Ninety nine years after the infamous sinking of RMS Titanic, marine historians believe that 1,517 souls could have avoided a watery grave if the crew had been properly trained in the art of deckchair rearrangement.
Leading researcher Dr. Frank Taylor, whose techniques include using scale models of the doomed liner in the Arctic conditions of the Blackpool boating lagoon, said, ‘That old phrase suggesting that rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic is a fruitless activity is frankly poppycock. It was put about by the owners, White Star Line, as a smokescreen, but nothing could be further from the truth.’
Dr. Taylor said it was standard maritime practice for liners in Arctic waters to maintain an active watch on the upper decks at all times. These crew members kept a lookout for icebergs, de-iced the superstructure to stop the ship getting top-heavy and, to avoid trip hazards, rearranged deck chairs.
‘Eyewitness accounts state that immediately before the collision, Captain Smith and the entire deckchair watch were carousing with the passengers, as portrayed in James Cameron’s superbly accurate film. Had they been on duty, they would not only have seen the berg but could have easily fended it off had the helmsman been unable to change course.
‘Even then, there was much they could have done to avert disaster but failed to do. For instance, deckchair canvas could have been deployed to fill the initial small crack in the hull, buying valuable time for rescue ships to arrive. Then, if the band had sat on deckchairs in the stern, there was a good chance the liner would have remained level and not broken up.
‘Even after the Titanic was doomed, massive loss of life could have been avoided had the crew simply lashed hundreds of deckchairs together to form rudimentary life rafts. Although White Star were heavily criticised for carrying insufficient lifeboats, they did carry two deckchairs for every passenger and these lifesaving devices were ignored.
‘Another myth put about by White Star was that everyone was singing from the same hymnsheet as the ship went down,’ concluded Dr. Taylor. ‘Actually, half had ‘Nearer my God to Thee’ and the rest had ‘Abide with me’. The whole thing was a train wreck waiting to happen.’