Another Titanic question

One thing I’ve always wondered about regarding that famous sinking.

If any ship had been able to get to the Titanic before she sank, how would it have been possible to transfer over two thousand people from one ship to another at night in the middle of the Atlantic?

Let’s say that the Carpathia had been able to go a knot or two faster and had arrived at about 1:20 AM instead of after the sinking. I don’t think, with the Titanic rather rapidly going down by the bow, they could have just gone alongside for folks to step from one ship to the other. And how could they have gotten people into their lifeboats without the escapees having first gone into that 31 degree water? This would have undoubtedly resulted in many casualties.

Even if they had been able to get everyone into the lifeboats, it would have required these boats to have made at least three or four trips to have transferred all the passengers, a process that might have required hours.

Obviously many people who drowned in the actual sinking would have been saved, but I still think the casualty count would have been high. To have made a real difference in this, I think the Carpathia (or any other ship, for that matter) would have had to arrived almost as soon as the Titanic hit the iceberg.

What do you Titanic enthusiasts think?

I believe you are correct in your assessment. There probably wouldn’t have been a way to do a direct transfer between the ships without using the lifeboats anyway even if the Carpathia or another ship was within sight when the Titanic hit the iceberg. However, those circumstances probably changed the tactics the crew and passengers would have used if the circumstances were different.

The life boats probably wouldn’t have been launched only partially full if everyone knew it was just a ferrying and logistical exercise to get people to the other ship rather than just a blind launch into freezing darkness. It would have taken several round-trips in the life boats to transfer most people over but some of it could have been pulled off in the time allotted if everything was coordinated well. The Carpathia had plenty of man-power willing to assist even getting thousands of people on board as long as they were present and capable. They didn’t have much issue getting the life boat survivors on board once they rendezvoused with them in the real scenario.

I am not sure how they could have gotten people into the life boats after the first round of transfers however. People would have had to jump into that freezing water and then be rescued first into the life boat and then transferred over to the other ship. That is a dangerous stunt because of the height of the jump, the potential to hit debris and the very short survival window once they were immersed in water that cold.

Even in a best case scenario, there would still be a very high numbers of deaths.

Years ago I read a book that was the actual transcripts of the testimony of the survivors. Anarchy is what comes to mind.

I agree that the sight of another ship would have changed things considerably. A more orderly and efficient use of Titanics’ boats and the additional use of the rescuers ships boats would have saved people by an order of magnitude.

Having been in the Navy I think I understand the sailor mentality. When crisis happens you can get shit done. The law of the sea is a mindset.

The last round of lifeboats dont require to make a complete trip. They only require people to get off the sinking ship. Im sure many would have died. Im sure a number would have been able to clamber aboard the lifeboats somehow. Without sounding like Darwin or Hitler the fittest would most likely survive.

For extremely small values of an order of magnitude?

A factor of two would have been an impressive difference. A factor of three would have saved almost everyone on board.

An order of magnitude represents more than three times the total number of people that were on the ship.

If you mean properly filling all of the life boats to their capacity, it could have been done in as little as two trips.

It would work even better if you posit the Californian as well as the Carpathia arriving in time. Except, IMHO, that would require a bigger change in Californian’s Capt. Lord and how he ran his ship :mad: than the OP’s scenario of the Carpathia’s engineer wringing another knot or two from his engines.

That’s primarily why I didn’t use the Californian as an example in my post.

And, BTW, I seem to recall that the Carpathia’s engine room did get at least a half knot (maybe even a full knot) above design flank speed, so they did pretty good.

A fascinating subject, this.

The transfer of passengers from a distressed ship to a rescue vessel was precisely the presumed purpose of lifeboats in the era of the Titanic.

It was believed at the time, with the “modern age” of telegraphy and frequent ocean traffic, that a catastrophe at sea would simply require the orderly transfer of passengers via lifeboat from one vessel to another. The fact that there were not nearly enough lifeboats for everyone aboard was not some evil cost-cutting, but rather an apparently genuine belief among the architects of the day that it was inconceivable that the Titanic, with its individual watertight hull compartments, could not stay afloat long enough for rescue vessels to arrive.

And indeed this might well have been the case except for the extraordinary circumstances of the collision, possibly exacerbated by the brittle composition of the steel plates then being made and perhaps even more by the bunker fire that may have weakened them still further. Had the Titanic not tried to swerve around the iceberg and just simply hit it head-on, the design principles would have worked and chances are that – aside from perhaps a few injuries – everyone would have survived.

This idea that a head-on collision would have been preferable has been debated for many years. However, I think it is a moot point. There is absolutely no way that any seaman would have let his ship plow head-on into a basically immoveable object. All training and instincts would have made this action totally impossible. And remember, there was only 37 seconds between the time of iceberg sighting and the collision - all decisions had to be compressed into just over half a minute.

There is another theory sort of like this - if Captain Smith had not shut the watertight doors immediately after the collision, the Titanic would have sunk on an even keel instead of going down by the bow, probably remaining afloat long enough for the Carpathia to have arrived, or at least been close enough to have rescued many of the people in the water before they froze to death. An action like this also had no chance of happening, again because of training and instinct.

The “even keel” theory has been debunked more than once. At most it would have delayed sinking by a half hour, IIRC.

Still, the decision of the architects as to the number of lifeboats on board is puzzling, even with the benefit of hindsight. In fact, there were more lifeboats available than the legal minimum applicable at the time required. It’s hard to come up with a rational explanation for this. Either you believe that your ship is unsinkable, in which case you stick to the absolute minimum because you don’t believe that you’ll need the lifeboats anyway; or you believe that there’s a good reason beside legal requirements to have lifeboats, in which case it’s hard to explain why you stop with an outfit that provides a seat in a lifeboat for only a third of the people on board.

Would people have had to climb up cargo nets draped over the side to get on the rescue ship? Or did the Carpathia have doors/hatches down near the water line like modern cruise ships.

:confused: “design flank speed?”

the carpathia had lifeboats as well. between the 2 ships there would have been enough to ferry over passengers. load up the titanic boats, have carpathia launch their boats. then you have boats going out and coming back at the same time.

Flank speed is a ship’s maximum speed. Apparently it’s an exclusively American nautical term.

As has been mentioned, the big problem would be in getting people into the Carpathia’s lifeboats, or the Titanic’s if they returned. There would be no easy way to transfer people from the Titanic’s decks into life boats that were already in the water.

I don’t think that would have been such a big problem. As the ship pitched forward while sinking the boat deck, B deck and C deck would successively reach water level. The windows on B deck were operable and Wiki says at least one of the boats was, in fact, loaded through the windows on B deck.

The point of loading would shift aft as the ship sank but given an hour, with both ship’s boats in play, you could get anyone available to load off the ship. Whether everyone would be willing or not panicking and jumping to the water is another thing.

Even if the Titanic was sinking slowly enough to make this feasible, it might still be difficult to hold boats close enough so that people could easily climb in due to turbulence, debris in the water, etc. There’s also the potential for panicked passengers mobbing the boats and sinking them, which as I recall was a consideration for some of the life boats that got away only partially full not returning to pick up people.

A lot of life boats were lowered by block and tackle. As long as the list was not too extream it would be possible to raise empty life boats back up to the boat deck level to be loaded.

This was before the gravity davits.