am Boats 9 (56 per.) and 10 (55 per.) are launched.
1:25am Boats 11 (70 per.) and 12 (42 per.) are launched.
1:30am Boat 14 (63 per.) is launched.
1:35am Boats 13 (64 per.) and 15 (70 per.) and 16 (56 per.) are launched.
1:40am Collapsible boat C (71 per.) is launched.
1:45am Boat 2 (26 per.) is launched.
1:55am Boat 4 (40 per.) is launched.
2:05am Collapsible boat D (44 per.) is launched.
2:20am Collapsible boats A and B floated off the ship as she sank and were utilised as rafts.