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'Titanic' Lifeboats Seats Were Only Half-filled

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg and was swallowed up in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Over 1,500 people perished as "the ship that not even God could sink" sank. Only about a third of the passengers lived to tell of the nightmare.

Although the death toll was staggering, the greater tragedy was that many more people could have been rescued. The Titanic was certified to offer lifeboat space to 1,178 people. But of the twenty lifeboats lowered overboard, only a few were filled to capacity. Several were less than half full. For instance, the first lifeboat lowered, boat seven, had room for 65 people, yet just 28 boarded. Boat five left with 24 spaces unfilled. Lifeboat nine left with 26 out of 65 paces unfilled. Lifeboat one could accommodate 40 people but left the Titanic with only 12 people on board. In all, only 711 passengers and crew were rescued, while 40 percent of the total lifeboat spaces remained unfilled. Meanwhile, hundreds of people floated in the open water wearing life jackets near the twenty unfilled lifeboats. Only one of the vessels went back in search of other survivors. The rest (with room to spare) remained at a safe distance observing the horrific scene, comforting one another, and praising God they'd been spared.

In the ensuing months, as investigators sought to determine why so many lifeboat seats remained unfilled, they uncovered some startling misperceptions. First, some of the Titanic crewman mistakenly assumed that filling the lifeboats to their "sea capacity" would cause the boats to break in two during the lowering process. As a result of their excessive caution, many passengers were forced to plummet into the icy waters. Secondly, some of the passengers were reluctant to board the lifeboats because they didn't feel that there was an urgent need. After all, the ship was supposedly "unsinkable."

Possible preaching bridges: (1) As the church of Jesus Christ, does our outreach "make room" for lost people, so we can invite them to Christ? Or does our lack of compassion or misperceptions prevent us from rescuing those around us? (2) Salvation is abundantly available, but we have to see our need and get into the lifesaving boat. (3) It's also possible that many of the men acted in valor by allowing the women and children to get on the lifeboats first. In their sacrificial heroism, they wanted to ensure that others were safe before they boarded the lifeboats.

See the following sources: Walter Lord & Nathaniel Philbrick, A Night to Remember (Holt Paperbacks, 2004), p. 177; John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas, Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (W.W. Norton & Company, 1995), p. 32; Life Titanic (Life, 2012), p. 102; Senan Molony, Titanic: A Primary Source History (Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2005), p. 24

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