Titanic Lifeboat A
Titanic’s Lifeboat A was a starboard side collapsible lifeboat stored on the roof of the officers’ quarters. Lifeboat A and Lifeboat B were the very last lifeboats to leave the sinking Titanic; both were washed off the boat deck just minutes before the ship sank. Around 13 people survived the night aboard Lifeboat A, including Rosa Abbot, the only women aboard Titanic to survive being in the sea.
At around 2.05am, around 15 minutes before Titanic sank, the last lifeboat to successfully leave Titanic was lowered away. The only lifeboats still remaining were the collapsible lifeboat’s A and B, both of which were effectively stuck on top of the roof of the officers’ quarters.
Under the probable supervision of William Murdoch, in order to get Lifeboat A from the roof down to the Boat Deck, the crew placed some kind of makeshift planks against the wall of the officers’ quarters to allow the boat to slide down to the deck. It is often said that the boat come crashing down to the deck.
First class steward Edward Brown later said that while the crew were working on Lifeboat A, Captain Smith had come past them with a megaphone in his hand and had said: “Well, boys, do your best for the women and children, and look after yourselves.”
Once the boat was on the Boat Deck the crew attached the boat to the ropes attached to the nearby davits, which had been used to lower both Lifeboat 1 and C away from the ship, with the intension of lowering the boat into the sea; however, due to Titanic considerably listing to port the crew were unable to push the boat to the davits at the side of the ship, making it impossible for the crew to lower the boat in to the water. Today on the wreck of Titanic one of the davits is still in position waiting to launch Lifeboat A.
Titanic took a plunge forward down deeper into the water, causing the bridge to disappear into the sea, and the water to reach lifeboat A, forcing a number of people to scramble into the boat. With the water soaking his legs, Edward Brown jumped into the boat, cut the after falls (ropes attaching the boat to the davits) and called out for the forward falls to be cut. He was then, along with perhaps at least most of the people in it, washed out of the boat by a wave.
In the water Edward Brown found himself caught in a whirlpool and upon coming to the surface he, unable to swim and in what “seemed a lifetime” to him, managed to swim back to the boat and get back on-board.
Struggling in the water after jumping from the ship, 3rd class passenger Olaus Abelseth noticed what appeared to him as “something dark ahead”, Lifeboat A. When he got to the boat someone said, “Don’t capsize the boat!” He hung on to the boat for a little while before getting in to it.
After jumping into the sea, 3rd class passenger Rosa Abbot had managed to get out of the freezing water and into Lifeboat A. She was the only female passenger to survive being in the water.
Whilst struggling in the water 1st class passenger Richard Williams said that he had thrown off the fur coat that he was wearing. After seeing Lifeboat A in the distance he swam to it and hung on to it for a while before managing to get aboard it. His coat was eventually, around a month after the sinking, found attached to Lifeboat A, and was returned to him by the White Star Line.
In the chaos, the canvas sides of the lifeboat had not been raised, attempts by those inside the boat to raise it had failed and the inside of the boat had a considerable amount of water in it. To try to summon other lifeboats to help them Olaus Abelseth said that they had continually said, “One, two, three” before screaming out for help.
Olaus Abelseth later recalled that in the boat a man from New Jersey, whom he had recently met in London, was lying down and seemed to be “kind of unconscious.” Olaus Abelseth took the man by his shoulder and sat him up; he said to the man “we can see a ship now. Brace up” and shook him by the shoulder; he replied with “who are you? Let me be. Who are you?” Olaus Abelseth held him up until he himself got to cold and tired, and decided to take a little piece of wreckage which was floating around, and laid it under the man’s head on the edge of the lifeboat to keep his head out of the water. Within about an hour and a half the man had died. A scene based on this is depicted in the 1958 Titanic film A Night to Remember.
By the morning there were around 13 people alive aboard Lifeboat A. They were spotted and rescued by Lifeboat 14, which was towing Lifeboat D and was under the command of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. Three bodies were left behind inside the boat, their faces covered with lifebelts.
The photograph bellow shows Lifeboat 14 in front, with the survivors from Lifeboat A on-board, with Lifeboat D behind. Lifeboat D was the same as Lifeboat A, but in the photograph, unlike Lifeboat A, Lifeboat D has its canvas sides up:
Lifeboat 14 and D approaching Carpathia, 15th April 1912.
Around a month after the disaster, on 13th May 1912, the White Star Line ship Oceanic spotted the lifeboat, and found the three dead bodies still aboard. The bodies in the boat were believed to be that of a fireman, a sailor and 1st class passenger Thomson Beattie. They were buried at sea from the lifeboat. Lifeboat A was taken aboard Oceanic, after which its fate is unknown.
Lifeboat A is often featured in Titanic films and television programmes. It is prominently featured during a later part of the sinking in the 1997 Titanic film. In the film fictional character Caledon "Cal" Hockley manages to get in to and survive aboard the boat.