Titanic had 20 lifeboats, ten on the starboard side and ten on the port side. In total the lifeboats could seat 1178 people. Fourteen were wooden lifeboats designed to carry 65 people, four were collapsible lifeboats designed to carry 47 people and two were wooden emergency boats, permanently swung out so that they could be quickly lowered in an emergency, designed to carry 40 people.
With the exception of two collapsible boats stored on the roof of the officers’ quarters, all the lifeboats were kept on the boat deck, attached to davits which would lower them in to the water. The starboard (right) side boats were numbered oddly (1-15), while the port (left) side boats were numbered evenly (2-16). The collapsible boats were lettered, with A and C being on the port side and B and D on the starboard side.
On her maiden, and what of course turned out to be her last, voyage Titanic had on board 2208 people; her lifeboats, however, had room for just 1178 people. The law at the time required Titanic to just have just a minimum of 16 lifeboats; Titanic, therefore, with 20 lifeboats, comfortably met the law and standard for lifeboats of the day.
On the night of the sinking, with the exception of just one or two, the lifeboats were not filled to capacity when they were lowered from the ship, resulting in well over 400 places remaining empty.
Order in which lifeboats left the ship
Note: The sequence given here for the port side boats considerably various to what is traditionally given in many other Titanic resources. This is perhaps because the original source used in the other resources probably (directly or indirectly) comes from the findings of the British Titanic Inquiry; however, on closer inspection of accounts by survivors, it is clear that there are a number of mistakes in the sequence given by the inquiry. The port side boat sequence given here is sourced from Titanic: The Lifeboat Launching Sequence Re-Examined by Bill Wormstedt, Tad Fitch and George Behe, which is most probably and appears to be accepted as the most in depth and accurate research into the lowering sequence.
7, 5, 3, 1, 9, 11, 13, 15, C, A (floated off ship).
8, 6, 16, 14, 12, 2, 4 and 10, D, B (floated off ship).
7, 5, 3, 8, 1, 6, 16, 14, 12 and 9, 11, 13, 15, 2, 4 and 10, D, A and B (floated off ship).
Thirteen of Titanic’s lifeboats were picked up by Carpathia and taken to Pier 59 in New York, the place where Titanic was supposed to dock. The eventual fate of the boats is unknown. It is suggested that they were re-used by other White Star line ships, possibly Olympic, or seized after the disaster for insurance purposes and ended up rotting, before being scrapped.
Lifeboats taken to New York:
1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16