Blowing off steam


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Nov 14, 2007
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Hey all.

It's my understanding that during the early stages of the sinking, steam was released at high pressure through the funnels to prevent the boilers from blowing up.
I have some questions
Is this because they generating too much steam with the engines stopped?
and what time did this stop?
If they needed to relieve steam, why were they supposedly firing up the aux. boilers in Br.1?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Is this because they generating too much steam with the engines stopped?<<

The short version of that is "Yes."

Keep in mind that although the engines are stopped, the coal is still burning which in turn produced heat energy which is transferred to the water. It was either release the steam or risk some possibly catastrophic boiler explosions.

>>If they needed to relieve steam, why were they supposedly firing up the aux. boilers in Br.1?<<

We don't know as an absolute fact that they were doing this. They may have been getting ready to do so, but this would probably have been for a possible Monday Afternoon speed run. We do know that some boilers were kept going, but this was to provide steam to run the generators.
 

Will C. White

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Apr 18, 2007
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May have been thinking that they were losing BR 6 and maybe BR 5, so they were trying to retain enough capability to generate whatever electrical power might be needed. Unlikely, but just a thought. Imagine it wasn't apparent to all that the ship was going to founder, at least not right from the get-go.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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That they were losing BR#6 and BR#5 was a given with 6 being lost at once and 5 only a matter of time. That was why every effort was made to draw the fires in both.

While it wasn't apparant to all that the ship was going to founder, I doubt many of the engineers had any illusions. The guy who rousted the deck crew out of their racks with the warning that they didn't have more then an hour to live didn't leave much to the imagination either. They knew they were on borrowed time.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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We know from direct evidence that fires were drawn in BRs 4, 5, and 6. Most probably in BR 3 as well although there is no direct evidence of that. We also know from trimmer Dillon that fires were NOT lit in any of the 5 single-endede boilers in BR 1. He was down in the stokeholds as late as 1:20 a.m. when he and others working below were ordered up on deck. (That time was also confirmed by greaser Scott.) Since the ship was dead in the water by midnight there was no need to keep steam up in other than the two port side double-ended boilers located in BR 2 which had connection to the main dynamos, the emergency dynamos, and also to the auxiliary pipeline. These two would have produced enough steam to power all the electric dynamos and well as the pumps. They were probably kept up till the very end.
 
Nov 14, 2007
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Thankyou for all your responses. About what time did the blowing cease? on deck. I'm guessing around 1:00 because reports i've read indicate this. Can anyone provide more insight.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>About what time did the blowing cease?<<

I'm not entirely sure but I think it was around the time they started to get the lifeboats away. The problem with trying to establish a reliable timeline is that nobody was running around with a watch and a notebook. They had more pressing concerns.
 
May 3, 2005
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>>About what time did the blowing cease?<<

>>I'm not entirely sure but I think it was around the time they started to get the lifeboats away. The problem with trying to establish a reliable timeline is that nobody was running around with a watch and a notebook. They had more pressing concerns.<<

That was about the time as depicted in ANTR.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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3/O Pitman stated, "She was blowing off steam for three-quarters of an hour, I think" at the American Inquiry.

After Lightoller was informed by Boxhall that water was up to F deck in the mail room he got dressed and went out on deck for the 2nd time after the collision. He said, "At this time the steam was roaring off." He also said that men had already started to uncover the boats, and that Wilde had told him that all hands had been called up. Pitman estimated that Boxhall came by about 20 minutes after the collision. Boxhall estimated it was about 20 to 30 minutes. Lightoller thought it was about 1/2 hour. Beesley said steam was roaring off when he came back up on deck again after reading for about 10 minutes in his cabin. Before that, when he came down from the boat deck, he saw a crew member starting to uncover one of the boats on the port side aft.

Another bit of input comes from Gracie who said, "I was awakened in my stateroom at 12 o'clock. The time, 12 o'clock, was noted on my watch, which was on my dresser, which I looked at promptly when I got up. At the same time, almost instantly, I heard the blowing off of steam, and the ship's machinery seemed to stop."

What we can deduce from all of this this is that steam stared to blow off about 12 midnight and lasted for about 45 minutes, the time that first of the lifeboats started to be lowered, just before the first socket signal was fired.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Violet Jessop refers to the firemen ‘dropping the fires’ while she was in her bunk and, without giving an exact time, she implies that this emergency measure started shortly after the collision. Lawrence Beesley’s account is perhaps more accurate when he says that steam was being blown off when he went up to the boat deck to join the other second class passengers at their boat stations — this implies a gap of perhaps twenty minutes. He recalled that the ‘harsh, deafening boom’ make conversation difficult — the appalling noise being likened to ‘twenty locomotives blowing off steam in a low key’.
 
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