Break Up and Hissing Sound



One of the sounds that heard after the Titanic appeared to explode and break in two was a loud hissing sound. Survivor Abraham Hyman heard "a terrible explosion" and then "a terrible hissing of steam began and the awful cry went on." "The hissing and screaming kept up, and finally the ship seemed to right itself."

Is it possible that the hissing sound was air escaping?

Soon after the collision with the iceberg Samuel Hemming said - "I came up to ascertain where the hissing noise was still coming from. I found it was the air escaping out of the exhaust of the tank." "I found it was coming from an exhaust pipe in the four-feet tank." "Underneath the forecastle head."

When the Titanic broke in two and large sections of the ship began to flood rapidly would it cause a very loud hissing sound as the water rushed in and the air burst out rapidly through exhaust pipes?

Major Peuchen may have heard the hissing sound as well. He believed that - "The air between the decks" had caused the explosion and "I think it was the pressure, that heavy weight shoving that down, the water rushing up, and the air coming between the decks; something had to go."

However Frank Osman thought it was steam escaping as he heard and saw "steam and very black smoke" "Just after the explosion". He also saw large lumps of coal shooting out of the funnels and other survivors witnessed a fantail of red bursts shooting into the air as the ship appeared to explode and break apart.

Do you believe the hissing sound was caused by the air being released out of the ship as she broke apart and various sections flooded rapidly, or was there an explosive release of steam and smoke which propelled red hot coals into the air? Do you believe the cause of the hissing was simply an event that occurred after the break up, or was the hissing directly linked to the cause of the break up i.e. some kind of explosive release inside?

Did they hear something like this when she broke apart?

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Kyle Naber

Oct 5, 2016
The hissing was most likely the water entering the ship in large quantities like water rushing down the uptakes of the collapsed funnels, the grand stair case sky-light giving way, and water entering the break area as the stern settled back.

Julian Atkins

Sep 23, 2017
South Wales UK
Hi Aaron,

Very nice clip of Merlin.

Obviously a far too enthusiastic/inexperienced fireman on Merlin's footplate!!

I think by the time Titanic sank the boilers were pretty much finished. Just enough in the rear boilers to supply the electric generator which I suspect wouldn't have been much.

It has often surprised me about comments of Titanic's venting of the boiler safety valves a lot earlier on and the noise created. The boiler safety valves were just that, as per Board of Trade regulations for railway locomotives and ships. It is nothing surprising per se. It is what happens when a boiler's steam pressure exceeds the working pressure. The boilers lit on Titanic that night were fully fired to provide the approx 22 mph (nauticle mile) speed, then suddenly no steam demand from the engines.

Obviously (to me, and no surprise) the boiler safety valves would lift and vent with much noise and for a considerable time.

But many seem to misunderstand this occurrence.


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coal eater

Mar 1, 2018
maybe at time of breakup water was endterng boiler room 3 and steam was vened out of it? watertight doors would auto-drop because of water popping up float under floor plates so boiler room 3 might have been pretty dry even short time after break upboiler room 2 was already flooded..

on wreck we clearly see boilers from boiler room 2 to be damaged by implosion,perhaps when water rushed in the firetube was eoungh hot to react violently and implode.

the boiler implosion was minimal but example
there was not much pressure left to cause boiler total loss.

right before breakup only boilers functioning were boiler room 3 and 2 boiler room 1 was not used,coal bunkers of br 1 were empty anyway and hot start the br1 would take still up to few hours,but by looking at wreck images furnaces of boiler room 1 are very little imploded.

its easy to simulate escaping air, pull empty botle under filled with water bathtube,if looking for more effects have a 10-30 tic tac boxes, put them one after one remove the cover or rip off the closing "hatch" put some heavy things into first front tic tac box,now grab some aluminium foil roll the tic tac boxes like this UUUUUU (u= tic tac box) now make some holes in that "hull" shell plating and pull it under water, eventually try to break this construction in half while 1/2 is submerged under water and observe what happens


Mar 7, 2016
The hissing could of been from severed wires, though I doubt it... The lifeboats weren't that near the ship.