The Engelhardt Collapsible.
Robert Hahn

Taken from
"Schiffbau", Zeitschrift für die gesamte Industrie auf schiffbautechnischen und verwandten Gebieten,
5. Jahrgang. 1903 – 1904

Published in:
Emil Grottke's Verlag,
Berlin SW. 12,
Wilhelmstrasse 105

Translated by:
Robert Hahn


The following translation has been shortened from the original source. Only the part, which deals with the construction of the Engelhardt Lifeboat has been translated:

Recently, a new collapsible lifeboat, which has been developed by a Danish Captain Named V. Engelhardt caused a stir. This boat has significant advantages compared to other collapsible boats, that have been used for long time. The Engelhardt boat has been patented in all the important countries and has been tested and approved by the Board of Trade. But it is also produced in Germany by the specifications of the inventor.  The Agent for Germany is Herr Charles Ursin, Hamburg.
The design of the boat can be seen in fig. 1.

Fig. 1. 20' Engelhardt-Boat

The lower part has been designed as a floating body and avoids the complete sinking of the boat if it has sprung a leak. It is built up by a keel (a) and a mid keel (b), two side keels (c) and two double side planking (d and e), as well as the crossbeams (g and f). On special demand, an additional protection keel (a1) will be installed, underneath the keel (a).

The longitudinal supports (a, b, d and e) are connected and secured to the front and rear steven (q). The bottom and the top of the lower floating body are planked (l and i). The planks are run at the bottom, from stern to bow, and on top of the body diagonally. On top of this, a layer of canvas has been tightened down (m and n). The layer on top of the body reaches down 75 mm between the two side planks (d and e), while the bottom layer reaches up between (d and e) 75 mm over the edge of the top of the floating body. On top of the canvas layer, on both sides, two layers of planking (h and k) are put up. The orientation of the planking is the same as before. On both sides of the floating body at the side planks (d and e) are connected strips of wood (p and o).  On these strips of wood are where the fenders (B) will be fastened. The fenders are build up by short sacks, filled with Kapok, which are stuffed in the outer coating. Between the mid keel, the two side keels, and the outer planking are sacks (A) filled with Kapok too, while the bow and the stern section of the floating body are filled with cork (C).

The upper part of the boat has a railing (r) to which a Dollboard (s) is fixed. The connection of the upper part with the floating body is realized by 4 hinges (x). The upper cross connection is build up by two cross parts (t) which are connected to the railing (r). Below these cross parts are two collapsible supports (u) per side. Running all around is a seat plank (V) which is made out of one piece. Connected to the seat planks are cross planks (w). The water tide canvas on each side is marked by (y).

Fig. 2. 20' Engelhardt-Boat, folded away

Fig. 3. 20' Engelhardt-Boat, folded away, and loaded with 4000 kg

To make the boat ready, two men have to lift up the cross parts (t), while doing this, the seat planks (v) slide down, until they lay on the hinges (x), which are then fixed by the seat planks. After this, the 4 collapsible supports (u) have to be pressed into their tracks.

Fig. 4. 20' Engelhardt-Boat, unfolded

The main advantages of the "Engelhardt Collapsible Life Boat", which have been shown during a tough test in England, Denmark, America and other countries are the following:

1. Several boats of this type requires the same space on deck as a common lifeboat, while the number of  people, regulated by the Board of Trade, picked up with the Engelhardt, is higher as for common boats with the same dimensions.

2. The boat can be unfolded on deck or in the water in a short time.

3. The boat is absolutely unsinkable, because the floating body is so calculated, that it still floats with a great amount of persons as is allowed by the volume of the boat. This can be proved by the following calculation:

For a 20' boat, the volume is 20' x 7' x 2' 8" x 0.6 = 224 cubic foot.

By the Board of Trade, 224 / 8 = 28 persons are allowed to be carried against 18 persons in a normal lifeboat with the same dimensions.

The calculations of the floating body is the following:

19' 6" x 6' 6" x 11" x 0.7 = 81.3 cubic foot
81.3 cubic foot x 63 = 5121,9 pounds

And for the fenders:

44' x 7" diameter = 11.20 cubic foot
11.20 cubic foot x 63 = 705.6 pounds

 together 5827 pounds

the whole boat weighs approx. 1300 pounds, so that the load capacity is 4527 pounds.

 with an average weight of 150 pounds for a man, a maximum load capacity of 30 persons can be calculated. During countless tests, it could be proven, that the real capacity is much higher.

26' Engelhardt-boats, which were delivered to the American Navy, were tested in New York with more then 8500 pounds, which is 56 persons. A normal boat of this size can only take 33 persons.

4. In spite of the fact, that the boats are collapsible, there is enough space in the boats for water, food and more.

5. In case of an emergency, normal lifeboats on windward are useless, while the Engelhardt-boats can be carried over to leeward and be put into water without using the davits. If there is no time to set out the boats, it is sufficient enough to cut the fastening. Then the boats will give the passengers enough time to climb on, because of their high load capacity.

6. As a result of their design, the Engelhardt-boats will float even if they are damage, while a normal boat will leak and sink.

The first prototypes of the "Engelhardt Collapsible Life Boats" were shown at the World's fair in Paris in 1900 and became the predicate "Mention Honorable" - After this, a company was founded in Copenhagen with the name "The Engelhardt Collapsible Life Boat Co." and the invention was patented in all important countries.

The first boat was on display in Copenhagen in 1901.   Here, the Lifesaving Department, the Navy, several ship insurance companies and all Danish and other nautical magazines spoke for the boat and predicted a great future.

In America, the boat was introduced to the officers of the warship "Illinois".   After this, they ordered from Gibraltar, one of the boat for trials. This boat was delivered, while the "Illinois" was docked in Chatham.

At the same time, the English Admiralty ordered a 20'-boat, which was delivered to the state shipyard in Portsmouth in May 1903.

After the trial boat of the "Illinois" was tested under all possibility's during a period of 8 months, the American Navy ordered a 24' and a 26'-boat, which was delivered to the shipyard in Boston.

The Commander of the "Illinois", Captain G. N. Converse, sent the following report about the trail boat to Washington. The stated flaws in this report are eliminated in the meanwhile.


1. In accordance with the instructions contained in a letter dated August 3 rd, 1903, and signed by C. F. Hjort, Mr. Engelhardt's representative in England, I have this date landed at the Navy Yard, in care of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, an "Engelhardt Collapsible Lifeboat", which was loaned to this ship while in England last summer.

2. For your information I quote the following from a report made in regard to this boat:

"The Engelhardt Collapsible Lifeboat, is, as it's name implies a collapsible boat, and as such, in my opinion the best of the type.

The one we have on board is 20' 10" long, 7' 2" beam, and when extended ready to use, 2' 5" high; but when folded for stowage, 1' high. It weights 810 pounds. It has been tried on several occasions, and will readily accommodate thirty-five (35) men. It has been habitually carried on top of the after turret, and eight men can prepare it for use and launch it."

"I regard the design of the boat as excellent for the purpose for which it is intended. The mechanical apertures for distending it requires remodeling in several details, and the waterproof canvas with which the boat is covered, is to light and not sufficiently durable. If these defects are remedied, the boat would in my opinion, be a serviceable part of the outfit of large vessels.

Yours respectfully.
G. N. Converse,
Captain, U. S. N.

The rest of the article deals with the possibility to use the boat also for the Army as pontoon bridges.

The following pictures fig. 5 and 6 show the Engelhardt-boats, which were used on Titanic. As it can be seen, these boats were slightly different from the ones described above. Titanic's Engelhardts had a real hull, which might be a later invention, to give the boats a better stability at sea. What can also be seen is, that the inner planking of the floating body was straight, not diagonal as fig. 1 shows. But it has to be taken into consideration, that the Engelhardt described in the text might have been an early prototype, and that until these boats were ordered for Titanic, 9 years would have passed.

Fig. 5. Titanic's Engelhardt-boat C

Fig. 6. Titanic's Engelhardt-boat A, found by Oceanic one month after the disaster, still afloat

In my opinion the article shows, that the Engelhardt-boats were better then they are always be taken for in Titanic literature. They were as safe as a sea going lifeboat, and not merely a weak substitute, which can be also seen by the fact, that Titanic's Engelhardt boat A stayed afloat for a month, until it was found by the Oceanic drifting in the open sea with three dead bodies onboard.

June 2000
Robert Hahn


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