Back Stern Tunnel

John Senchak

Dec 26, 2004
Okay the back tunnel behind the Electric
room was a small space below the Refrigerated
cargo hold on the Orlop deck.
My question has, 3 parts

Did hatch 6 go down to this space. Was
there any ladders from upper decks that went
down this far. Was the only entrance though
the Electric engine room through the water
tight door. Was there more then one entrance
to this section.

Besides the 3 large shafts was there anything
else that was confined to this area. I realize
that this was a very limited area but I would think that there was pumps or suction pipes.
The shafts went to the outside though huge bearings of some sort and there must have been some seawater coming in from the outside.
This area was more then likly prone to a small amount water leakage as the shafts turned. Right!

Last but not least, As the ship was sinking
do you think the men that kept the lights
and boilers going went to this section of the ship as the end neared. As the ship listed more and more on a angle, if these brave men didn't take the ladders out wouldn't this be a logical place for them to go. My point here is that most of the workers that died in the engine/boiler room may have seen there horrible end in the tunnel.

Some men may have gone there if the water tight
door was accessible and then closed it behind them. They may have been still alive as the ship
sank and the water rushed in as the seawater
engulfed the stern.
If there was Air pockets the ship workers could have been alive enough before the tramatic impact
of the ship hitting the bottom. The huge force
would have killed them as the water tight
compartment fractured under the massive stress
of the impact.
Dec 2, 2000
Easley South Carolina
Hi John, you can be sure that anyone trapped in any air filled compartments didn't live to see the impact with the bottom. Every such compartment would have imploded under the pressure long befor then, and anyone inside would have been killed instantly.

Michael H. Standart

John Senchak

Dec 26, 2004
No so fast, implosion or no implosion there
is still a chance that a few crew members
could have entered the last water tight
compartment is desperation.
Even though this area was very small and
only contained the center shaft there could have
been a very small chance that they survived
for a few minutes as the ship sank to it's final
resting place.

Sure the water rushed in very fast as the stern
broke away from the bow. But as the stern went
to a steep angle any water would have rushed out
along with anything inside the ship.

In believe that in a frantic will to survive
many crew members went to the very deepest
part of the ship which was the very last propeller
shaft tunnel section.

As the ship made its final decent to the bottom
water rushed in at very fast rate and caused
a massive inrush of seawater.

Who is to say that there could have been places
like the last tunnel section or a refrigerated
cargo hold that kept a few crew members in a state
of terror as the water rushed in around them.

If they drowned or died of a lack of oxygen
it must have been a real horrible way to die.

Cal Haines

Dec 2, 2000
Tucson, AZ USA
Hi John,

There were escape ladders from the shaft tunnel. Here is Wilding's explanation:

19923. And also (an escape ladder) from the electrical machinery room? - There is a special escape up from the afterend up to E deck, and then they can come out and use the stairway. There is no exit on to B deck.

19924. Supposing there was somebody in the tunnel, what would he do? - There is a similar arrangement that brings them up into the afterend of the working passage, and then they can come out like the third class passengers.

19925. If anybody was in the after tunnel what would he do? - There is a special tunnel escape up here, up into the steering gear house (Showing.)

source: BOT Inquiry, Day 18, Wilding
As water rushed aft, following the breakup, it would first surge into the turbine engine room. The doors were equipped with a float that was designed to close the door automatically when the compartment began to flood. This should have slowed or stopped the flooding from the turbine engine room into the dynamo room, where I would expect to find the last of the engineers working. There is evidence that some of the engineers were on deck when the breakup occurred, but still, the lights stayed on almost to the end. That strongly suggests that at least a skeleton crew of engineers remained on duty in the dynamo room.

If the door to the turbine engine room didn't stop the flooding, the door into the dynamo room should have. Now, the doors relied on gravity to close, so if the trim of the stern were too extreme they might not work correctly. But when the stern settled back, shortly after the breakup, they would have had an opportunity to close.

The moment the ship broke in two, the supply of steam to both the main and emergency dynamos was cut. The ship would have been instantly plunged into darkness. Yet I think that the men in the dynamo room were not in darkness. Boilerrooms 4 through 6 lost power early on, but the lights were rapidly restored. I bet they had backup lights, either oil or battery, already burning in the dynamo room in case power was lost again--they had to be able to work in the dynamo room, and do so quickly, in order to restore power should it be lost again!

There is very little doubt in my mind that some men were trapped in the stern, much as you describe. Could they have fled from the dynamo room into the shaft tunnel? Absolutely. I would have tried for the escape ladder in the dynamo room first, but that might only work if one were up near the electrical switch board. Down on the dynamo deck, the best bet might be to duck into the shaft tunnel and try for the escape ladder just abaft the bulkhead. In all likelihood, watertight doors kept the tunnel from flooding until the stern was completely under water.

The fiddley for the forward escape ladder and the aft tunnel vent would have kept the tunnels from trapping air and imploding. The aft section of the tunnel would have lost air through the tunnel vent at the aft end, but air could have been trapped in the after part of the fore half of the tunnel, assuming that the watertight door between was closed. Unless that was the door that Greaser Scott and his mate opened to "rescue" the greaser in the tunnel, I would expect that it was closed--there would be no reason to have opened it once it was closed from the bridge.

That leaves us with the possibility of men trapped in the forward half of the shaft tunnel as the stern went under. What happened then? Water would have flooded into the tunnel via the escape fiddley. Assuming that the forward end of the tunnel remained lower than the aft, air would be trapped there. As the stern sank deeper and deeper, any air trapped would be compressed. (Implosion would not be a problem as long as water could flow in to equalize the pressure.) At a depth of about 34 feet the pressure is twice that of the surface and the air would be compressed to half it's volume. Every 34 feet adds another atmosphere of pressure. Each time the pressure doubles, the volume of the trapped air is reduced by half. By 100 feet it's down to a quarter. At 1,000 feet the volume is about 1/30th of the original amount--probably not enough of a pocket for a man to get his head into. But well before that, other factors would come into play. At about 10 atmospheres, say 300 feet, the pressure causes the oxygen in ordinary air to reach toxic levels for most individuals. Symptoms proceed from convulsions of small muscles, like facial muscles, to the entire body, then rapidly on to coma. Some can last longer, the world record free dive is to a depth of about 500 feet and US Navy SEALS must be able to tolerate Oxygen at a level roughly equivalent to that depth. But as far as I know, by the time the air pressure reaches that of a depth of 1000 feet humans cannot survive. Long before Titanic reached the bottom, over 12,000 feet below the waves, all who remained trapped inside would be dead.

Do not be tormented by the vision of men trapped on the bottom, slowly suffocating in an airtight compartment or crushed when the stern slammed into the bottom. Mercifully, death would have come more quickly than that. Even so, I have no doubt there was time for enough terror to fill a shelf-full of Stephen King Novels.



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