LIFE-SAVING AT SEA.
Automatic Release for Rafts in the Hour of Danger.
Since the Titanic disaster the question of life-saving appliances at sea has been very prominently before the public. The provision of life-rafts on steamers, which would, at any rate, give flotation in case of vessels foundering, has been under consideration in some shipping lines.
In this connection, a new device for the automatic release of such life-rafts, which has been patented by Captain John Pearce, of Cheltenham, is of special interest. Captain Pearce, who has himself been more than twenty-eight years at sea, was led to the invention of this device long before the Titanic was wrecked by the consideration of other shipping disasters, in which much life was lost owing to there being no time to swing out or launch the boats from the davits.
"Where life-rafts are carried," he explained to a "Lloyd's" representative, "they are generally fastened by lashings. What happens? The lashings are painted over when the vessel is in port, and after a bit get as hard as wire. Then a sudden disaster comes - no time to lose; those lashings can't be cut with a knife - you must take an axe, and even then it is a difficult matter."
Captain Pearce's invention does away with the need of lashings altogether. The raft, which may be of any design satisfying Board of Trade regulations, is held in a kind of wooden frame, consisting of two hinged planks, and is then secured at the fore and after ends by two beams resting on the planks. Directly the beams are knocked away the hinged planks fall, and the raft is instantly released. Should the vessel founder so quickly that there is no time even to do this, directly the water reaches the raft it will float off automatically. Undoubtedly many lives could have been saved in the case of the Titanic had there been a provision of these rafts, which, released automatically by the foundering of the vessel, would have provided support to large numbers of those swimming in the sea until they could have been picked up.
Captain Pearce was able to test his invention practically some months ago in Sydney Harbour, where a model of his contrivance was duly submerged. The patent chocks immediately showed their efficiency; the raft was automatically released, and floated at once to the surface.
"The raft is held quite securely on the deck in the roughest weather," added Captain Pearce, "and it would be placed underneath the boats on the davits, so that no additional deck space would be occupied. An advantage of such rafts is that in very rough weather they can still be launched from the weather side of the ship when it would be impossible to launch the boats, and that they never capsize."
Source: Lloyd's Weekly News, July 7, 1912, Page 9