An alternate iceberg damage theory

Chad Swon

Jan 21, 2005
A friend of mine on another discussion group and I had been discussing the possibly of running aground the iceberg by the Titanic and that the damage
would have been to the very bottom of the Titanic. I am more and more
interested in the possibility that there are several
factors that if this scenario is correct that these
factors can be devastating in the behavior of the
steel plates.
First one needs to go back and read the
testimonies of those survivors who testified that the
iceberg extended above the railing and that when the
titanic side swiped the iceberg that the ship was
close enough to the wall of the ice berg that the ice
debris actually fell on board the Titanic.
Now iceberg configuration is very important to
understand. The typical iceberg floats with a average
of only 10% of the ice above water level and the
remaining 90% is submerged. This is a basic formula
but to be more exact explanation of the "tip of the
iceberg" expression can be explained as follows:
Icebergs float because the density of ice (around 900
kg per cubic meter) is lower than that of seawater
(around 1025 kg per cubic meter). The ratio of these
densities tells us that 7/8 of the iceberg's mass must
be below water. Usually icebergs are 20% to 30% longer
under the water than above and not quite as deep as
they are long at the waterline. If you look at a
surface level view of a iceberg you will see that the
submerged portion will extend in all direction past
the surface ice's walls. See the following iceberg:
Now for the Titanic to be close enough to brush the
surface walls and allow ice debrie to fall onto the
deck than it is safe to assume that she had to past
over the larger submerged counter weighted larger mass
of ice.
Now if the Titanic did ride up on this submerged
ice than a new factor is introduced! Before we were
figuring the ship's speed of 22 1/2 knots striking at
a slight angle a floating iceberg. If that were the
case that the blunt tramua force would be decreased
where as the iceberg would actually be pushed sideways
to a small degree and the Titanic would herself have
experienced a kinetic strike and would have caused the
bow of the ship to slightly bounce way from the wall
just before being forced back toward the stern when
the stern get kicked out away from the iceberg.
Factoring in the weight of the loaded payload area
and all the supplies, crews and passengers plus the
actual ship and now enter the senerio that the Titanic
did ride up on the ice. First thing you now introduce
a new factor that being the weight of the Titanic
bearing down on the irregular submerged ice surface as
it slides over the submerged ice shelf. (Not floats
over but skids across the ice with the weight of the
Titanic exerting a heavy downward force.) This would
definitely have increased the amount of force asserted
to the bottom steel plates. The weight of the Titanic
bearing down on the bottom plates in contact with the
ice would be many times greater that those plates on
the side that side swiped the side of the iceberg.
Here are some more aerial photos of icebergs where you
can see the submerged ice that extends out past the
surface walls.

Now to be close enough for the wall of most common icebergs to extend over the railing yet be close enough to fall onto the deck you can assume that the Titanic would have had to rode up on the submerged portion of the iceberg. If you go back and look at the actual Titanic iceberg and view the suspected damage the Titanic had believed to have caused on the iceberg you can see that the side of the Titanic would have actually been up against the above surface portion of the iceberg.
I tried going back and reading anything archived here about this and would appreciate any help with this. I know we very well may never know the true answer to this question and second guessing is at this time the only option but I'm from Hannibal Missouri (hometown of Molly Brown)and our state's nickname is "The Show Me State". With this I can't avoid the obvious. If it is true ice was close enough to fall from the iceberg to the deck then how could the Titinic not ground out the bottom? Where am I going awrong with this senerio?

Chad Swon

Jan 21, 2005
Thanks Erik, along with all the info I got from Dave Brown and yours together they open my eyes even more. Attending one of the upcoming symposium would be a real bonus. It doesn't look like your everyday boring chit chat goes on there! Thanks all for the replies and emails with new sights, publications and new resources in hand I will have days of reading to look forward to.

Matt Pereira

Chad well considering the very tip of the bow tapers from the width of the foreward section of B deck and then the well deck. you have to think about that. As titanic passed by the berg had an overhang possibly or maybe the way how the beg was formed titanic didnt bottom out but brushed up against a fairly straight column of ice. and if it wasnt that and she did ground on the beg she could have hit a ledge and considering the weight of the titanic caused the berg to lean inboard towards titanic and caused some ice to be shaved off in chunks onto the deck.

Jim Currie

Apr 16, 2008
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Many years ago when transiting the Belle Isle Straight in beautiful bright sunshine, I spotted two very large bergs about 15 miles ahead. They looked to be about half a mile apart. I suppose I should have taken an HSA between them but did nothing about it. As we closed the bergs; the water between them became pale green. It transpired they were joined by an underwater ice bridge which I know for certain was more than thirty feet below the surface.
It now occurs to me that the damage sustained to the bottom and sides of 'Titanic' could easily have been caused by her sheering away to one side from a perceived danger - heeling over as she did and increasing her draft on the side heeled to. This would result in a bow head on impact becoming bottoming in the vicinity of holds 1 and 2 while at the same time - a heavy setting-in of the side plating in the vicinity of the tank margins which would rise up the ships side diagonally towards the stern. As this happened; the heads of many rivets of the bow fashion plates and round of bilge plating would have been ripped off. Any signs of this?
Capt. Jim C.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
Jim, we know that rivet heads were sheered off and that seams were opened up. There are even side scan sonar images of the purported ice damage which have been "seen" below the mudline. The problem here is that some of this damage cannot be reliably differentiated from the damage the bow suffered when it struck the bottom.
Jun 12, 2004

The problem here is that some of this damage cannot be reliably differentiated from the damage the bow suffered when it struck the bottom.

Still, no 300-foot gash was found, Mike, so apparently that much has been proven, no? In this sense, the myth about the gash was busted, whether the actual area of iceberg damage is confirmed or not. We know that the damage in question was a series of seam openings and rivet poppings, so is it necessary at this point to determine what damage was actually caused by the iceberg and what was caused by the bow's impact with the bottom?​
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>so is it necessary at this point to determine what damage was actually caused by the iceberg and what was caused by the bow's impact with the bottom?<<

I don't know if I'd call it essential but it would be nice if it could be done. If, for example, it could be demonstrated that the primary through hull damage was signifigantly more or even less then the effective 9 to 12 square feet proposed by Edward Wilding, that would change are whole understanding of the disaster and raise a lot of new questions.

If it could be shown that the man was right, it would confirm a piece of information which has been around since 1912.

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