Titanic Lifeboats

64 – the number of lifeboats the Titanic ship could have been capable of carrying (a total well over the ships maximum capacity of 3,547 people).

48 – the number of lifeboats originally planned for Titanic by the chief designer Alexander Carlisle, 3 on each davit; however this number was eventually reduced for cosmetic reasons, to make the decks look less cluttered.

How many lifeboats were on the Titanic?

The Titanic actually carried just 20 lifeboats; 2 wooden cutters, 14 standard wooden lifeboats and 4 collapsible canvas lifeboats. This was far too few for the number of people aboard, and yet remarkably, this was technically legal; the law at that time based the number of lifeboats required on the gross register tonnage of a ship, not her passenger capacity.

Titanic collapsible lifeboat D approaching the rescue ship Carpathia.

Above: Titanic collapsible lifeboat D approaching the rescue ship Carpathia.

Titanic Lifeboats and Capacity

2 x wooden cutters (capacity 40 people each)

14 x 30 foot wooden lifeboats (capacity 65 people each)

4 x folding or ‘collapsible’ lifeboats (capacity 47 people each)

33% – the percentage of the ships total passengers and crew that the lifeboats could accommodate.

It hardly bears thinking about that if there had been sufficient boats that night…every soul aboard could have been saved, since it was two-and-a-half hours after she struck that she tilted her massive stern into the heavens and sank by the head, taking with her all that were unprovided for. -Arthur Rostron, Captain of the rescue vessel Carpathia, in ‘Home From The Sea’, 1931

80 minutes – the time taken to launch all 16 lifeboats.

10 minutes – the average time it would usually take a crew to launch a lifeboat.

How many people could the lifeboats carry?

The 20 boats could have accommodated 1,178 people, around a third of the number travelling on board. This was bad enough, but more tragically still the lifeboats actually launched with even fewer people than they could accommodate (See below for some specific figures).

18 – the number of lifeboats that succeeded in launching.

2 – the number of lifeboats that were not launched and which simply floated away (collapsible lifeboats A and B).

Titanic lifeboat number 6 photographed as she approached Carpathia.

Above: Titanic lifeboat number 6 photographed as she approached the rescue ship Carpathia.

9 – the number of people plucked from the water after the lifeboats launched (3 of whom died shortly afterward).

30 – the number of people who managed to survive by standing, sitting or kneeling on the upturned hull of collapsible lifeboat B, having failed in their attempts to right it.

How many life jackets were on the Titanic?

In total there were around 3,500 cork-filled life jackets on board, as well as 48 life belts (rings). They did little to save lives, however; the water was so cold that those who did not find a place in the boats were likely to freeze to death rather than drown. It has been estimated that most people would have succumbed to the cold within 5 minutes in the water.

28 – the number of people the first lifeboat actually had on board (capacity was 65 people) – it is believed that this low number was due to passengers being reluctant to leave the ship, as initially they did not consider themselves to be in imminent danger.

472 – the number of lifeboat spaces that went unused.

Titanic Lifeboats – Order Of Launch

12:40 am – Lifeboat 7 (starboard)

12:43 am – Lifeboat 5 (starboard)

01:00 am – Lifeboat 3 (starboard) and lifeboat 8 (port

01:05 am – Lifeboat 1 (starboard)

01:10 am – Lifeboat 6 (port)

01:20 am – Lifeboat 16 (port)

01:25 am – Lifeboat 14 (port)

01:30 am – Lifeboat 12 (port) and lifeboat 9 (starboard)

01:35 am – Lifeboat 11 (starboard)

01:40 am – Lifeboat 13 (starboard)

01:41 am – Lifeboat 15 (starboard)

01:45 am – Lifeboat 2 (port)

01:50 am – Lifeboat 10 (port) and lifeboat 4 (port)

02:00 am – Collapsible lifeboat C (starboard) – with J Bruce Ismay on board

02:05 am – Collapsible lifeboat D (port)

02:15 am – Collapsible lifeboats B (port) and A (starboard) are washed out to sea

12 – the number of people lowered into the water in Lifeboat No. 1, despite it having a capacity of 65. This boat contained 5 first-class passengers (including Sir Cosmo and Lady Lucy Duff Gordon) and 7 crew members, and was named the ‘Millionaire’s Boat’ by the press, who accused the occupants of ignoring cries for help from people in the water.

£5 – the amount that Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon gave each of the 7 crewmembers who had shared his lifeboat. He was heavily criticised for paying the men, despite claims he had been compensating them for the loss of their kit.

The partly filled lifeboat standing by about 100 yards away never came back. Why on Earth they never came back is a mystery. How could any human being fail to heed those cries. -Jack B Thayer, Titanic Survivor

1 – the number of lifeboats that returned to try and save others after launching (there was a general fear that a return toward the sinking ship would result in lifeboats being overwhelmed by desperate victims and capsizing, and a fear also of the risk of a downward suction caused by the sinking Titanic).

1 hour 10 minutes – the approximate length of time, after Titanic slipped beneath the waves, that the lifeboats were floating in open water, before the rescue ship Carpathia arrived on the scene.

4 hours – the approximate time it took to unload all of the lifeboats after Carpathia arrived.

Did You Know?

As standard the Titanic lifeboats were each provisioned with a water beaker and a tin of biscuits.

2 – the number of the first lifeboat to be rescued.

12 – the number of the last lifeboat to be rescued.

4 hours – the approximate time it took to unload all of the lifeboats after Carpathia arrived.

Titanic lifeboats at the White Star Line berth in New York, where they were deposited from Carpathia.

Above: Titanic lifeboats at the White Star Line berth in New York, where they were deposited from Carpathia.

13 – the number of lifeboats that were lifted onto Carpathia after all had been emptied (this was as many as she could carry).

7 – the number of lifeboats that were left floating adrift in the Atlantic; 3 wooden boats (numbers 4, 14, and 15) and all four collapsible boats (A, B, C and D). Lifeboat B was spotted floating in the water a few days later by the Canadian ship Mackay-Bennett, but efforts to bring the boat on board failed.

What happened to the Titanic lifeboats?

This is something of a mystery. The rescue ship Carpathia transported 13 of them to New York, where they were unloaded into the water at the White Star Line berth at Pier 59 (the place where Titanic had been due to dock).

Souvenir hunters removed plates from the boats containing the name Titanic and the lifeboat numbers (the number from boat 8 was removed by a surviving crew member, Able Seaman Tom Jones, and sent to Lucy Noël Martha, the Countess of Rothes).

What then happened to the boats themselves is uncertain, although it is thought that they were most likely put into use on the Titanic sister ship Olympic.

6 – the number of life jackets from the Titanic thought to remain in existence in museums or private collections around the world.

£34,692 – the amount that one blood-stained life jacket fetched at auction in New York on 25 June 2008.

More To Explore

If you have found these facts about the Titanic lifeboats interesting why not read all about the sinking of the ship, or find out about the survivors of the shipwreck and about the Titanic casualties.