The Lifeboat Launching Sequence
By Bill Wormstedt, Tad Fitch and George Behe,
with contributions by Sam Halpern and J. Kent Layton
(Originally published in editted form in the The Titanic Commutator No. 155, 2001.)
(This revised and expanded version © 2009, 2010, 2012 by Bill Wormstedt, Tad Fitch and George Behe)
March 2012: Added further details of the timing of the lowering of the first lifeboat.
July 2010: Added further detail to sequence of #6 and #8.
June 2010: Added further detail to lowering time of #9, and Rule at #13 and #15.
April 2010: Added further detail to lowering time of Collapsible C, and Scott and Ranger at #12 and #10.
April 2009: Added accounts for Ada Ball, Imanita Shelly, changed aft port boat times, and changed last rocket time to 1:50 with supporting evidence.
June 2009: Added details on Boxhall leaving and Collapsible C, Hichens and the timing of the first rocket, and Pitman's comment about how long it was before his lifeboat left the ship.
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In the aftermath of the Titanic disaster, both the Americans and the British held inquiries into the happenings of the night of April 14 - 15th, 1912. Unlike the American Inquiry, the British Inquiry went so far as to publish, in their final report, a table listing the lifeboats by number and the approximate time each left the sinking ship.
Comparison of the sequence and times in this table to American
and British Inquiry testimony and other personal accounts show
that a number of mistakes appear to have been made. Taking into
account the sheer amount of testimony Lord Mersey and his
investigators had to go through, and the short time frames
involved, it is easy to understand how these mistakes may have
happened. See Table 1
for the times as published in the British Inquiry. For a
diagram of the Boat Deck of the Titanic, click here.
Using the Inquiries themselves and other contemporary accounts, the following is our attempt to correct these errors.
Given the testimonies themselves, it must be understood that any timings assigned to the lifeboats are only approximations. In most cases, accurate times cannot be determined, as even the witnesses themselves were not always in agreement as to how long an event took to occur or exactly when it happened. The times listed below are the present authors' best estimates of the times that the lifeboats *began* lowering away from the Titanic's decks.
It must also be recognized that there may well have been undocumented officer movements and temporary officer 'abandonments' of various lifeboats at various times during the launch process. A witness mentioning that a particular officer assisted at a lifeboat does not necessarily mean that the officer remained there throughout the entire loading and lowering process. With the evidence at hand, the present authors do not believe that the exact movements of the officers in question can be reconstructed with complete certainty, although a general idea of their movements can be determined. This level of uncertainty about the movements is especially true of the officers who did not survive the disaster - Captain Smith, Chief Officer Wilde, First Officer Murdoch, and Sixth Officer Moody. The evidence is too vague and sometimes contradictory for us to pinpoint the **specific** movements of any of the officers.
A special note must be mentioned in regards to Second Officer Lightoller. In his US testimony, he mentions being at many of the port side boats, but does not specify which, other than by 'first boat, second boat'. Because of this, we've been forced to leave some of his statements out, unless we were able to determine the lifeboat number based on specific details in the account.
Be that as it may, we will begin our examination of the lifeboat
launch times by attempting to determine the exact *sequence* in
which consecutive pairs of lifeboats left the Titanic.
The Forward Starboard BoatsAlmost all the evidence shows that these boats were among the first to leave the ship. The British Inquiry showed these boats as having left in the order #7, #5, #3 and #1. This can be substantiated by the following:
Boats #7 & #5:
Boats #5 & #3
Boats #3 & #1
There are disagreeing accounts, however. Steward Rule claimed #1 left before #313, and he gave very specific details of what he saw. However, his later testimony makes it clear that he was confused about how the boats were numbered14. It appears that he thought #1 was the aftmost boat of the forward starboard quadrant, and that #3 and #5 were forward of that boat in that order. Rule also explained that the accident had affected his memory15. Given his confusion and the sheer amount of contrary evidence that disagrees with Rule, we've had to discount Rule's testimony on this topic.
Lookout Symons' American testimony disagreed with his British, in that he claimed (in the American), that he lowered #3 first, then assisted at #5, and finally went to #116.
Steward MacKay was also convinced of a different sequence. He
claimed to have lowered #3, then #7, then watched #5 being lowered
before moving aft to #917.
Again, we've had to go with the bulk of the evidence which clearly
demonstrates that the correct launch order of the forward
starboard boats was #7, #5, #3 and then #1.
The Stern Starboard Boats
The accounts pertaining to the launches of these boats are fairly consistent: boat #9 was launched first, followed by #11, then #13 and #15. The evidence supporting this sequence is as follows:
Boats #9 & #11.
Boats #11 & #13.
Boats #13 & #15.
The present authors conclude that the above lifeboats were indeed
launched with #9 going first, followed by #11, #13 and #15.
The Forward Port Boats
Boats #6 and #8:
The British Inquiry concluded that boat #6 was the first boat to leave the port side, followed by #8. This conclusion was mainly based on the statement of Lookout Fleet, who said #6 left before #8 and that he saw no boats lowered before #623; Second Officer Lightoller also believed that #6 left before #824.
However, there appears to be considerable evidence that lifeboat #6 was not the first boat lowered.
Second Officer Lightoller, at the American Inquiry, stated that the lifeboat he put First Class passenger Major Peuchen in was the fourth boat he loaded (Peuchen was in #6)25. Peuchen himself claimed that he helped to lower one boat, removed the mast from a second, and left in a third (#6)26.
Quartermaster Hichens, another occupant of boat #6, stated that he thought two boats had gone before #6 left the ship27.
First Class passenger Mary E. Smith refused to get into the first boat lowered on the port side, but was forced by her husband into the second - #628. Another First Class passenger, Mrs. Stone, looked over the Titanic's railing before she entered boat #6 and saw empty seats in another lifeboat that had already reached the water29. First Class passenger Mrs. Julia Cavendish also mentioned being in the second boat, and described Major Peuchen climbing down into her boat (#6) from the Boat Deck30.
At #8, Isidor and Rosalie Ida Straus were alongside as it loaded.
Mrs. Straus helped her maid, Ellen Bird, board the boat, before
climbing in herself. She then had second thoughts, stepping back
onto the Boat Deck, famously refusing to leave her husband of many
years. Ellen Bird described this same scene, saying that "Mr.
Straus stepped aside when the first boat was being filled..."
before describing their refusal to part. This suggests that #8 was
the first port boat to leave 30a.
First Class passenger Caroline Bonnell, who left in #8, was very specific31. She stated that though #8 was the second to let down over the side, it was the first to reach the water. She also stated that she left Titanic "considerably more than an hour" after she came up on deck.
An account by First Class passenger Mrs. Helen Candee, paraphrased by Col. Gracie32, states her impression was that there were other boats in the water which had been lowered before hers.
Since Fleet was in the bow of boat #6, and Hichens was in the stern closest to #8, we feel that Hichens was in a better place to actually see what was happening with regard to the launching of boat #8. (Fleet's view could have been obscured by the people in #6 and on the deck, and he very probably was occupied with his boat tipping up, and having Peuchen climb down.)
Considering all the conflicting accounts regarding these two boats, it is clear that not all of the accounts can be correct. From the evidence shown above, though, the present authors feel that boat #8 was the first of the forward port lifeboats to reach the water and that it was launched prior to boat #6.
Although lifeboat #4 had already been lowered to A Deck by Lightoller before boats #8 and #6 were launched (which might account for the boats mentioned by Peuchen and Lightoller), Lightoller was forced to postpone the actual launch of #4 because the A Deck glass windows blocked passengers from entering the boat.
Boat #2 had not begun to be loaded yet, as this took place quite
late in the evening - Boxhall left in #2 after he finished
firing distress rockets. (The aft port boats appear to have
been loaded and lowered away in a group; details will be provided
presently as well as coverage of forward port boats #2 and #4.)
The Stern Port Boats
The lowering order for these boats appears very confusing. The
British Inquiry table lists boat #10 as the first boat lowered,
followed by #12, with #14 and #16 finishing the sequence in that
Boats #16 & #14:
Boats #14 & #12:
Boats #12 & #10:
There appears to be quite a bit of evidence to indicate that boats #16, #14 and #12 were loaded and lowered away at around the same time, while boat #10 was lowered separately. Fifth Officer Lowe stated that boats #16, #14 and #12 went down pretty much at the same time38. Seaman Clench loaded #12, #14, and #16 (in that order) with passengers; he then returned to #12, which was still hanging in the davits, and left the ship in boat #1239. Seaman Poingdestre stated that "there were hundreds gathered round waiting to get into the three boats", and he specified these three boats as being #16, #14 and #1240.
Why would these three boats have been different than boat #10, though? Why wouldn't passengers have clustered around boat #10 as well as around #16, #14 and #12? We feel the answer to this question is to be found in Seaman Evans' American testimony. Evans stated that he lowered #12, which then rowed away from the ship; he then went to boat #10 where, with the assistance of a steward, he swung the boat outboard in the davits and lowered it level with the Boat Deck - *after* which he was ordered into the boat by First Officer Murdoch and proceeded to load it with passengers41.
If boat #10 was the *only* aft port boat still sitting in its chocks while #16, #14 and #12 were being loaded with passengers, that would explain why Lowe, Scarrott and Poingdestre all omitted #10 from their accounts - because that boat wasn't swung out and ready for loading yet! Also, if #10 still had to be lowered to the edge of the Boat Deck, loaded with passengers and launched *after* Evans finished launching #12, boat #10 must have been launched quite a while after the other three aft port boats left the ship. With the other three boats having left significantly earlier than #10, this could explain why the men loading #10 had problems finding people to enter the boat - many passengers had left the area looking for other boats that were already in the midst of the loading process.
Second Class passenger Emily Rugg's newspaper accounts fit this scenario. One account states that Miss Rugg was "placed in one of the last three lifeboats lowered at the same time from the davits"42. Miss Rugg left the ship in #12 - the *last* of the 3 aft port boats lowered at around the same time. Another account states "She was placed in the boat which was the next to last to leave the ship"43. This would be accurate from Miss Rugg's viewpoint if #12 was launched before #10, since the launchings of the forward boats would not have been visible from the aft end of the ship
Third Class passenger Nellie O'Dwyer's account also suggests that # 16, # 14 and # 12 had already been lowered away by the time #10 was launched. She claimed that by the time she reached the Boat Deck "there was only one boat left", and she does not mention seeing # 16, # 14 or # 12 being lowered away nearby. Miss O'Dwyer also describes the lady falling in between #10, which she subsequently boarded, and the side of the ship44.
Second Class passenger Ada Ball was rescued in #10 and stated that her boat was the "last boat"45. She also described children being tossed across the gap between her lifeboat and the deck due to the list. Mrs. Ball's memory of children being tossed across the gap between her lifeboat and the deck due to the list is just as Baker Charles Joughin described at boat #1046, Her memory of the woman falling in between the lifeboat and the ship, but being rescued47 can only have applied to boat #10.
Second Class passenger Imanita Shelley's account provides further evidence. Colonel Archibald Gracie, based on his correspondence and research, indicated that Shelley was rescued in #1048. The lifeboat Shelley left in hung away from the ship's side "between 4 and 5 feet" due to the port list, which amongst the aft port boats, only occurred at #10. Her cabin mate Mrs. Lutie Parrish had to be thrown into the boat and had to jump across the gap. Shelley indicated in her affidavit that she was told her boat was the last boat 49. The ship's baker (Joughin) was manning Shelley's boat at the time of its lowering just as Ada Ball described 50. Of the aft port boats, Joughin was only involved in the loading of #10, stating that he did not see the other three boats in this area leave the ship, and that he was not involved with the loading of these other boats 50a. In addition, Shelley indicated that a man jumped down into her lifeboat as it was lowering, and that there was trouble getting to the tripper and freeing the falls once her lifeboat touched down in the water. Seaman Frank Evans mentioned both of these incidents at #10 in his testimony 51. All of these facts support Gracie's conclusion that Shelley was in boat #10, and amongst the aft port boats, match this boat only.
Further circumstantial evidence that lifeboat # 10 was the last of the aft port boats to leave the ship comes in the form of the newspaper accounts of First Class passengers Miss Gretchen Longley and her aunts, Miss Kornelia Andrews and Mrs. John Hogeboom, all of whom left the ship together in Lifeboat # 1052. Mrs. Hogeboom and the other two ladies said that, when they got to the Boat Deck, one boat was already fully loaded with passengers and that there was not room in two other boats to accommodate the three ladies together; the ladies therefore waited for the "fourth boat". Although we cannot be certain, this would certainly seem to suggest that the other three boats that the ladies saw lowered before # 10 were #16, # 14 and #12.
In addition to the above accounts, Seaman Evans and Buley also both claimed that #10 was the last boat to leave53.
There are, however, a number of conflicting accounts:
Baker Joughin was very specific that boat #10 was the first of the aft port boats to reach the water54. He also stated that he did not see #16, #14 or #12 leave the ship55. It's possible, though, that Joughin saw all 4 boats on the ship at one point, went below and then came back up to #10 without noticing that #16, #14 and #12 had left in the meantime. Joughin also mentioned that there was a significant list to port during the loading of #10, but this list was not present during the loading of the other 3 boats, and only appeared *after* they all left the ship 56. His account appears to be the basis for the British Inquiry's conclusion that boat #10 was lowered before the other three boats.
Joughin also appears to say that Chief Officer Wilde was at #10, but a close reading of the testimony shows that Wilde's name was first suggested by the British Assessor interrogating Joughin and that Joughin continued to use that name57. Since Evans and Buley both mentioned Murdoch by name instead of Wilde, we feel Joughin was probably mistaken about the officer's identity and have been forced to conclude that the officer in question was Murdoch instead of Wilde.
Greaser Scott appears to say that he saw the two after port boats still on the ship when he came up from below decks. Scott's testimony is not very definite, though, as it is unclear whether he meant that these boats were still on the deck or if they were by the side of the ship; his exact words were "There were two boats left then on the port side; lowered down to the ship's side they were then"58.
Was Scott saying that the boats had already been lowered down the ship's side to the water, or were they just lowered to the side of the Boat Deck in order to be filled with passengers? Scott seems to have provided the answer when he was later asked if the two boats he saw were the only two lifeboats left, replying ‘Round the ship, yes’, i.e. around the ship in the water58a .
Scott did say that he saw a shot fired at one of the boats, and he specified that the other boat he saw was the one that picked him up from the water59. However, we know that Scott was picked up from the water by boat #4, which was not one of the aft port boats at all60. Also, Greaser Ranger, who was with Scott when both men left the ship60a, said nothing about seeing shots fired. In fact, he stated that when the men reached the Boat Deck, they saw ‘nothing’, and that after going down to B Deck, they were told that ‘all the boats had left the ship then’. He reinforces this elsewhere in his testimony60b .
The accounts of the seamen who were actually involved with the launching of the aft port boats show a definite sequence - such as having lowered boat #12 before leaving the ship in #10, etc. The contrary testimony of Joughin and Scott doesn't really fit with the rest, and we've had to reject them as being of questionable reliability.
It seems reasonably clear that boat #16 started lowering first;
#14 followed very soon afterwards, but it was briefly hung up due
to Lowe firing shots to prevent a rush on the boat as well as the
lifeboat itself tilting dangerously during the lowering process.
Boat #12 went next, and #10 followed ten or fifteen minutes later.
The Forward Port Boats (Continued.)
Boats #2 and #4:
The present authors have no doubt at all that boat #2 was launched before boat #4.
An issue does arise, however, as to which officer loaded and
lowered boat #2. Steward Johnstone63a said it was the
"Chief Officer" who loaded #264 and had
previously mentioned Wilde (by name) as having worked at that
lifeboat. That being the case, we can be reasonably certain
Johnstone knew that Wilde - not Murdoch - was the Chief Officer
and that both of his statements were referring to the same man.
Fourth Officer Boxhall also mentioned Wilde as having loaded boat
#265 and was
very specific that he did not see Murdoch at that boat66. Even though
Seaman Osman mentioned "the chief officer, Murdoch" as loading
boat #267, the
present authors feel that Osman was probably mistaken about the
name of the "chief officer"; the fact that two other crewmen
testified to Wilde's presence at boat #2 (one of them specifically
noting Murdoch's absence when #2 was ready to lower) forces us to
conclude that Murdoch was *not* involved with the loading and
lowering of boat #2 (although it's not impossible that he paused
there briefly while on his way from boat #10 to Collapsible C.)
Collapsible C was attached to the falls that were previously occupied by boat #1 and was the first collapsible to leave the ship. According to First Class passengers Hugh Woolner and Björnström-Steffansson, after they saw C lowered they crossed over to the port side on A Deck, in time to get into Collapsible D as it was being lowered past the A Deck railing68.
Collapsibles A and B were to be attached to the falls vacated by
Collapsibles C and D, but both boats floated off the Boat Deck as
the bridge dipped under. Collapsible A floated off upright (with
its sides still down), while B floated off upside down after
falling from the roof of the officers' quarters.
Preliminaries Which Affect the Overall Launch Sequence and Timings
Before we try to put all of the above paired launch sequences together and assign specific launch times to each of Titanic's lifeboats, four preliminary subjects must be discussed which relate to the timing of certain events: (1) Able Seaman McGough, (2) the distress rockets and Quartermaster Rowe, (3) the launch time of the first lifeboat, and (4) the Titanic's list as it slowly shifted from starboard to port.
(1) Able Seaman George McGough.
We know from Scarrott's testimony that Seaman George McGough manned the aft set of davits during the lowering of lifeboat #14PM-1. We also know from Haines' testimony that Seaman McGough left the Titanic in lifeboat #9PM-2. Both specifically mention him by name. It was a secretary at the inquiry who incorrectly spelled his name McGow, not Haines himself. Scarrott, Haines, and McGough were all members of the same starboard-watch deck crew under Fourth Officer Boxhall, and therefore would have been very familiar with each other. (McGough's first name is incorrectly listed as James in the US Senate crew list).
It has been suggested that Haines never specifically testified that Seaman McGough and Seaman Peters left the ship in #9. This is meant to imply that when Haines mentioned McGough and Peters, he really meant that they lowered #9 rather than departed in it. However, a few questions after Haines named these two seamen, he was asked how many men were rescued in #9. He refers to "the two sailors" with no further clarification. This suggests that he was referring to the same two men, since no other sailors were mentioned in the 7 questions between the responsesPM-3.
Fireman George Kemish, in a letter written to Walter Lord in 1955, provided independent corroboration that McGough left the ship in #9 and described some of his actions in the lifeboat. Kemish said he was not sure if his boat was #9 or #11, but all of the evidence taken together suggests #9.
Additional evidence that McGough left in #9 comes from Second
Class passenger Bertha Watt, who was rescued in a lifeboat along
with a minister. This minister was Second Class passenger Reverend
Sidney Collett, who besides stating that he was saved in #9, took
the lifeboat numeral from the boat he was in as a souvenir,
proving he was that boat. In 1917, Watt wrote in the Jefferson
High School paper that the man at the tiller was an Irishman, and
that "Paddy had no authority, he was just a deckhand"PM-4. Watt again
mentioned "Paddy" being in her lifeboat in a private letter, and
stated that he was in charge and at the stern of the boatPM-5. There is
little doubt who she was referring to. Not only did Fireman Kemish
refer to the sailor who took charge of the boat (meaning at the
tiller) as "a deck hand named Paddy McGough", but McGough himself
gave several press interviews where he is referred to as "Paddy"
Sidney Collett also mentioned McGough being in #9, saying "Paddy
McGuffe was master of our boat"PM-7.
(2) The Distress Rockets and Quartermaster Rowe
The Titanic's first distress rockets are generally believed to have been fired at about 12:45 a.m. Fourth Officer Boxhall had just finished firing a rocket (probably his first), and was returning the firing lanyard to the wheelhouse when he got a telephone call saying that one of the starboard lifeboats had left the shipPR-1. This account agrees with Quartermaster Rowe, who testified that he phoned the bridge after noticing a lifeboat in the waterPR-2. Although it is impossible to prove, it is possible that Rowe saw the lifeboat in the water from the flash of the rocket illuminating the ocean. This sequence also tells us that at least one distress rocket had already been fired before Rowe brought supplementary rockets forward to the bridge area (Rowe himself testified that rockets were also kept on the fore bridge)PR-3.
Quartermaster George Rowe was, unfortunately, not the most forthcoming witness at either Inquiry. After the collision -- and while he was still stationed back on the Titanic's stern docking bridge -- Rowe *had* to have noticed the commotion up on the Boat Deck as the lifeboats were being gotten out and as passengers were coming up from below; strangely, though, he never mentioned having observed these things. If Boxhall's account is accurate (i.e. that he was firing rockets before Rowe phoned the bridge), Rowe did not mention sighting Boxhall's rockets either. Rowe also did not mention having interacted with Quartermaster Bright, the crew member who had helped him carry the reserve rockets from the stern to the bridge, and later, helped Boxhall and him fire them off. Lack of any specific mention of these subjects by Quartermaster Rowe really tells us nothing useful, though, since a lack of such testimony cannot be construed as proof that Rowe had *not* been aware of these things.
Quartermaster Rowe was, according to his own account, one of the last crew members to find out what had happened to the Titanic. He also had the benefit of having a watch handy - he did note the berg passing by at 11:40 p.m.PR-4 , which agrees closely with other estimates of the time of the collision. Even though Rowe saw the iceberg float by, he was not contacted by anyone on the bridge nor did he attempt to contact anyone. In fact, he continued his tour of duty in a completely routine manner until he eventually saw a lifeboat in the water.
Rowe noted the time of his lifeboat sighting - 12:25 a.m.PR-5. By the time Rowe reached the bridge with extra rockets and started firing them, it was probably around 12:45 a.m., and Rowe said he was busy firing rockets and Morsing until (he claimed) 1:25 a.m.PR-6 . After an unspecified time helping to load Collapsible C, Rowe noted that Collapsible C was leaving the ship as the forward well deck was awash and that the Titanic went down just 20 minutes after C left the shipPR-7.
But were Quartermaster Rowe's time observations accurate?
It must be noted that even though Rowe had a watch on his person and accurately recorded the time of the collision with the iceberg, he did not state or indicate that he checked his watch in relation to every event in which he gave time references for in the inquiries. In fact, many of his times appear to be estimates. Since Quartermaster Rowe claimed to be unaware of the extraordinary events that were happening forward while he was isolated on the stern docking bridge, it seems very likely that Rowe would have routinely set his watch back 23 minutes at midnight as he normally would have done - which means that what Rowe saw on his watch as 12:25 a.m. was actually 12:48 a.m. unadjusted ship's time, or at least that he was thinking of adjusted time knowing that the scheduled 23 minute setback at midnight was due to occur. This means that the time he gave for sighting the iceberg, which came before the time adjustment, would be accurate, but the times he estimated for events that came after the adjustment, could be skewed. Since Boxhall (by his own account) was firing rockets *before* Rowe phoned the bridge, this adjusted time does appear to make sense (see the next section below "The Launch Time of the First Lifeboat" for details on this). We have assigned a time of 12:47 a.m. for Boxhall to be firing his first rocket, which was just before Rowe saw the lifeboat out to the starboard side and phoned the bridge at 12:48 a.m., the time Boxhall went back into the wheelhouse with the firing lanyardPR-8.
This postulated 23 minute time adjustment would also push Rowe's time estimate for the cessation of rocket firings ahead from (supposedly) "1:25 a.m." to 1:48 a.m. - which is more in keeping with Boxhall's having left the ship in boat #2 "nearly half an hour" before she sankPR-9. It also would have given Rowe around ten minutes to finish loading Collapsible C before she was lowered to the water at around 2 a.m. - which agrees with Rowe's estimate that Titanic sank just twenty minutes after Collapsible C left the ship. (Collapsible C will be discussed in more detail later.)
Connected with the above-mentioned 23 minute time discrepancy is the problem that the British Inquiry reported "1:40 a.m." as the time that Collapsible C left the ship. Pantryman Pearcey reported that he knew C left at 1:40 a.m. because one of the boat's passengers mentioned the time as the event occurredPR-10. However, this time could easily have come from someone who had set his watch back 23 minutes at midnight - or maybe it even came from Rowe himself. In any case, the "1:40 a.m." time that was quoted as being the time Collapsible C rowed away from the Titanic is almost certainly 23 minutes slow, which - as has already been said - means that Collapsible C began lowering at around 2:00 a.m. (about twenty minutes before the Titanic went down -- just as Rowe testified), and after difficulty lowering because of the port list and getting caught on the ship’s rivets, began rowing away from the ship at 2:05 a.m.
Getting back to the time of the first rocket, we also know that Quartermaster Hichens left the Bridge when he was relieved at 12:23 a.m.PR-11, at which time he was asked to remove the cover from the port collapsible boat (Collapsible D), on the deck just inboard of #2PR-12. After he took the cover and grips off, he was ordered to #6 by LightollerPR-13. Hichens testified that no distress rockets were fired while he was working on the collapsible, but that the first rocket was sent upwards during the 15 or 20 minutes he was working at #6PR-14. Given Hichens' departure from the bridge at 12:23 a.m. is a very accurate figure, it follows that Hichens must have been at Collapsible D for at least 15 to 20 minutes getting the covers and grips off based on what we know from LightollerPR-15. That puts the time about 12:40 a.m. before he was sent to #6. This demonstrates that the first distress rocket could *not* have been fired any earlier than 12:40 a.m., and 12:47 is entirely reasonable given Hichens' movements.(3) The Launch Time of the First Lifeboat As examined above, we believe that QM Rowe’s reported time of 12:25 a.m. for sighting the first lifeboat was an adjusted time (actually 12:48 a.m.) due to his having set his watch back 23 minutes, or thinking of adjusted time. Rowe made a number of statements later in his life in which he gave more details about what he did the night of the sinking. However, not all of Rowe's latter-day statements agree with his 1912 statements - or even with each other. In 1963, District Secretary J. Powell of the MMSA wrote a series of letters to Leslie Harrison, recounting some interviews that he had conducted with QM Rowe, and giving the answers to specific questions posed by Mr. Harrison. In the first letter, dated March 5th, Rowe did say he saw the first boat launched around 1:00 a.m. (he did not check his watch, this was an estimate), and the first rocket was also fired around 1:00 a.m. In a letter dated May 18th, Rowe claimed that he definitely did *not* adjust his watch the night of the sinking. The final letter from Powell to Harrison, dated June 11th, stated that it was perhaps 12:30 a.m. when they (Boxhall) began firing rockets while Rowe was still out on the poop deck. However, in a letter to Ed Kamuda dated Sept 3rd 1963, and another letter on August 16th, 1968, Rowe states that he saw the lifeboat lowered "just after one o’clock." In the 1963 Kamuda letter, he also states that he helped Boxhall fire the first rocket - in other words, no rockets were fired prior to him coming to the forward bridgePT-1. In 1912 Rowe stated that the first lifeboat was launched at 12:25 a.m., but in 1963 he said this occurred at both 12:30 and 1:00 a.m. In 1963 Rowe told Powell that rockets were fired before he came forward to the bridge, but his statement to Kamuda (also in 1963) says "Boxhall and myself fired the first one". What are we to believe, when Rowe’s own statements - particularly his latter-day ones - conflict with each other? There is another important point in regards to Rowe’s resetting his watch that night. Since Rowe claimed not to have known anything was wrong until he saw the lifeboat in the water, he would undoubtedly have routinely reset his watch at the appropriate time so that it would be keeping the same time as the ship's clock, or would have at least been thinking of the anticipated clock setback. Rowe's 1963 recollection that he did not reset his watch back came over 51 years after the sinking - at a time when statements he was making about the disaster contradicted each other. Also, after more than half a century, would Rowe have really remembered whether or not he performed a mundane task such as setting his watch back? Since this would have been a routine task that he would have done throughout his career whenever he was on watch during a scheduled time adjustment, we have to conclude, in light of all the other evidence, that Rowe must have reset his watch and that he gave adjusted times to events that occurred after midnight without knowing that Titanic's clocks were not put back as planned because of the accident. We know that both QM Hichens (at the wheel) and QM Rowe were due to be relieved at 12:23 a.m.PT-2. In 1963 Rowe wrote to Kamuda that "My watch should have ended at 12:22 but time went by and no relief turned up"PT-3. Both Hichens and Rowe were clearly referring to unadjusted time here. We see that Rowe was due to be relieved by QM Bright, and Bright admitted that he was late in getting out to the stern docking bridge where Rowe was waitingPT-4. The six Quartermasters were grouped in two watches. When the ship struck the iceberg, Rowe, Olliver and Hichens were all on duty, while Bright, Perkis and Wynn were all below deck asleep. Upon waking, Wynn first went up on the fore well deck, where he discovered the ship had struck an iceberg. He then went below and woke up his "two mates", Bright and Perkis, before dressing and going back up on deckPT-5. Wynn then awaited orders from the captain. Perkis claimed the joiner was the one who woke him up, and makes no mention of Wynn having done soPT-6. It may be that Perkis and Bright were woken up first by Wynn, but they both fell back asleep and were awakened some time later by the joiner. Bright did recall that Wynn told him the ship was down by the headPT-7, which would not have been noticeable for quite some time after the collision. Perkis remained below until the expected change of watchPT-8 in order to relieve Hichens, who said his relief was due at 12:23 a.m. We also know Wynn had gone back down to his quarters to get a knife and kit bag after spending some time clearing several lifeboatsPT-9. It is likely that he may have noticed Bright still in his quarters then and told him that all hands had been called and that he better get up because the ship was noticeably down by the head by that time. Since Bright admitted that he was late in relieving Rowe, he must have gotten to Rowe no earlier than 12:30 a.m. Bright stated they stood there "for some moments and did not know exactly what to do"PT-10 and it was a bit after this that Rowe saw a lifeboat in the water - i.e. at some time well *after* Rowe’s stated time of 12:25 a.m.
Another witness who claimed an earlier time for the first lifeboats' departure was Third Officer Pitman, who gave a launch time of 12:30 a.m. for #5, the second boat launched on the starboard sidePT-11. Since 5 was launched about 3 minutes after #7PT-12, this would imply a launch time for #7 of 12:27. But are his times accurate?At the American and British Inquiries, Pitman gave time estimates for 4 events. He said that he left his quarters to go on deck "about 10 minutes to 12, or a quarter to 12", but that he had laid in bed for 3 to 5 minutes before he came out on deck. This places the collision very close to the 11:40 a.m. time frame usually given. Twenty minutes later, around midnight, he was called on deck by Boxhall, who also was getting Lightoller and Lowe out. Pitman thought he got to #5 around 12:20 a.m., and this lifeboat reached the water at 12:30 a.m.PT-13. The 12:00 a.m. time for being called out is reasonable. By this time, Boxhall had made two separate trips down forward looking for damage. And Lightoller also estimated it was between 15 and 30 minutes after the collision before he was called out. Pitman then testified that he went out on the Boat Deck and met Sixth Officer Moody, who was working on uncovering the lifeboats on the starboard side aft. Pitman went down into the forecastle looking for damage, and when he eventually returned to the Boat Deck, Murdoch ordered him to stand by Lifeboat #5. Pitman thought the time at that point was around 12:20 a.m., which again sounds reasonable. However, in the next 10 minutes, from 12:20 when he arrived at #5, to 12:30 a.m. when the boat reached the water, Pitman says that he did all of the followingPT-14:
-finished taking the cover off
-talked to Ismay about loading the boat
-swung out and lowered the lifeboat level with the deck
-went to the bridge looking for Captain Smith to see if he should load the boat
-started to fill the boat with people (there were no people in the boat when he got back)
-proceeded to load 40 to 50 people in the boat
-and was lowered away and reached the water below
This is far too much to do in a short 10 minute time span. Second Officer Lightoller stated that it would take around 15 to 20 minutes to uncover a boat, and another 6 to 7 minutes to coil the falls down, swing the boat out and lower it level with the deck prior to loadingPT-15. Fifth Officer Lowe estimated 20 minutes to get a boat uncovered, swung out, and put down to the waterPT-16. (We know it took 2 to 3 minutes just to swing a boat out once it was readyPT-17, and then another 5 to 6 minutes would be needed to lower it 60 feet to the water safely with the 6-to-1 pulley arrangement they had on the falls.) Lowe made it very clear, "It was not the launching of the boats that took the time. We got the whole boat out and in the water in less than ten minutes. It was getting the people together that took the time."PT-18. He clearly was not including the time it took to load people into a boat with those estimates.
So Pitman's exchange with Ismay, going to the bridge to converse with Captain Smith, and coming back to the boat, would take a bare minimum of 3 minutes. Finishing taking the cover off, getting the gripes off, getting the falls out and coiled, unlashing the oars and getting the oarlocks ready, putting the plug in, shipping the rudder, swinging the boat out and lowering it to the rail all need to be done before loading the boat with passengers and crew. The subsequent loading of a boat with 40 to 50 people would take at least 10 to 15 minutes itself, particularly with passengers being reluctant to leave the apparent safety of the ship before the full urgency of the situation was known. Lowering the lifeboat from the Boat Deck to the sea would have taken at least another 5 to 6 minutes or so, which means that a conservative estimate of around 25-30 minutes to get #5 into the water is much more reasonable, assuming Pitman’s earlier estimate of arriving at #5 at 12:20 a.m. was about right.
Consistent with this is the statement of First Class passenger Paul Chevré, rescued in #7, who observed that “the process of loading the boats was a lengthy one, the women showing reluctance and fear at stepping into the frail craft, leaving their husbands behind. Again, the lowering of the boat was a tedious job taking up some 20 minutes or more.” Chevré appears to have been referring specifically to the loading and lowering of the boatsPT-19. Assistant Steward Walter Nichols was actively involved in the loading of the aft port boats, and when referring to #15, said “Altogether it took us about twenty minutes to fill our lifeboat and get away.”PT-20.
Interestingly, Pitman was asked "How long was it after your boat was lowered into the water before the 2:20 hour arrived and the Titanic went down?" The Third Officer replied "I should say about an hour and a half"PT-21. Subtracting his hour and a half from 2:20 a.m. gives us an approximate launch time of 12:50 for lifeboat #5, definitely not the "12:30" time previously estimated by Pitman. Only one of these two times can be right, and in the light of the other evidence from multiple sources, we believe Pitman was mistaken in thinking #5 left the ship at 12:30 a.m., but correct that his boat was in the water for an hour and a half before the ship sank.So when was the order first given to load the boats with women and children? Lightoller thought it took forty-five minutes from the time of the collision until the time the orders to fill the boats came downPT-22. If this is accurate, then the orders came down at 12:25 a.m. unadjusted time, close to Pitman’s time for getting the order to load the boat. Add 10-15 minutes to load a boat that was already swung out and ready for loading and then 5 minutes more to lower it 60 feet, and it would easily take until 12:40-12:45 a.m. for the first boat to reach the water (it can be easily be shown that it would take 5 minutes to lower a boat 60 feet if the falls were carefully played out at the rate of one foot a second considering that the boat would drop 1 foot for each 6 feet of fall lines played out in the pulley system that was used). A 12:25 a.m. unadjusted launch time for the first lifeboat, per Rowe and Pitman, just doesn’t fit the bulk of the evidence or timeline of events known to have occurred.
There is additional information which indicates that the first lifeboat could not have been lowered any earlier than 12:40 to 12:45 a.m. Fourth Officer Boxhall testified that the order to first uncover the boats was given after he returned from his second inspection forward, coming back from the mail room. As previously mentioned, before uncovering the boats, Boxhall went to inform Second Officer Lightoller, Third Officer Pitman and Fifth Officer Lowe of what happenedPT-23. Lightoller and Pitman both thought that Boxhall spoke with them about 20 minutes after the collision, which is a reasonable estimate considering all that Boxhall did before alerting them (Lightoller gave estimates of between 15 and 30 minutes)PT-24. Lightoller stated that Chief Officer Wilde told him to start taking the covers off of the boats and informed him that all hands had been called right after he came out of the door of the officers’ quartersPT-25. This indicates that the order to begin uncovering the boats, much less load them, did not come any earlier than 12:00 a.m., and that all hands had been called by that point.
Quartermaster Hichens said that sometime after 12:00 a.m., he heard Capt. Smith say ‘Get all the boats out and serve out the belts.’ Since Hichens testified that he was at the wheel until 12:23 a.m., Smith must have given this order between 20 and 40 minutes after the collisionPT-26. Steward Wheat said he heard Purser McElroy give an order to get lifebelts on the passengers and get them on deck at "a quarter-past twelve, or round about that time"PT-27. Second Class passenger Imanita Shelley, and Stewards John Hart and Charles Mackay all testified that the order to begin getting the women and children up to the Boat Deck came down around 45 minutes after the collisionPT-28. Saloon Steward Thomas Whiteley stated that the order to ‘muster on the deck with lifebelts’ came down around a half hour following the collisionPT-29. All of this evidence supports that the order to get the passengers up on deck with lifebelts on was given sometime between 12:10 a.m. and 12:20 a.m., and that passengers began arriving on deck shortly after this.
Lightoller said that after uncovering some of the boats, he approached Chief Officer Wilde and got the order to swing the boats outPT-30. This indicates that Lightoller had gotten the ok to swing the boats out before getting the order to load the boats. As discussed earlier, we also know, based on his estimate of the time it takes to uncover a lifeboat, get the falls coiled, and swing it out, that it would take around 20-25 minutes. Lightoller receiving the order to begin loading the boats after 12:25 a.m. fits with this timeline, since he received the order to begin uncovering them sometime around 12:00 a.m.The rate of flooding and events surrounding it also offers clues as to when the first lifeboat was lowered. Stewardess Annie Robinson saw water within six steps of E Deck about ½ hour after the collision. She went to the mailroom after seeing Thomas Andrews and Captain Smith coming back from that location, in order to see what they were looking atPT-31. This shows that Captain Smith was on his inspection tour near the mailroom around 12:10 a.m. It was during their joint inspection together that Andrews told Smith that "three have gone already", undoubtedly a reference to the first three watertight compartmentsPT-32. This appears to have been the only specific damage report that Captain Smith heard from Thomas Andrews before the two men separated, and Smith went aft towards Chief Engineer Bell’s room, before heading up on deck again.
The 12:10 a.m. time for the inspection tour correlates with Fourth Officer Boxhall’s statement that after he returned from his inspection of the mailroom, the captain walked away and left the bridge. It was then that Boxhall was told to get Lightoller and Pitman which was around 12:00 a.m. Smith left on his inspection tour below deck shortly after thisPT-33.
Steward Charles Mackay testified that the Second Steward gave the order to close all of the watertight doors on F Deck approximately "a quarter of an hour" after the collision, or 11:55 a.m.PT-34. Third Class Chief Steward James Kieran was sent for, so that his men could carry out that order. Mackay testified that 20 minutes later, or 12:15 a.m., he saw Captain Smith going aft towards Chief Engineer Bell's room (he presumed) and approximately 10 minutes later, around 12:25 a.m., he saw Captain Smith come back and go up the stairsPT-35.
While it is likely that Mackay’s times were slight overestimates, his evidence indicates that Captain Smith did not return to the bridge from his inspection tour below until sometime after 12:15 a.m. at the earliest. Based on what he saw below deck and Thomas Andrews’ report that three compartments were flooding, it is likely that this is when Captain Smith stopped by the Marconi cabin to let the operators know that they may have to send out a call for assistance, but not to send it until they are told since he was having an inspection made to evaluate the damage done to the shipPT-36.
Based on the existing evidence, it appears that after separating from the captain, Thomas Andrews subsequently continued his own inspection and discovered that five, not three of the watertight compartments were flooding. After realizing that the ship was doomed, Andrews was seen racing upstairs towards the bridge around this time. First Class passenger Mrs. Frank Warren was at the foot of the grand staircase on D Deck when she saw Thomas Andrews rush by, going up the stairs with a "look of terror" on his face. Mrs. Warren estimated that this took place approximately 45 minutes after the collision, or 12:25 a.m.PT-37. Captain Smith had already returned to the bridge following his inspection tour by this time.
First Class passenger Mr. William Sloper was on A Deck and also saw Thomas Andrews rushing up the stairs "three steps at a time". He ignored passenger inquiries about what was wrong and continued up the next flight of stairs to the Boat Deck, "presumably on his way to the captain’s bridge"PT-38.
All of this indicates that Andrews gave Captain Smith his estimate of how long the ship had left, 1 to 1½ hours, sometime near 12:25 a.m. It was around this same time that the order to fill the lifeboats was given. Furthermore, the first CQD was sent out at 10:25 a.m. New York time, and was picked up and recorded at Cape Race. The Titanic’s clocks were 2 hours and 2 minutes ahead of New York time, which means that the first distress call was sent out around 12:27 a.m. Titanic timePT-39. This is also in agreement with Harold Bride’s estimate that Captain Smith returned and gave them the order to begin sending the distress call 10 minutes after initially stopping by to tell them to be prepared to send a call for helpPT-40.
After having been on E Deck and seeing the flooding there, Stewardess Annie Robinson proceeded to look after her passengers, and then headed to A Deck. She stated that she saw Thomas Andrews there, and that he told her that "if you value your life put your belt on". Robinson places this encounter at 12:25 a.m., since she says it was ½ hour after the collision when she saw the water near E Deck, or 12:10 a.m., and that she saw Andrews approximately ¼ of an hour after that, or around 12:25 a.m.PT-41. Since it doesn’t appear that Andrews stopped to talk to anyone on A Deck when he was rushing up the stairs, this encounter likely took place after Andrews had reported to the captain.
Steward Charles Mackay gave further testimony that indicates after he saw Captain Smith return from Chief Engineer Bell’s cabin and proceed up the stairs toward the Boat Deck around 12:20-12:25 a.m., Second Steward George Dodd gave the order for all hands to get out of their quarters and proceed to the passenger decks. Mackay said that the bedroom stewards were then ordered to their passengers’ rooms to tell them to get on warm clothing and proceed to the Boat DeckPT-42.
After conferring with other survivors of the sinking, Colonel Gracie determined that the order to load women and children into the boats came about 45 minutes after the collision, or 12:25 a.m.PT-43. Second Officer Lightoller also thought it took 45 minutes from the time of the collision for Captain Smith to give the order to begin loading women and children into the boatsPT-44. Able Bodied Seaman John Poingdestre’s testimony agrees with these estimates. After initially helping uncover lifeboats following the collision, he went below deck to get his boots. After witnessing the collapse of a wooden bulkhead there due to seawater on the other side of it, Poingdestre quickly returned to the Boat Deck, where he heard Captain Smith give the order to ‘start putting women and children into the boats.’ He estimated that it was about three-quarters of an hour after the collision when he saw the bulkhead collapse, and that he had gotten out of the quarters within half a minutePT-45.
All of this correlates well with the fact that Captain Smith had already returned from his inspection before 12:25 a.m., and was informed by Andrews, who had rushed up on deck, that the ship had an estimated 1 to 1½ hours to live. Around this time, Smith went to the wireless cabin and told the Marconi men to send out a CQD. This provides strong indication that the lifeboats would not even have begun being loaded until 12:25 a.m. at the earliest, since the extent of the damage and seriousness of the situation was not fully determined until then. As mentioned earlier, it is highly improbable that any of the lifeboats could have been lowered prior to 12:40-12:45 a.m.
The timing of the venting of steam from the funnels after Titanic stopped steaming forward in relation to events during the early stages of the sinking also provides evidence that the lifeboats did not begin loading until 12:25 a.m. or so. Fourth Officer Boxhall testified that when he went below for his first inspection, around 11:42 a.m.PT-46, steam was not yet venting. However, by the time he returned, "between five and ten minutes" later, steam was blowing offPT-47.
Third Officer Pitman said: "She was blowing off steam for three-quarters of an hour, I think…"PT-48. While this was likely an underestimate on Pitman’s part given other accounts, it gives an idea of the timeframe when looking at how long the steam was venting. By nearly all accounts, this racket began very shortly after the ship came to its final stop around 11:46 a.m., after steaming slow ahead following the collisionPT-49. Colonel Gracie testified that the steam began blowing off just after he awoke, at midnight by his watchPT-50. In his book, Gracie again stated that the collision happened at midnight on his watch, which he said he changed the day before the collision, but he went on to specify that : "Correct ship’s time would make it about 11.45"PT-51. This indicates that the time on his watch was not keeping correct ship’s time, and possibly that he was not awakened by the collision as he believed he had been, but instead, awoke a few minutes later.
An estimate of the steam-venting happening so close to the collision rather than at midnight is much more in keeping with the bulk of evidence on the matter. If the steam began venting at 11:46 a.m., then by Pitman’s estimate, it would have ceased sometime around 12:31 a.m., and possibly several minutes later, precisely when the evidence suggests the earliest boats were being prepared and loaded. In his book, Lightoller said that steam was still venting when Captain Smith gave the order to begin loading women and children into the boats. Lightoller stated that following this order, he was helping lower "the first boat", which had apparently already been swung out, level with the Boat Deck, in preparation for loading, when the steam venting stoppedPT-52. This lends further weight for the order to begin loading the boats coming down around 12:25 a.m., and to a later departure time of the first lifeboats, i.e., 12:40 a.m.
The steam evidence does not fit the boats lowering away as early as 12:25 a.m. In order for the boats to have been lowered as early as that time, prep work would have had to have been completed on them by 12:00 a.m., when the witnesses say the order to begin *uncovering* the boats was given. Furthermore, to fit the 12:25 lowering scenario, the order to load the boats would have to have been given around midnight, in order to leave enough time for the boats to be loaded and lowered by 12:25 a.m. This is completely incompatible with Boxhall, Lightoller, and Pitman’s evidence that the boats were ordered uncovered at midnight, not loaded. The steam halting at this point during work on the boats is completely incompatible with a launch time as early as 12:25 a.m. for the first boats, particularly since Pitman stated the venting lasted about 45 minutes. However, their evidence is exactly in line with a 12:25 time for the order to begin loading the boats, and even more so if Pitman underestimated the length of time the steam was venting.
Another piece of evidence supporting a late launch time for the first lifeboats comes from the off-duty lookouts. At "20 minutes to 12", Lookout Hogg was awakened by the collision, and went out onto the well deck to see what had happened. When he returned to his room, he felt the need to ask his mate, Lookout Alfred Evans, what time it was. Evans replied: "It is a quarter to 12. We will get dressed and get ready to go on the lookout"PT-53. The two men started to get ready. Apparently, their sleep having already been disturbed, they had the idea of heading up to the Crow’s Nest to relieve Lookouts Fleet and Lee early. The two men were due to go on duty at 12:23 a.m., unadjusted ship’s time, or midnight, had the clocks been set back 23 minutes at midnight as was normally scheduled. Third Officer Pitman stated that this scheduled clock setback on Sunday did not occur, as due to the collision, ‘we had something else to think of’PT-54.
Hogg stated that Evans and he went on duty "at 12 o’clock". After "about 20 minutes" in the Crow’s Nest, they lifted the canvas weather cover at the back of the nest, and saw "people running about with life belts on". Hogg attempted to phone the bridge, and ask if they were still wanted in the nest, but nobody answered the call. He then "went straight to the boat deck", where he "assisted in starting to uncover the boats"PT-55
Hogg seeing people with lifebelts on deck around 12:20 a.m. is consistent with the other evidence of the order to begin getting the passengers up on deck with their lifebelts on being given between 12:10 and 12:20 a.m. After seeing this, Hogg attempted to call the bridge. Thereafter, it would have taken several minutes at least for Hogg to reach the Boat Deck; yet Hogg testified that when he arrived there, he assisted in *starting* to uncover the boats. It is likely that Hogg worked at some of the forward boats, as after working on uncovering the boats, he was sent to find a Jacob’s ladder, and after returning, he passed by #7, and First Officer Murdoch ordered him to put the plugs in, before subsequently being ordered to leave in the boatPT-56. Consequently, after standing watch in the Crow’s Nest until at the earliest 12:20 a.m., Hogg had time to phone the bridge, climb down the mast and proceed to the Boat Beck, go off on an errand to find a Jacob’s ladder, and put the plugs into #7 before being ordered to board it. If Hogg was correct, #7 could not have left as early as 12:25 a.m. However, his testimony is entirely consistent with a launch time of 12:40 a.m. for this boat.
Both Lookouts Fleet and Lee supported Hogg’s testimony that he relieved them at midnight. Fleet testified that Lee and he were on watch in the Crow’s Nest until being relieved "a quarter of an hour to 20 minutes after" the collisionPT-57. Lee also testified that he was relieved at 12:00 a.m.PT-58, and that he was below deck when he heard the Boatswain give the order to begin uncovering the boats. He knew it was about midnight because the off-duty watch had just come below when this order came downPT-59. Their evidence also indicates that the order to begin uncovering the boats was given by Captain Smith around midnight.
Further evidence that the lifeboats could not have begun lowering until 12:40 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. comes from information about the rate of flooding provided by two crew members. When Steward Frederick Ray first went up on deck, he went to boat #9 and watched the crew uncover and swing it out. He then looked over the rail and saw the first boat leaving the ship on the starboard side, which was boat #7. Ray then went back down below for his overcoat. He went forward along the working corridor on E Deck, and he described the forward part of E Deck being underwater at this time. Because of the water, he barely managed to get through the doorway to the main stairwayPT-60. This is a key point. The doorway Ray talked about leads from the alleyway into the First Class staircase just forward of the second funnel casing. The stairs going down lead to the Turkish bath area on F Deck. Water was just up to that point at that time, just a few minutes after he saw boat #7 leaving the ship.
A few minutes after 12:45 or 12:50 a.m., Assistant Second Steward Joseph Wheat was sent to order his men to their boat stations. After doing so, he went down to the rooms near the Turkish bath and saw that nobody was there, and when he got to the same stairway referred to by Ray, he saw water coming down those stairs from E DeckPT-61. Water was just getting up to that point when Ray was there, probably about the time that Wheat was looking at the rooms by the Turkish bath down on F Deck, which according to Wheat, was after 12:45 a.m. In just the time it took him to go down from the Boat Deck to E Deck, get a coat, and go forward to that staircase, Ray saw water coming along E Deck to where those stairs are. Wheat's observation correlated with Ray's observation supports boat #7 being lowered shortly before 12:45 a.m.
Even more evidence of a launch time of around 12:40 a.m. for the first boat lowered comes from First Class passenger Mr. Albert Dick. He stated that "It was fully an hour after the vessel struck that the life boats were launched"PT-62. First Class passenger Mr. Dickinson Bishop, rescued in Boat #7, stated that the time the first boat was launched "was about a quarter to 1"PT-63.
A surprising additional source supporting that the lifeboats did not begin to be lowered until after at least 12:40 to 12:45 a.m. is James Bisset, Second Officer of the Carpathia. He said that after Fourth Officer Boxhall was brought aboard, he told Captain Rostron that the "boats were launched from 12:45 onwards"PT-64.
Given the amount of evidence in favor of a later time for the launch of the first lifeboat, we believe that 12:40 to 12:45 a.m. fits the evidence best, and that a launch time of 12:25 a.m. is simply not possible.
(4) The Listing of the Titanic as It Shifted from Starboard to Port
It appears that the Titanic started listing to starboard very soon after striking the iceberg. Quartermaster Hichens described a five degree list to starboard about five minutes after the collisionPL-1. This list was also noticed by First Class passenger George HarderPL-2, and First Class passenger Norman ChambersPL-3, among others.
During the loading and lowering of the forward boats, port and starboard, the list appears to have lessened. Hichens mentioned having to push #6 off from the port hull of the Titanic several timesPL-4 while, on the starboard side, Pitman at #5 reports no noticeable list at allPL-5. This indicates that the ship was still experiencing a very slight list to starboard during this time frame - a list that allowed #5 to hang clear of the ship's starboard side while at the same time causing #6 to rub against the port side.
By the time the aft boats were being loaded and lowered away, though, the Titanic was starting to list very slightly to port - probably due to water flowing along E Deck and gaining access to more of the ship due to the long fore to aft passage called Scotland Road. Reports of a list at that time (during the loading and lowering of #16, #14 and #12 as well as the starboard aft boats) were either of no list at all or of a "slight list to port."PL-6. As mentioned previously, this evidence is at odds with Baker Joughin’s statement that #10 was the first aft port boat to lower, since the significant list present during the loading of that boat was not present during the loading and lowering of #16, #14, or #12, indicating that those boats left first.
By the time boat #10 was finishing loading, however, the Titanic was listing further over to port. A number of crewmen reported a woman falling into the gap between #10 and the Boat Deck, a gap estimated to have been "a yard and a half" by Baker JoughinPL-7 or "two feet and a half" by Seaman EvansPL-8.
We can see that the list during the lowering of both #10 and #4 was very similar, showing they were lowered around the same time. Lightoller claimed that there was not a significant list at #4, but the fact that he had tied #4 to the coaling wire for stability earlier in the nightPL-9 meant that any list that developed as this boat was loading would not have been as apparent as it may have been at other boats. The evidence of First Class passenger Grace Bowen at the Limitation of Liability Hearings was that she saw water being at the level of the C deck ports as she was lowered in #4 is fully consistent with the trim and heavy port list of the ship when #4 was lowered. The waterline on the port side by #4 would have been midway between C and B decks, which is the height at which the C deck ports were located. (The row of ports on C deck were round while the row of ports on B deck were square, like that of Bowen's own B Deck stateroom.) This further confirms a 10° list to port when #4 went away.
The people still on board the ship near or after this time all reported a noticeable list to port during their loading/loweringPL-10. This port list had become so pronounced by the time Collapsible C and D left, that Collapsible C caught on the rivets on the ship's side as it was loweredPL-11, while Collapsible D swung away from the hull so that there was a gap of approximately 9 feet as the boat descended past A DeckPL-12. Researcher Sam Halpern's analysis of the list at this time shows that the Titanic was listing 10 degrees to port, and that D was more likely only 5 feet from the side of the ship to the lifeboat, but 9 feet to the midpoint of the lifeboatPL-13.
Second Officer Lightoller mentioned Chief Officer Wilde ordering crew and passengers over to the starboard side in order to give the Titanic a "righting movement". However, Lightoller gave inconsistent evidence as to when this happened. In his testimony at the US Inquiry, he said this happened while the ship had a heavy list to port, about a half to three-quarters of an hour before the Titanic sankPL-14. His British testimony, however, said that Wilde's order took place during the loading of lifeboat #6. Lightoller had not noticed any list prior to that timePL-15.
The present authors feel that the Titanic did not repeatedly list back and forth between starboard and port as is sometimes believed, but that she slowly rolled from starboard to port as the sea flooded into her hull. As water first entered the ship on the starboard side, the Titanic listed in that direction at first. As the ship settled deeper into the water and Scotland Road gave the inrushing water easier access to rooms and compartments on the port side of the ship, the Titanic rolled slowly to port, and that this port list became more pronounced until the Boat Deck submerged. This gradual listing can also be used to help place lifeboats in the launching sequence.
Combined Launch Sequence and Timings
It appears that the investigators of the British Inquiry, while compiling their launch table, realized that Quartermaster Rowe's sighting of a lifeboat at "12:25" a.m. could not be correct, and they gave a launch time for boat #7 (the first boat launched) in their table of 12:45 a.m., possibly the result of Dickinson Bishop’s estimate given at the American InquiryC-1.
Since boat #7 and boat #5 both left the ship shortly before the distress rockets started being fired at about 12:47 a.m. (according to Pitman, Lowe and Chambers)C-2, it would seem appropriate to assign launch times for these two boats as follows: about 12:40 a.m. for boat #7 and about 12:43 a.m. for boat #5.
Due to Pitman's statements about earlier times for lowering and launching #5, some think #7 and #5 left the ship at or before 12:30. However, we disagree, as discussed above under "The Launch Time of the First Lifeboat".
Boats #3 and #1 were both launched by the same officers (Murdoch & Lowe) fairly soon after boat #5 left, at around 12:55 a.m. for boat #3 and 1:05 a.m. for boat #1. In reply to the question "You found him (Ismay) there when you turned from No. 5 to No. 3?". Lowe replied "He was there, and I distinctly remember seeing him alongside of me - that is, by my side - when the first detonator went off.", so we know that boat #3 was launched *after* the rockets started being firedC-3.
Fireman Hendrickson claimed to have lowered five lifeboats for about 45 minutes to an hour before leaving the Titanic in boat #1C-4. All of these lifeboats were supposed to have been on the port side and (apparently) in the aft port quarter, since Hendrickson said he went first to his own boat, #12, before moving aft to other lifeboatsC-5. He also stated that there was no commotion at any of these lifeboatsC-6. However, no independent evidence supports Hendrickson's contention that five lifeboats left the Titanic's port side before boat #1 was launched; the additional fact that there *was* a commotion at the aft port lifeboats has forced us to discount Hendrickson's testimony as being of questionable reliability.
Steward Crawford was on hand to see boat #5 being lowered on the starboard side (at about 12:45 a.m.), but immediately afterward he crossed over to the port side to join the lifeboat that he was actually assigned to, boat #8C-7. Crawford estimated that boat #8 was launched after 1:00 a.m.C-8; indeed, a 1:00 a.m. launch time for #8 would give Crawford plenty of time to cross over from boat #5 and help load the last passengers into #8 before it was lowered away (although Crawford testified that distress rockets were being fired after he left the Titanic in #8, he did not specify whether or not they were being fired prior to that time)C-9.
The forward port boats started lowering later than the forward starboard boats did. As discussed earlier, Boxhall woke up Second Officer Lightoller around 12:00 a.m., and woke Pitman and Lowe at the same time, although Lowe fell back asleep for a few minutes before turning out. Boxhall passed along Captain Smith’s order to start getting the boats uncovered at this time.
Boxhall testified that he had begun unlacing the covers of some of the forward port boats before going to the bridge to investigate after hearing that the light of a ship had been seen on the horizon. Pitman and Lowe went to help on the starboard side, and soon were joined by First Officer Murdoch, while Sixth Officer Moody was uncovering the aft starboard side boats. Lightoller appears to have had less assistance with the forward port boats at first, while several officers helped on the forward starboard side.
While Lightoller conducted that work, Captain Smith was occupied with assessing the damage to the ship and readying the wireless men, and didn’t return to the bridge from his inspection below until shortly before 12:25 a.m., as explained above. Lightoller claims that he had to approach Captain Smith for permission to begin getting the women and children into the boatsC-10. If Lightoller was waiting for permission to begin the loading, Smith wasn’t around to give it until shortly before 12:25 a.m. Lightoller had received orders to swing the boats out some time prior to thisC-11.
After receiving the ok to begin lowering the boats, Lightoller lowered #4 down to A Deck to take on passengers thereC-12. Lightoller said it took at least “seven to eight minutes” to lower #4 to A Deck. He initially gave the order to those on the scene to go down to A Deck to start the loading there, but countermanded this after realizing that the forward part of the Promenade Deck was closed in, and that passengers couldn’t board there until the windows were opened. The passengers were then sent back up to the Boat Deck. Next, Lightoller moved aft to work on #6. Lightoller estimated that he was working at this boat forty-five minutes after he came on deck at midnight, or an hour or so after the collisionC-13. This means that he was at #6 sometime around 12:40 to 12:45 a.m.
Steward John Hart estimated that the order to begin getting the passengers to head up on deck, and for the crew to begin loading the lifeboats came down between 12:25-12:30 a.m. Hart remained below deck and gathered a sizeable group of steerage passengers from their cabins and lead them forward and up on deck, emerging on the port side just as #8 was about to lower awayC-14. Given how long it would have taken him to gather and organize the passengers and lead them forward and up on deck, his account is consistent with a 1:00 a.m. launch time for this boat.
An interview with First Class passenger Mrs. Margaret Swift supports a launch time for boat #8 that was at or after 1:00 a.m.C-15. She had a watch suspended around her neck like a pendant, and she said that her lifeboat (#8) left the Titanic between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Mrs. Swift quoted the time of the collision as being 11:45 p.m. and the time of the sinking as being 2:20 a.m.; the fact that her time estimates are accurate in these two cases forces us to give serious weight to the accuracy of her estimate of #8's launch time. Lightoller said he left the launching of #8 to Chief Officer WildeC-16.
One discordant note regarding the launch of boat #8 comes from Seaman Burke, who testified that when he came up from below decks he discovered that #1 had already been launched. He then assisted with two other boats on the starboard side of the deck, then crossed over to the port side and went to #8 before going to #10C-17. We feel that Burke was mistaken about being at #8, it is quite possible that he assisted at two aft starboard boats, and was also at one of the farther aft port boats before going to #10.
The initial lack of manpower to assist Lightoller with the forward port boats that was noted previously was compounded during the loading of #6C-18, or shortly after #4 was lowered to A Deck and just prior to the loading of #6C-19, despite the fact that Captain Smith had been on the scene at some point during the loadingC-20. (Am. 336) . This was when Lightoller sent Boatswain Alfred Nichols and six other men below to open the gangway doors. This was done with the intention of the lifeboats being able to come alongside the ship, and take on more passengers there once afloat. The men never returned from below, and from this point on, Lightoller was short on trained seamen, which is another factor that led to the forward port boats beginning to lower away quite a few minutes after the forward starboard boats started lowering.
This also explains why Lightoller was “reduced to sending one seaman away in a boat,” and helps explain why after being ordered into #6, Lamptrimmer Samuel Hemming subsequently stepped back onboard the ship to man one of the aft falls for this boat, once he realized that there were no other seamen nearby to do so. As a result, Major Peuchen was allowed aboard #6 to row after it was discovered there were no sailors on the sceneC-21.
Another factor that led to the forward port boats leaving later were the passengers being reluctant to board the lifeboats prior to 1:00 a.m., since they were told there was no danger, and since the ship seemed much safer than a tiny lifeboat at that time. Also, with the passengers being sent down to A Deck, then up to the Boat Deck, then later back down to A Deck once the windows were opened, there was obviously some confusion about where to assemble the passengers.
Quartermaster Hichens claimed that boat #6 left the ship about the same time as the boat in which the Master-at-Arms was savedC-22. Hichens mistakenly thought this other boat was #8, but Master-at-Arms Bailey was actually in #16C-23 (Bailey was the only Master-at-Arms rescued). Since it appears that #6 was lowered away after #8 and close to when #16 left, a launch time of 1:10 a.m. for #6 seems likely. We also know that rockets were going up before #6 left the ship, as Lookout Fleet mentions thisC-24. As described earlier, there was a very slight starboard list when #6 left, which caused it to rub up against the ship’s side.
The three aftmost port boats, #16, #14, and #12, seem to have been the next boats launched. We know that Lowe, after helping to launch boat #1 (at 1:05 a.m.) on the starboard side, appeared at these aft port boats to help calm the disturbance, as "they seemed to be busy there"; the British Inquiry findings agree with thisC-25. While boat #1 began lowering at 1:05 a.m., it is important to note that it did not actually reach the water for some time after this. During the lowering, it was hung up below B Deck by what was described as a "wire guy" by Lookout George Symons, and as a "painter" by First Class passenger Charles StengelC-26. A crew member had to be sent to chop away this wire before the lowering continued. First Class passenger Laura Francatelli also mentioned that the officer on deck had to throw down "a length of steel" to jar the boat looseC-27. All of this would have resulted in #1 reaching the water approximately 10 minutes after it began lowering. This delayed Fifth Officer Lowe in leaving the forward starboard side of the ship for the aft port boats until approximately 1:15 a.m.
Lowe was not alone in heading to the aft port boats at this time. Other crewmen also moved from the forward starboard boats back to the aft port boats - Seamen Evans and Buley, for exampleC-28. Passengers had begun to act alarmed and unruly there. This convergence of crewmembers to calm the disturbance and crowds at the aft port boats was one factor that led to the later start in the loading and lowering of the aft starboard boats, even though at least some of those boats had been prepared for loading earlier in the evening.
Second Class passenger Lawrence Beesley’s account may provide further explanation of why passengers, particularly male passengers, began to crowd the aft port boats. He reported that sometime after the first distress rocket was fired, and after the crew had swung out the aft starboard boats, a rumor began to circulate that men were to be taken off on the port side. He was unsure of where the rumor started, but said that it was ‘acted on at once by almost all the men,’ who went to watch the preparation for lowering the aft port boats. Beesley said that this left the aft starboard side ‘almost deserted,’ which further explains the delay in loading and lowering the boats thereC-29.
Testimony shows that when Fifth Officer Lowe first appeared by the aft port boats, he finished loading boat #14 while Sixth Officer Moody finished loading #16C-30. Lowe would have required enough time to move aft from boat #1 and across the ship to work on loading #14, which gives us a clue as to when #16 could have been lowered. Steward Morris said that #14 left the ship "about 1 or a quarter past 1"C-31 Able Bodied Seaman Scarrott gave a similar time of *about* 1 o'clock for lowering #14, although this was just an estimate C-32. As discussed above, it appears that boat #16 began lowering away right before #14 and that #14 got hung up during the lowering process.
The account of Leading Fireman Thomas Threlfall allows us to determine a more specific launch time for boat #14. Threlfall stated that at about 1:20 a.m., Second Engineer John Hesketh ordered the men in the stokehold up on deck. Threlfall says that he and the other men went up on deck, where he arrived in time to board #14 before it loweredC-33.
The 1:20 a.m. time that Threlfall gave is corroborated by Greaser Frederick Scott, who said that the men in the engine room were ordered up on deck at 1:20 a.m by Senior Second Engineer William FarquharsonC-34. Trimmer Thomas Dillon also provides corroboration for Threlfall’s 1:20 a.m. time for the order coming down. Dillon estimated that he received the order to go up on deck approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes after the collision, or 1:20 a.m.C-35.
Allowing 5 minutes for Threlfall to get up on deck and into #14 after the order was given places the launch time for this boat at 1:25 a.m. Since it appears that boat #16 immediately proceeded #14, a launch time of 1:20 a.m. for the former seems likely. This would still have given Lowe plenty of time once boat #1 reached the water on the forward starboard side (about 1:15 a.m.) to move aft and meet up with Moody there before #16 was launched.
Chief Officer Wilde was also on the scene during the earlier stages of loading boat #14C-36. Testimony by Steward Crowe seems to place Murdoch at #14; however, while Crowe was sure the "senior officer" was present, he only guessed that it might have been Murdoch. Crowe was a member of the victualling department, and would have had little contact with the ship’s officers in the course of his day-to-day duties. In light of the other accounts from members of the deck department who knew the officers and who mention Wilde at this boat, and considering that there is no other evidence of Murdoch at any of these 3 boats, we feel that Crowe was mistaken about Murdoch being thereC-37.
Lifeboat #12 was the next boat to be launched, at around 1:30 a.m., with Second Officer Lightoller present. It also appears Chief Officer Wilde was involved with #12 in some capacity, as Able Bodied Seaman Clench reported him there. Clench had previously served with Wilde on the Olympic and was unlikely to mis-identify himC-38.
After finishing with boat #1, Murdoch moved aft along the starboard side to start proceedings at the aft starboard boats. As mentioned earlier in this article, Seaman McGough, who had been stationed at the after fall of boat #14 as it lowered C-39, moved across the ship to take his place in boat #9C-40, the first of the aft starboard boats to be lowered . Since McGough would have needed enough time to cross over from #14, which was lowered away on the port side around 1:25 a.m., in order to leave the ship in boat #9, a 1:30 a.m. launch time for boat #9 seems reasonable. It appears that both Murdoch and Purser McElroy were at boat #9C-41. Sixth Officer Moody was also on the scene, mentioned by First Class Passenger May FutrelleC-42. Quartermaster Walter Wynn also mentioned Moody, saying that the Sixth Officer had ordered him into boat #9 because Wynn didn't know the number of the lifeboat he was assigned to, and presumably he was needed in #9. Wynn said that the boat was swung out and ready for loading at the timeC-43. This is not surprising, considering that Steward Ray said #9 was already uncovered and being swung out while #7 was being loweredC-44. While Wynn's testimony does not allow any certainty, if this took place near #9, it would be further confirmation that boat #9 left after boat #16 and #14, since Fifth Officer Lowe had seen Moody during the loading of those boats. Steward Ray’s testimony also suggest Moody was at #9, since he had seen an officer who perished working at that boat, an officer who was not First Officer Murdoch, who Ray knewC-45.
The interval on the starboard side between the lowering of #1 at 1:05 a.m. and #9 at 1:30 a.m. can be explained by several factors. As mentioned previously, many members of the crew converged on the aft port side of the ship after the loading of #1 to assist in the loading of the boats there and to help with the crowd that had gathered at this location, and thus were not available to take part in the loading elsewhere. Fifth Officer Lowe crossed over to the port side at this time and assisted at in this location along with Sixth Officer Moody, who after seeing #16 away, apparently crossed over to the starboard side to assist Murdoch at #9. Even after the crew got to work on loading #9, there weren't enough passengers on the scene to fill it. The crowd that had gathered at the aft port boats was so large that when Steward Joseph Wheat arrived at #9, Murdoch and a number of stewards and other members of the victualling department were actually passing women and children over from the port side of the ship in order to fill the boat up C-46.
Second, according to Second Officer Lightoller, after #6 was lowered away (at 1:10 a.m.), Chief Officer Wilde approached him asking for the revolvers to be brought out, perhaps because of the large crowd gathering aft, although the exact reason is unknown. Lightoller stated that Captain Smith, Wilde, Murdoch and himself went to Murdoch’s cabin and retrieved the firearms at this timeC-47. Since this incident apparently took place soon after the lowering of #1 at 1:05 a.m., it suggests that Murdoch had remained forward after the loading of that boat for some unknown purpose, and only headed aft to #9 after the guns were brought out. Captain Smith, Chief Officer Wilde, Second Officer Lightoller, Fifth Officer Lowe and Sixth Officer Moody all were seen assisting at the aft port boats, suggesting that until Murdoch went aft to #9 (and Moody crossed over to assist at the same boat), that there were simply no officers on the aft starboard side to supervise the lowering of #9. There were also few seamen available to help at that boat, since McGough and others had to cross over from the port side to assist there, and to man the boat.
Boat #11 was partially loaded at the Boat Deck, where First Officer Murdoch was supervising. Seaman Brice indicated that this boat was then lowered to A Deck, where it was filled with passengersC-48. Steward Alexander Littlejohn stated that he helped swing out #11 and then was told to go down to A Deck to help the passengers into the boatC-49. Saloon Steward Charles Mackay said that Murdoch ordered him and several other crewmembers to go assist on A DeckC-50. Murdoch gave the order to lower away at around 1:35 a.m.C-51 Stewardess Annie Robinson's account also supports this launch time for #11. She said that she left the ship in that boat 3/4 of an hour before the ship sank, or 1:35 a.m.C-52.
Boats #13 and #15 appear to have been loaded with passengers simultaneously. Fireman Beauchamp mentioned that an unnamed officer loaded and lowered boat #13 from the Boat DeckC-53, and this was very probably Murdoch. An unnamed person was also mentioned as having supervised the loading of these boats down on A DeckC-54, probably the fifth or sixth officer according to Lookout LeeC-55; in all likelihood this was Sixth Officer Moody, who came over to the starboard side after finishing with boat #16, and worked his way aft after possibly helping at boat #9. Both Steward Littlejohn and Steward Rule also mentioned an unnamed officer being down on A Deck during the loading of #13 and #15 respectivelyC-56. This officer may also have been on hand for the loading of boat #11 on the same deck, although Littlejohn’s and Rule's description doesn’t specify this for certain. Lee’s description indicates that the officer at #13 was the fifth or sixth officer, was drowned, was six feet tall, thin, with a light complexion. This description matches Moody in exact detail.
Even though a number of crewmen placed Murdoch on the Boat Deck at boat #15, it appears that Murdoch did not stay at #13 and #15 for the entire loading/lowering process. Steward Hart mentioned being ordered into #15 by MurdochC-57, while Steward Rule claimed that Murdoch first ordered boat #15 to be lowered to A Deck for loadingC-58 and that he later ordered the boat to be filled up with whatever people were availableC-59. It appears, though, that Murdoch left boat #15 before it was completely filled with passengers for its final lowering to the water; Second Class passenger Lawrence Beesley relates that an officer whom he thought was Murdoch came striding along the Boat Deck and ordered boats #13 and #15 to be lowered, after which the officer immediately walked away and crossed over to the port sideC-60. Both Rule and Beesley mentioned that boat #15 took on people *after* the officer on the Boat Deck had given the order to lower away. It therefore seems likely that Murdoch left the starboard Boat Deck at about 1:38 a.m. or 1:39 a.m., while boat #13 was launched at around 1:40 a.m. and #15 just moments later (both launchings having apparently been supervised by Moody on A deck). As has been related in many accounts, #15 was almost lowered on top of #13. In fact, Leading Fireman Barrett specified that when he got to A Deck, only #13 and #15 were left, and that #15 began being lowered "thirty seconds" after #13C-61. Information given by Trimmer George Pelham in his deposition to Board of Trade examiner C.T. Clee, also indicates a launch time near 1:40 a.m. for #15. Pelham estimated that this boat left "between 1:30 and 2 a.m.".
Another account that also indicates a later launch time of #13 and #15 is that of Steward Walter Henry NicholsC-62. Nichols stated that he left the Titanic in #15, and that "As soon as we got a little distance off I could see that she was down a good deal by the head because the propeller was sticking half way out of the water". Sam Halpern's accompanying diagram shows the Titanic had to be down approximately 5 degrees by the head at this time.
Beesley (who left in #13) also mentioned having seen some of the aft port boats still at the Boat Deck after some of the aft starboard boats had been "lowered from the top deck"C-63. Since boat #10 had still had not been lowered at this point, Beesley's statement makes sense.
It appears that Chief Officer Wilde and Captain Smith both helped load boat #2 with passengersC-64. We also know that #2 was lowered just shortly *before* Collapsible C. Boxhall, who was firing distress rockets from the socket in the rail close to the bows of emergency boat #1 on the starboard side, said that "I was sending the rockets up right to the very last minute when I was sent away in the boat", and also that "I remember the last one or two distress signals I sent off the boat (Emergency Lifeboat #1) had gone, and they were then working on the collapsible boat (Collapsible C) which was on the deck"C-65. Boxhall is stating that when he was ordered away from the starboard deck after firing rockets, Collapsible C was still on the deck being readied for launching (implying that no people had entered it yet), and that he went directly to #2, which was lowered immediately at around 1:45 a.m. Onboard the Carpathia, Boxhall told Captain Rostron that #2 was lowered away at that very timeC-66.
It took about 5 minutes for Seaman Evans to lower #12 to the sea, and at 1:35 a.m., he turned his attention to lifeboat #10C-67. At the same time, as stated above by Beesley, Murdoch crossed over to the aft port Boat Deck where boat #10 was still sitting on deck in its chocks. Murdoch told Evans and Buley to swing out and man that boatC-68, and lifeboat #10 was eventually loaded with passengers and lowered to the water. Allowing 5 minutes to swing out and lower #10 to the rail, 10 minutes to load the waiting passengers, it appears this lifeboat was launched from the Boat Deck around 1:50 a.m. The pronounced list observable at #10 agrees to this later launch time; earlier boats had either no list, or a slight port list; later boats such as Collapsibles C and D also report the listC-69. Both Burke and Crawford testified that #10 left the ship after #8, which had lowered away around 1:00 a.m.C-70. Seaman Buley, who left the ship in #10, stated that he felt his boat left the ship about half an hour before the Titanic sankC-71. Burke also mentions the "Chief Officer" at #10, and we feel that he was referring to Murdoch, not Wilde, due to the other evidence of Murdoch being thereC-72.
The later launch time for #10 is clearly supported by both Evans and Buley. Evans C-73 specifically said that #10 was the last "big boat" to leave the ship. He also said they pulled about 200 yards away, and he saw that the port navigation light was about 10 ft from the waterC-74. That sidelight was at the level of the Boat Deck. It was the same drop distance that Lightoller said boat D was at when it was let down from the Boat DeckC-75. Buley also claimed #10 was the last boat to leave, and that this occurred about 25 to 30 minutes before Titanic sankC-76.
It is unknown whether or not First Officer Murdoch remained at boat #10 throughout the entire launch process, but his subsequent participation in the loading of Collapsible C suggests that he may have delegated the actual lowering of boat #10 to other crewmen so that he could proceed forward and attempt to get at least one of the collapsibles away from the Titanic before she went down. We have seen this before when he left the lowering of boats #13 and #15 on the starboard side to others after ordering them away, and was last seen going over to the port side, per Beesley, as mentioned above. In any case, Murdoch eventually left boat #10 and hurried to where Collapsible C was hanging in the davits.
As discussed previously, the fact that there was a significant list to port during the loading of #10, but not during the loading of #16, #14, or #12 is further evidence that #10 was the last of the aft port boats to be lowered.
Second Officer Lightoller and Quartermaster Perkis lowered lifeboat #4 to the water just minutes after boat #2 left the ship, at around 1:50 a.m.C-77. Boat #4 had prepared for lowering at the same time as the other forward port boats and had been lowered to A Deck to take on passengers who had been sent there. Because the forward promenade was enclosed, the crew had to open the windows on A Deck before taking on passengers, and while they were waiting for this to be done, Wilde and Lightoller saw #8 and #6 away by 1:10 a.m. and the passengers on A Deck had to be sent back up on deck. It was around this time that crewmembers appear to have converged at the aft port boats, and Wilde and Lightoller were amongst them, abandoning the effort at #4 until later. When the windows on A Deck were finally opened, passengers had to be assembled and sent back down to A Deck to board #4.
Marconi operators Bride and Phillips' actions also allow us to fix the time both #4 and #10 were lowered. Bride said Titanic was "listing heavily to port and forward" just before Phillips went outside to look around while Bride contacted the BalticC-78. This call to the Baltic was logged at 11:45 New York time and the Balitic's reply at 11:50 a.m. New York time. Converting to Titanic time tells us Phillips was outside between 1:47 a.m. and 1:52 a.m.- the same time #4 and #10 (first boats at which a heavy list was described) were lowered.
Second Officer Lightoller provides additional evidence that #4 and #10 were lowered close together. After lowering #12, Lightoller headed forward to #4 in the belief that the "chief officer" was going to supervise the launching of one of the aft boatsC-79. Although the departing Lightoller was not "absolutely certain" that Wilde remained aft until this boat was actually lowered away, his testimony does indicate that an aft port boat was still left on deck after #12 was lowered. This boat could only have been #10, since #16, #14, and #12 had all been lowered prior to #4. When Murdoch crossed over from the aft starboard side, it is likely that he and Wilde conversed together, with the chief officer deciding he would head forward to #2 while the first officer stayed behind to finish up aft. Wilde must have headed forward very soon after Lightoller did, since Wilde was able to get foward and oversee the final stages of the loading of #2, which left the ship just prior to #4.
There is evidence that Boxhall may *not* have been the person to send up the last rockets. Boxhall himself said "I was sending the rockets up right to the very last minute when I was sent away in the boat"C-80 - but that does not necessarily mean he fired the last one. We know that both Rowe and Bright were helping with the rocket firing and Morsing chores. In his 1912 US Inquiry testimony, Rowe stated that he asked Captain Smith (not Boxhall) if he should fire another rocket, and Smith said "No, get into that boat"C-81. Even though Rowe said that he did not fire a rocket at this specific time, it does show that at this late point Captain Smith is the one directing the rocket launching, not Boxhall, who would have previously left in #2.
More evidence of rockets being fired after Boxhall left the ship comes from Chief Steward John Hardy. When asked at the US Inquiry when he had last seen Captain Smith, Hardy said he saw the captain on the bridge “superintending the rockets, calling out to the quartermaster about the rockets”C-82. Hardy left the ship shortly afterwards in Collapsible D, the boat that lowered over the same davits previously used by Boxhall’s #2.
Another piece of evidence that rockets were being fired after Boxhall left the ship comes from First Class passenger Mahala Douglas, who left the Titanic in #2, the same lifeboat Boxhall left in. Mrs. Douglas said goodbye to her husband as she was lowered in boat #2. “That was the last word I ever spoke to him. They were putting off rockets on the deck as we got away.”C-83.
The present authors believe that Boxhall was in charge of firing the rockets up until the time he left the ship in #2 at 1:45. At that point Captain Smith began supervising the firing of the distress rockets, and QM Rowe apparently launched at least one rocket under Smith's direction until the Titanic's master ordered him to desist and help out at Collapsible C. Rowe probably went to Collapsible C just after firing the last rocket at around 1:50, which would have given him ten minutes to help out at that boat before it started lowering at 2:00 a.m.
First Officer Murdoch and Chief Officer Wilde were both present for at least part of the loading of Collapsible C on the starboard sideC-84, Wilde headed there after lowering #2 at 1:45 a.m. It appears Wilde was there temporarily, helping with the loading until Murdoch arrived on the scene coming from #10, at which point Wilde returned to the port side of the ship to load Collapsible D. Until Wilde and Murdoch arrived at Collapsible C, the officers still on board the ship had been occupied elsewhere, which explains the interval between the lowering of #15 on the starboard side at 1:40 a.m., and the launch of Collapsible C at 2:00 a.m. Between those times, Captain Smith, Wilde and Lightoller had been working at #2 and #4 respectively, while Murdoch had been at #10. Moody’s whereabouts at this time are unknown.
In a previous section of this article ("The Distress Rockets and Quartermaster Rowe") we've already established that Collapsible C left the ship at around 2:00 a.m. This can be confirmed by Rowe's description of the well deck being awash and the Titanic sinking just twenty minutes after Collapsible C left the shipC-85. Further confirmation of this fact comes from Bruce Ismay's testimony, which claimed that the Titanic sank just ten minutes after Collapsible C left the shipC-86. Even though Ismay's time estimate is very rough, "ten minutes is still far closer to a real twenty minute time frame than it is to the proposed forty minute time frame that was postulated by the British Inquiry in 1912. Also, First Class passenger William Carter put his family into #4 *before* he left the ship in Collapsible C - a fact that was later confirmed by his wifeC-87. (Due to the erroneous time assigned to the launch of C by the British Inquiry, Mr. Carter was later mistakenly thought to have been lying about this matter.) Additionaly, Carter estimated that Collapsible C left the ship less than half an hour before it sank, which agrees with Rowe's and Ismay's estimatesC-88 .
Second Officer Boxhall testified that #1 "had gone some time" before he left in #2, and that C was still "on the deck" while he was firing his last rockets. Boxhall's statement also indicates a possible reason for the time gap between the launching of #1 and C - "Every time I fired a signal I had to clear everyone away from the socket in the rail just close to the bows of the emergency boat on the starboard side". It was not practical to be trying to fit C to the davits at the same time as Boxhall was firing rocketsC-89.
Further supporting evidence of a late launch time for Collapsible C comes from the testimony of Marconi operator Harold Bride. Bride testified that he was at the key when the Baltic and the Titanic exchanged wireless messages between 11:45 and 11:47 p.m. New York time (These messages were "Engine room getting flooded", and the Baltic's response "We are rushing to you"). While Bride was at the key, Jack Phillips went outside from the Marconi cabin to "have a look around". When he returned to the cabin, Phillips told Bride that the "forward well deck was awash", and that they were putting the women and children in the boats and sending them off. Bride noticed that the ship had a heavy port list at the timeC-90.
Phillips' description of the well deck being awash matches that of Quartermaster Rowe, who gave evidence indicating that the well deck was awash by the time Collapsible C began loweringC-91. Research has uncovered strong evidence that Titanic time was 2 hours and 2 minutes ahead of New York timeC-92. This means that the forward well deck was awash by 1:47 to 1:49 a.m., shortly before Captain Smith ordered Rowe to stop firing rockets and help at Collapsible C, further evidence of a late launch time for that boat.
All in all, the accounts of Mr. and Mrs. Carter, Boxhall and Bride further convince us of the later launch time of Collapsible C.
As already mentioned, Quartermaster Rowe claimed that when Collapsible C left the ship, the forward well deck was "awash", and that it took "a good five minutes" for them to lower the boat due to the port list causing it to catch on the rivets down the ship's side. He states that by the time Collapsible C reached the water, the well deck was submergedC-93. The difference in wording between the well deck only being "awash" when Collapsible C left the ship and the well deck being "submerged" after it reached the water is a significant one, when his account is correlated with that of Quartermaster Bright. Bright claimed that when Collapsible D began lowering, the forecastle head was just going under waterC-94 . For the well deck to be submerged, not just awash, the forecastle head would have to be under water. This means that by the time Collapsible C reached the water, which took a good 5 minutes if not more, the forecastle head must have gone under. Bright indicates this was happening as Collapsible D began lowering. This indicates that Collapsible C left around 5 minutes at most ahead of Collapsible D, rather than the 20 minute period of time given in the British Inquiry.
Passenger Hugh Woolner recounted that, after leaving Collapsible C as it finished loading with passengers, he and Maritz Björnström-Steffansson went down to A Deck. They saw no passengers in the immediate vicinity and crossed over to the port side, where water started to spill over the railing onto A Deck. Luckily, Collapsible D was then being lowered right past them, and the two men jumped into the boatC-95 . Collapsible D was lowered by Second Officer Lightoller and Chief Officer Wilde at 2:05 a.m.C-96 ; the Titanic had sunk so far by this time that the boat only had to descend ten or fifteen feet to reach the waterC-97. Woolner specifies "a very few minutes" from the time Collapsible C was lowered until they went to A Deck, and saw the deck starting to flood and jumped into D. In a letter written on the Carpathia, Woolner said that the water was nearing the roof of A Deck as D was pulling away, which agrees with the rate of flooding during the launch of Collapsibles C and D as described by Rowe and Bright, and give further indication of how close together in time the two boats were launched.
Bruce Ismay’s testimony provides further evidence of how close together in time Collapsible C and D were lowered. Ismay stated that the distance Collapsible C had to be lowered to the sea was “I should estimate, about 20 feet”C-98. At the time #10 and Collapsible D lowered away, the port list was approximately 10 degrees, based on how wide the gap between the rails of these boats and the edge of the Boat Deck was estimated to be by survivorsC-99. This would mean the starboard side of the Boat Deck was approximately 16 feet higher than the port side when Collapsible C lowered away. This would make the distance from the Boat Deck to the water around 26 feet on the starboard side, and 10 feet on the port side, precisely as Second Officer Lightoller said it was during the lowering of Collapsible DC-100. Based on Ismay’s height, looking up from his seat inside the collapsible as it lowered away, the Boat Deck would have been 22 feet above his head, close to his estimate.
On the port side, Collapsible D had been rapidly hooked up and loaded from the same set of davits which had been used to lower boat #2 at 1:45 a.m. This short of an interval (20 minutes) between these two boats was possible largely because Collapsible D had been prepared to some extent earlier in the night, and only needed to have the sides raised, its rudder shipped and to be hooked up and swung outward in order to begin receiving passengers. Quartermaster Robert Hichens testified that he left the ship’s wheel at 12:23 a.m., and that he went to start uncovering Collapsible D upon Second Officer Lightoller’s orders. Hichens stated that he got the cover off and got the boats grips off before he was ordered to go to boat #6C-101. Able Bodied Seaman Thomas Jones testified that he also helped get the port side collapsible boat "ready" before leaving in #8, so he must have worked with Hichens on this taskC-102. This means that the preparation work had already been started.
Lamptrimmer Hemming testified that after D was lowered, he went up on the officers' quarters roof, and saw that C had just been lowered C-103. The effort to launch Collapsible A, which he assisted in, had already begun, and he described seeing the water "climbing upon the bridge" a few minutes after this, giving further indication that Collapsible C departed the ship later, and very close in time to when Collapsible A floated free of the ship at approximately 2:15 a.m. Boxhall, who left a bit earlier in #2, said he left the Titanic 20 to 30 minutes before she sank, which also puts the launch times of C and D, both of which left after #2, into the last 20 or so minutes the Titanic was afloatC-104.
Steward Edward Brown lends further support for this later launch time for Collapsible C. In the British Inquiry, he stated that it took "10 or 12 minutes" to get Collapsible A down to the Boat Deck after Ismay left in Collapsible CC-105. The British Inquiry postulated that Collapsible C left at 1:40 a.m. If that time was accurate, then according to Brown’s estimate, it would have taken until approximately 1:50 or 1:52 a.m. to get Collapsible A down from the roof of the officers’ quarters and onto the Boat Deck. After this, Collapsible A would still have needed to be uncovered, the rudder shipped, the falls connected, the sides put up and fastened, and then loaded with passengers before being launched. Even if it took 15 to 20 minutes to do this, Collapsible A should have been able to be launched by 2:05 or 2:07 a.m., if Collapsible C had left at 1:40 a.m. However, if Collapsible C left around 2:00, then according to Brown, it would have taken until 2:10 or 2:12 to get Collapsible A to the deck - and no time for much else at that point other than trying to get the falls hooked up before the water reached the starboard side of the Boat Deck at approximately 2:15 a.m. The witnesses to the attempted launch of Collapsible A indicate that this is exactly what happened. All of these events prove that C lowered very shortly before D, probably only minutes apart, and around 2:00 a.m. rather than 1:40 a.m.
Bright said he supposed that Collapsible C lowered about 20 minutes before he left in Collapsible DC-106. Bright had previously assisted with C, but admitted he did not see C lowered, and was only guessing as to the time. Bright also appears to be the main witness for the British Inquiry's opinion that C left the Titanic at 1:40, by his statement of 20 minutes between the boats, however, given the preponderance of testimony that C and D left within minutes of each other, we've had to discount it.
Collapsibles A and B were still up on the roof of the officers'
quarters at this point. Collapsible A was gotten down rightside up
and was being fastened to the falls as the deck dipped under at
around 2:15; Collapsible B was gotten down first by Second Officer
Lightoller and crewmembers, but landed upside down on the Boat
Deck in the process. Accounts indicate that water reached the Boat
Deck on the port side around the same timeC-107. When
Samuel Hemming crossed over after helping push Collapsible B down,
the Boat Deck on the starboard side was still dry due to the list.
The crew there, including First Officer Murdoch and Sixth Officer
Moody, were still trying to launch Collapsible A, which had landed
The crew had time to push it uphill against the port list and
fasten it to the falls before the Boat Deck on the starboard side
began submerging around 2:15 a.m. Both collapsibles floated free
from the ship, although Collapsible B was nearly crushed when the
forward funnel fell.
The general flow of lifeboat launches appears to be (see Table 2):
First Officer Murdoch started loading lifeboats in the forward starboard area, and was soon joined by Fifth Officer Lowe and Third Officer Pitman, both of whom were off-duty at the time of the accident. Moody was sent to (or ended up at) the aft port area. Lightoller, when he arrived sometime around midnight, started working on the forward port boats. No officers were working aft starboard.
After Murdoch and Lowe finished launching their first four lifeboats, Murdoch moved aft along the starboard side while Lowe crossed over to the port side to help Moody at the aft port boats, where alarmed passengers were starting to congregate. Lightoller and Wilde also moved back to this area. Things were gotten under control fairly rapidly and boats #16, #14 and #12 were launched safely, after which Moody crossed over to the starboard side of the ship to help Murdoch finish up the aft starboard boats. Lightoller and Wilde, meanwhile, moved forward along the port side to take care of the two remaining forward port boats.
First Officer Murdoch was in charge of lowering the aft starboard boats, and after lowering #9 and #11 and ordering #13 and #15 to lower away after they were fully loaded with passengers, he then went over to the aft port boats to see if any help was needed there. Murdoch supervised the loading and lowering of #10, then moved forward to possibly put in an appearance at boat #2 before moving across the ship with Wilde to work with Collapsible C.
As Table 2 shows, Chief Officer Wilde was far more active in loading and lowering lifeboats than has been generally believed - he was involved with five lifeboats on the port side (#8, #14, #12, #2 and Collapsible D) and one on the starboard (Collapsible C). Capt. Smith was involved with loading and launching #8 and #2, in addition to being reported at #6, #7 and D. And First Officer Murdoch was very busy; in addition to overseeing all of the boats launched on the starboard side, Murdoch also loaded and launched a boat on the port side - #10.
For years, the inquiry findings, particularly the launch table
produced during the British inquiry, were considered canon. Only
through in-depth investigation and comparison between the inquiry
testimony and contemporary accounts does a more accurate picture
of the sequence of events during that fateful night begin to
emerge. As George Behe likes to put it, "Regarding the Titanic,
for every fact there is an equal and opposite fact". This is all
too true, and there was a lot of conflicting evidence that needed
to be critically examined before an accurate lifeboat launch
sequence could be arrived at. While we will never know every
detail regarding the launching of the lifeboats - particularly
since all the key witnesses have long since left us - we feel that
the evidence examined in this article goes a long way toward
correcting some of the long accepted, but incorrect findings of
the inquiries as well as those of contemporary students of the
disaster. As Walter Lord so aptly put it, some of the testimony in
the inquiries, although generally accepted by Titanic
historians, is "ambiguous, inconsistent, and even contradictory".
He believed that the only way to corner that elusive quarry, the
truth, was through investigation, and we tend to agree.
The authors would like to thank the following people for contributing their own thoughts to us during the research phase of our lifeboat project:
Paul Quinn (for changing our minds regarding the launch order of #6 and #8); Chris Dohany (for his observations in general), Dave Billnitzer (for his timely comments pertaining a number of key issues connected with Titanic's lifeboats) John Pulos and Daniel Klistorner (for providing the Chambers quote from the Lawrenceville Alumni Bulletin), Charles Weeks (for the Boat Deck photos), Mike Poirier (for sharing survivor accounts) and a special thank you to Sam Halpern and J. Kent Layton (for observations about Pitman's movements and times, for contributing new evidence about the timing of the aft starboard boats, Boxhall not launching the last rocket fired, Ismay and the timing of Collapsible C, and invaluable support and comments in general).
If you have any questions or comments about the above article,
please e-mail us by clicking here.
If you enjoyed the article above, please read Sam Halpern's article "Rockets, Lifeboats and Time Changes", which looks at the issue of the rocket times as seen by the Californian, and how they match up with the time line of events on the Titanic.
The texts of the American Inquiry and the British Inquiry,
available on the Internet at the Titanic Inquiry Project,
Behe, George, Titanic Tidbits #1: The Launching of the Lifeboats: A New Chronology, 1991, self published