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Launch of the lifeboats Edit

Lifeboat tally
Boat Aboard   Boat Aboard
  2 17   1 12
  4 30   3 32
  6 26   5 41
  8 25   7 28
10 57   9 40
12 42 11 50
14 40 13 55
16 52 15 68
B (14) A 13
D 20 C 43
Total: 323 Total: 382

It was not until 12:40 am, an hour after Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm on 14 April, that the first lifeboat was lowered into the sea. The boats were lowered in sequence, from the middle forward then aft, with First Officer William McMaster Murdoch, Third Officer Herbert Pitman and Fifth Officer Harold Lowe working on the starboard side, and Chief Officer Henry Tingle Wilde and Second Officer Charles Lightoller working on the port side, with the assistance of Captain Edward Smith. The collapsible boats were dealt with last, as they could not be launched until the forward davits were clear.[1]

Smith had ordered his officers to put the "women and children in and lower away".[2] Murdoch and Lightoller interpreted the evacuation order differently; Murdoch took it to mean women and children first, while Lightoller thought it meant women and children only. Lightoller lowered lifeboats with empty seats if there were no women and children waiting to board, while Murdoch allowed a limited number of men to board if all the nearby women and children had embarked. This had a significant effect on the survival rates of the men aboard Titanic, whose chances of survival came to depend on which side of the ship they tried to find lifeboat seats.[3]

Two contemporary estimates were given for the number of occupants in each lifeboat, one by the British inquiry that followed the disaster, and one by survivor Archibald Gracie, who obtained accounts and data from other survivors. However, the figures given – 854 persons and 795 persons respectively – far exceed the confirmed number of 712 survivors, due to confusion and misreporting. Some of the occupants were transferred between boats before being picked up by the RMS Carpathia.[4] More recent research has helped to produce estimates of the number of occupants that are closer to the total number of survivors rescued by Carpathia.[5]

Boat 7 (starboard) Edit

Dorothy-Titanic

Dorothy Gibson in a promotional photo for Saved From the Titanic (1912), dressed in the same clothes that she wore the night of the sinking

Boat 7 was the first to be launched, at about 12:40 am, under the supervision of First Officer Murdoch, supported by Fifth Officer Lowe. It had a capacity of 65 persons but was lowered with only about 28 aboard.[5] The two officers had tried for some minutes to persuade passengers to board but they were reluctant to do so, preferring the warm interior of the ship.[6] Lowe later testified at the US Senate inquiry into the disaster that the ship's officers had believed that the lifeboats were at risk of breaking apart if they were lowered while full. They had intended that once the boats reached the water they would pick up passengers from doors in the ship's side or would pick up passengers in the water. The first did not happen at all and the second only happened in one instance, and Harland & Wolff's Edward Wilding testified that the lifeboats had in fact been tested at the shipyard with the equivalent of a full load of passengers being lowered safely. However, the results had not been passed on to the crew of Titanic.[7]

Among the occupants of Boat 7 were:

  • Dorothy Gibson, American actress, model, and the writer and star of Saved From the Titanic, the first film about the disaster
  • Pierre Maréchal, French aviator and father of the racing driver Jean-Pierre Maréchal
  • James McGough, Philadelphia buyer
  • William T. Sloper, Connecticut banker
  • George Hogg, Titanic lookout, manned the boat along with fellow lookout Archie Jewel.[8]
  • Margaret Hays, New York heiress also brought her dog named Lady into the lifeboat

The lifeboat was launched either without its plug or with the plug displaced somehow, causing water to gush into the bottom of the boat. As Dorothy Gibson later put it, "this was remedied by volunteer contributions from the lingerie of the women and the garments of men."[9] Those aboard had to sit for hours with their feet soaking in ice-cold water.[10] When Titanic went down at 2:20 am, the noise of hundreds of people crying and screaming for help was heard by the lifeboat's occupants, a sound that Gibson said would "remain in my memory until the day I die." Hogg wanted to turn back to pick up some of those in the water but was shouted down by the lifeboat's occupants.[11] They drifted for some time until they came within reach of lifeboat 5. The officer in charge of the latter lifeboat decided to transfer a number of survivors from his boat, which he thought was overcrowded, into lifeboat 7.[12] The two boats were lashed together for the rest of the night until they separated to rendezvous with the RMS Carpathia.[13]

Notes Edit

  1. Wormstedt & Fitch 2011, p. 135.
  2. Lord 2005, p. 37.
  3. Barczewski 2011, p. 21.
  4. Wormstedt & Fitch 2011, p. 136.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Wormstedt & Fitch 2011, p. 137.
  6. Barczewski 2011, p. 192.
  7. Eaton & Haas 1994, p. 32.
  8. Eaton & Haas 1994, p. 147.
  9. Bottomore 2000, p. 109.
  10. Wilson 2011, p. 244.
  11. Wilson 2011, p. 245.
  12. Wilson 2011, pp. 253–4.
  13. Wilson 2011, p. 256.

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