Monday, June 4, 2012
It is a popular thing in movies about the Titanic to show the poor 3rd class passengers trapped behind locked gates while 1st and 2nd class passengers make their way to the lifeboats. However, testimonies and observations of the blueprints as well as the wreck itself prove otherwise. The only gates we know of that would hinder 3rd class passengers from getting up to the Boat Deck were waist high at the top of stairs. One was towards the bow and one was towards the stern. We know for a fact that the one towards the bow was locked and the stewards attempted to keep the Steerage passengers down because of Daniel Buckley's testimony but they eventually were able to get through. Another thing that may have prevented Steerage from reaching the Boat Deck was error on the part of the crew. Lightoller was afraid the boats would buckle and split and so he intended to lower the boats into the sea partially full and then fill them up when they were in the water from the gangway doors. He in fact sent men down to open the gangway doors. The passengers got wind of it and waited to board in the lower decks. For several reasons this never happened and valuable time and seats were lost. What mainly killed the Steerage passengers was the enormity of the ship. They had 2.40 hours to to get to the Boat Deck from the lower decks of a 9 story sinking ship with an increasing tilt, panicking passengers, and rising water. They had less than that actually because at first they were told to wait for orders. Most didn't reach the Boat Deck until either the last lifeboats were about to be launched or it was too late. The plight of 3rd class is not as well understood because their stories were not as valuable to the inquiries and press as the 1st and 2nd class passengers were. Lightoller said what caused so many deaths in 3rd class was because they were forgotten. I think that's absolutely true. On the Boat Deck it was "Women and Children First" but below the decks it was survival of the fittest. The officers mainly cared about loading and lowering the lifeboats and Captain Smith was focused on getting rescue ships to come. The only parts of the crew that actually thought about getting the 3rd class passengers (some of whom couldn't even read the signs because of their being from different countries) were the 3rd class stewards. Several bravely went down to the lower decks of the sinking Titanic, guiding them up to the Boat Deck and then going back down for more.