107 #88: Many more people would have been saved if more lifeboats had attempted to return to pick up survivors from the water

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Titanic lifeboats

FALSE. By the time Titanic sank many of her lifeboats had been pulling slowly away from the ship for about an hour, most because they feared suction, or that a large wave might be caused when she foundered; and some because they were rowing towards the light of the Californian, which could be seen on the northern horizon. Many of these boats would have taken about another hour to get back to the Titanic’s wreck site, by which time we know from the harrowing testimony of Joseph Scarrott, who went back into the wreckage with Fifth Officer Lowe in lifeboat No. 14 at about 3.30 a.m., nearly everybody in the water was already dead or unconscious:

439: ‘And we went away and went among the wreckage. When we got to where the cries were we were amongst hundreds, I should say, of dead bodies floating in lifebelts.’

440: ‘Was it dark then?’ ‘Yes.’

441: ‘Still dark?’

‘Yes, and the wreckage and bodies seemed to be all hanging in one cluster. When we got up to it we got one man, and we got him in the stern of the boat—a passenger it was, and he died shortly after we got him into the boat. One of the stewards that was in the boat tried means to restore life to the man; he loosed him and worked his limbs about and rubbed him; but it was of no avail at all, because the man never recovered after we got him into the boat. We got two others then as we pushed our way towards the wreckage, and as we got towards the centre we saw one man there. I have since found out he was a storekeeper; he was on top of a staircase; it seemed to be a large piece of wreckage anyhow which had come from some part of the ship. It was wood anyhow. It looked like a staircase. He was kneeling there as if he was praying, and at the same time he was calling for help. When we saw him we were about from here to that wall away from him, and the boats, the wreckage were that thick—and I am sorry to say there were more bodies than there was wreckage— it took us a good half-hour to get that distance to that man to get through the bodies. We could not row the boat; we had to push them out of the way and force our boat up to this man. But we did not get close enough to get him right off—only just within the reach of an oar. We put out an oar on the fore-part of the boat, and he got hold of it, and he managed to hold on, and we got him into the boat. Those three survived. There was one dead in our boat, and that was the passenger, the first one we picked up.’

Even the lifeboats which remained very close to Titanic were very slow and hard to manoeuvre, and it was a pitch dark night, so that after her lights had disappeared it was impossible to see exactly where Titanic had gone down. Across the flat calm water, it was also impossible to locate exactly where the cries of those in the water were coming from, as we can see from the testimony of John Poingdestre, in charge of lifeboat No. 12. Poingdestre was only 150 yards from where Titanic went down and immediately returned to try and help those crying out in the dark:

2990: ‘After she sank did you see any people struggling in the water?’

‘No.’

2991: ‘How far away from the Titanic were you?’

‘About 150 yards.’

2992: ‘After she sank did your boat pull in towards the place where she sank?’

‘Yes.’

2993: ‘For what purpose?’

‘To pick up anybody who was there.’

2994: ‘Was there anybody there?’

‘I never saw anybody.’

2995: ‘Did you see any corpses?’

‘No.’

2996: ‘You saw nothing?’

‘I saw some by daylight.’

2997: ‘Did you hear any cries?’

‘Yes.’

2998: ‘Did not the cries guide you so as to enable you to go to them?’

‘Certainly.’

2999: ‘Did you go in that direction?’

‘I pulled in the direction the cries came from.’

3000: ‘Did not you find anybody there?’

‘No.’

3001: ‘Did you see nobody?’

‘Nobody whatever.’

3002: ‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes.’

3003: ‘When you pulled in that direction, did the passengers on board your boat approve of your doing so?’

‘Yes.’

3004: ‘And you went and searched and found nobody?’

‘Yes.’

3005: ‘You are sure of that?’

‘Yes.’

3013: ‘We know what the capacity of the boat is. How long did you remain looking, do you suggest, for the people?’

‘About a quarter of an hour.’

3014: ‘And you saw nothing?’

‘Nothing at all.’

3015: ‘Did you see wreckage?’

‘Only about a couple of hundred deck chairs.’

3016: ‘But you saw no bodies?’

‘No bodies whatever.’

3017: ‘During that quarter of an hour, while you were looking, how long did the cries continue?’

‘All the time that we were looking we heard the cries.’

3018: ‘And yet you found nothing?’

‘We found nothing at all.’

3019: ‘These cries were going on for the whole of the time you were searching?’

‘Yes.’

3020: ‘What was the nearest do you think that you got to any of these cries?’

‘I reckoned about 100 yards.’

3021: ‘And then did they cease?’

‘Yes.’

3022: ‘Can you account for that?’

‘I can account for not going to the position where I ought to have been.’

3023: ‘Well, will you tell us?’

‘There were not enough sailors in my boat, only me and my mate, and we could not get there.’

3024: (The Commissioner) ‘Get where?’

‘To where the halloes were coming from—the cries.’

About 200 yards was the maximum distance that any survivor claimed to have swum and climbed into a boat, and even then, many of those who got wet did not survive long in the lifeboats, as we learn from the remarkable story of Titanic’s Lamp Trimmer, Samuel Hemming, who swam to a boat and later helped to pull seven men into it, two of whom died:

SEH054: ‘I went to the bridge and looked over and saw the water climbing upon the bridge. I went and looked over the starboard side, and everything was black. I went over to the port side and saw a boat off the port quarter, and I went along the port side and got up the after boat davits and slid down the fall and swam to the boat and got it.’

SEH055: ‘When you say everything looked black, you mean that there were no boats in sight?’

‘Everything was black over the starboard side. I could not see any boats.’

SEH056: ‘You swam out to this boat that you saw?’

‘Yes, sir.’

SEH057: ‘How far was it from the side of the Titanic?’

‘About 200 yards.’

SEH058: ‘Did you swim that 200 yards?’

‘Yes.’

SEH059: ‘Did you have a lifebelt on?’

‘No, sir.’

SEH060: ‘When you reached the boat, what did you find?’

‘I tried to get hold of the grab line on the bows, and it was too high for me, so I swam along and got hold of one of the grab lines amidships.’

SEH061: ‘What did you do then?’

‘I pulled my head above the gunwale, and I said, “Give us a hand in, Jack.” Foley was in the boat. I saw him standing up in the boat. He said, “Is that you, Sam?” I said, “Yes;” and him and the women and children pulled me in the boat.’

SEH077: ‘What was done after you got into the boat?’

‘They had been backing her away, to get out of the zone from the ship before the ship sank.’

SEH078: ‘You did not return to the ship’s side?’

‘No, sir.’

SEH079: ‘Not at all?’

‘No, sir.’

SEH080: ‘Or to the place where the ship sank?’

‘After the ship had gone we pulled back and picked up seven.’

SEH081: ‘Who were they?’

‘I am not able to say, sir.’

SEH082: ‘Who else?’

‘Stewards, firemen, seamen, and one or two men, passengers; I could not say exactly which they were; anyway, I know there were seven altogether.’

SEH095: ‘Did they swim to the boat, or did the boat go to the men?’

‘Both. They swam toward the boat, and we went back toward them.’

SEH096: ‘After you got these seven men in, what did you do then?’

‘We hung around for a bit.’

SEH097: ‘Did you see any more men?’

‘No, sir.’

SEH098: ‘Did you hear any more crying?’

‘We heard the cries; yes, sir.’

SEH099: ‘Where? In what direction? Toward the Titanic?’

‘We were moving around, constantly, sir. Sometimes the stern of the boat would be toward the Titanic, and sometimes the bow of the boat would be toward the Titanic. One moment we would be facing one way, and a few moments later we would be facing another way; first the bow, and then the stern toward the ship.’

SEH100: ‘What did you hang around for?’

‘We did not know what to do.’

SEH101: ‘Did you pick up any more people in the water?’

‘Not from the water; no, sir.’

SEH102: ‘Did these people that you picked up all live until you reached the Carpathia?’

‘No, sir.’

SEH103: ‘How many died?’

‘Two.’

If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

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