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OFF BEAT: Titanic claim form minimized size of iceberg to insurers


A historic insurance claim form set to be sold at auction downplays the cause of the 1912 Titanic's sinking as a “small low-lying iceberg.”

In an apparent attempt to dissuade insurance adjusters from denying or reducing the claim's payment because of the crew's negligence for failing to spot the iceberg before crashing into it, the claim form, completed by the Titanic's second officer, Charles Lightoller, reported that the ship made a “slight jar” before starting to go down.

“The captain was on and off the bridge throughout the watch. A sharp lookout was kept from the crow's nest,” the typewritten claim stated. “The ship was on a course South 86 degrees West true, when the lookouts reported ice dead ahead; the first officer immediately starboarded the helm, reversed the engines full speed and closed all watertight doors. The ship swung to port but struck a 'growler' or small low-lying iceberg with the bluff of her starboard bow, making a comparatively slight jar with a grinding sound.”


Mr. Lightoller went on to explain that “all hands were called on deck,” and the lifeboats “were filled with women and children.” “At 2:20 a.m. April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank, going down bow first in very nearly the same position as when struck. … The master, chief, first and sixth officers were lost, and also all the engineers and the pursers and their staff, as well as the chief and second stewards.”

A section of the claim signed by Mr. Lightoller as well as the Titanic's surviving third, fourth and fifth officers further states “any loss, damage or injury which has arisen … in any way or manner whatever, is solely owing to the accidents and difficulties herein set forth and declared, and not to any negligence, want of skill, vigilance or exertion on the part of the deponents, or any of the officers or men of the said vessel.”

White Star Line, the Titanic's owner, received the full policy payout of $5 million minus a deductible of $750,000.

The claim form detailing the account of the 1912 maritime disaster is being sold at auction on April 26 by Henry Aldridge & Son of Devizes, England, with an estimated price of £12,000 ($19,892).