Revealing Titanic safety documents to auction for $48,000 in UK

A set of revealing documents that raise concerns about safety equipment aboard the Titanic have been consigned to a November 24 auction in the UK.

Titanic archive letters auction Board of Trade Clarke
Titanic's lifeboats being unloaded from the Carpathia on April 18, 1912

The documents originate from the collection of Captain Maurice Clarke, who served as the Board of Trade's emigration officer in the early 1900s. Clarke's duties concerned the safety of emigrant passengers and he made several inspections of the Titanic before its doomed voyage.

The documents have not been seen for more than a century and are now being offered for ?�20,000-30,000 ($32,000-48,000).

Titanic Captain Clarke auction archive documents Board of Trade
Weary survivors arrive at the HMS Carpathia on April 15, 1912

The most damning of the documents relate to Captain Clarke's inspections of the Titanic on April 4, 9 and 10 1912, the day it set sail from Southampton. Providing a detailed catalogue of all safety equipment onboard, the papers include a number of shocking revelations, including the fact that there were only six life buoys to cater for 3,000 passengers.

Among accounts of the lifeboat drills, safety tests and distress signals, Clarke makes a suggestion that the ship should be equipped with 50% more lifeboats before departure. These suggestions were ignored by the White Star Line and, as Clarke's notes suggest, it is likely that the company pressured the Board of Trade into allowing Titanic to sail with fewer lifeboats.

This evidence has not been made public before and, although Clarke gave evidence at the enquiry into the disaster, the information was overlooked by the enquiry lawyers. A fascinating and enlightening archive, it is undoubtedly among the most important Titanic items to come to auction in recent years.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and has seen some impressive results at auction. See our top five items of Titanic memorabilia for a round-up of the best sales from past years.  

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