Published November 20, 2014
A British safety official who inspected Titanic before its maiden voyage thought it should have more lifeboats, according to his private notes, which are being offered for sale this month.
However, Capt. Maurice Clarke, a Board of Trade safety and emigration officer, didn't express that belief when he testified at the official British inquiry into the ship's sinking. He also was not asked then whether he thought Titanic carried an adequate number of lifeboats.
There is no record of Clarke ever expressing his view publicly, auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said Friday.
The U.S. Senate's inquiry concluded that 2,223 people were aboard the Titanic but there was room for fewer than 1,200 in its lifeboats. The ship had plenty of lifebelts for everyone but it sank in frigid water on the night of April 14-15, 1912, and only 706 people aboard survived.
Henry Aldridge & Son auctioneers are offering 70 pages of Clarke's private papers at a sale on Nov. 24 in Devizes, England. It's the last of a series of sales marking the centennial of the ship's sinking.
Clarke's notes indicate he was rebuffed by the White Star Line and he believed he had no legal grounds to require more lifeboats. In his notes, Clarke wrote "I suggest 50 percent more."
"To deviate from regulations which had been drawn up by the Advisory Committee of Ships owners and approved of by my department would leave me without support," Clarke wrote.
Clarke did not testify at the U.S. Senate's inquiry, but its official report zeroed in on the lifeboat issue. It called for U.S. law to "require sufficient lifeboats to accommodate every passenger and every member of the crew."