At what depth did the stern implode?


Arun Vajpey

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I find the conjecture that the sinking stern of the Titanic 'imploded' soon after sinking rather difficult to comprehend, particularly in relation to the sinking stern. Why would the air pockets "burst inwards"?

I am a retired scuba diver and have visited over 25 ship wrecks around the world. Some, like the San Francisco Maru in Truk Lagoon, lie 50 metres deep. Most wrecks that I have seen are due to war damage - torpedoes and bombs - while others are due to collision with reefs, intentional scuttling etc. Most would have had large air pockets within them when they went down but none showed any signs of explosion or implosion due to pressure build-up. AFAIK, the wreck of the Lusitania, around 100 metres deep, does not show such damage either.

I realise that the wreck of the Titanic is far, far deeper and that there is some evidence of implosion but my question is at what stage of the sinking - more precisely at what depth - could it have occurred? When the ship split in half, the deck spaces in the unflooded stern section would have been exposed, yes. But there still would have been a few intact bulkheads between the split section and the extreme stern of the ship. My thinking is that it would have taken the flooding sea some time - perhaps as much as a minute - to traverse all those remaining bulkheads and other obstructions to reach and flood the rearmost spaces after the stern sank. During that time the trapped air in the stern would have been compressed and built-up pressure, which in theory might have resulted in an explosion rather than implosion. In reality, it is probably likely that the water rushing in through open portholes and other spaces equalised the pressure changes to some extent and so the implosion would not have occurred till the stern sank to perhaps 200 metres or more before the outside water pressure became too much for the hull.

That is my conjecture, anyway. Can someone with more knowledge of the physics involved please explain this further?
 

Kyle Naber

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I think Cameron and his team estimated that the implosion took place within the first couple hundred feet. This means that it was pretty soon after the stern disappeared for good. I forget where, but there is some testimony about hearing explosions after the ship completely sank from underneath the surface.
It was probably something like this:
 

Arun Vajpey

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Cameron et al might have estimated that way but how does it explain the fact that the Lusitania, over 300 feet deep, did not implode? Or other similar wrecks? I know that the Titanic split in two, but why would flooding through opened-up deck spaces hasten implosion? If anything, the water inside would reduce the pressure gradient with the water outside and delay implosion, as far as I can understand.
 

Kyle Naber

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It’s possible that the weakened structure made is more vulnerable to pressure damage. A pop can with some gashes in it is easier to be flattened than an untouched can.
 

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