Coal and Sparks shooting out of the Funnels

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Aaron_2016

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I wonder if the funnel fell at the same moment of the break like in this animaiton:

If I recall correctly, Lightoller remembered seeing the second funnel being submerged by actually quite a bit but never saw its collapse.

Jack Thayer also describes the break and then the second funnel. "One of the funnels seemed to be lifted off and fell towards me about 15 yards away, with a mass of sparks and steam coming out of it. I saw the ship in a sort of a red glare, and it seemed to me that she broke in two just in front of the third funnel."

Possibly this could mean that the second funnel collapsed right in front of him as the ship had broken apart, and when the funnel wasn't a concern to him anymore, he noticed that the stern had broken off.

Could the tensions caused by the break have transferred sparks and debris up through the funnel?
Wonder what caused the ship to roll so violently and if this caused the ship to twist and buckle apart, or if this was the immediate after effect of the initial buckling and rapid flooding. Mrs. Hippach described the ship twisting and then breaking into three. Lightoller described the ship - "reeling for a moment, then plunging" and how there was - "An explosion, there was another explosion, and I came to the surface. The ship seemed to be heaving tremendous sighs as she went down."

The reeling and twisting of the ship from side to side, forward to back, must have been a significant part of the breaking. John Haggan said - "The ship was shaking very much, part of it being under water. On looking up at it, I could see death in a minute for us as the forward funnel was falling and it looked a certaintly it would strike our boat and smash it to pieces."

Mary Glynn was in lifeboat 13 which was estimated to be half a mile away when the Titanic went down. Mary said: "We watched the Titanic rolling and bobbing like a cork. All her lights were burning, and over the water we caught the strains of 'Nearer, My God, to Thee.’ Finally Titanic ceased rolling, seemed to hesitate a moment, and plunged her bow into the ocean." She also said - "There was a terrific explosion, which threw the water in a turmoil, and fragments of the ship were hurled high into the air. I supposed the boilers had exploded."

Emily Hart was also in her lifeboat and saw millions of sparks fly into the air when she appeared to explode and break apart. What is interesting is that she was able to identify the furniture etc that was blown a considerable distance away from the ship and when the "millions of sparks" illuminated the sky and reflected on the ocean (lighting it up as well) she was able to see a considerable amount of wreckage floating close by. e.g. "She appeared to be breaking in halves.........For a few moments we could see everything that was happening, for, as the vessel sank, millions and millions of sparks flew up and lit everything around us, and in an instant the sea was alive with wreckage."

Mr. Osman testified that the explosions threw coal, smoke and steam up through the funnels and then the stern righted herself. I believe Mr. Hyman saw the same thing, as he heard the steam escaping and saw parts of the ship blown into the air.

Mr. Hyman
"There came a terrible explosion, and I could see men, women and pieces of the ship blown into the air from the after deck. Later I saw bodies partly blown to pieces floating around, and I am sure more than a hundred persons were blown off into the sea by that explosion. A terrible hissing of steam began and the awful cry went on. I tried to close my ears, but there was some mysterious attraction and I had to hear that cry. The hissing and screaming kept up, and finally the ship seemed to right itself."


I believe the animations presented by honor and glory are too brief and the sinking must have been much more chaotic and violent, maybe even unpredictable, as the funnels collapsed in different directions and water rushed into all sides of her forward and aft on both sides, but considerably unevenly as ruptured decks, hull plating, and opened windows would allow the ship to settle on all sides very rapidly which tilted the ship and rolled her back and forth and threw the funnels over and she buckled completely, broke and sank. I believe this is something that would be incredibly hard for a single survivor to describe in one brief statement and why there were so many survivor accounts that seemingly portray the sinking in a different way, especially as they observed the ship from different perspectives at different times of the sinking.


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Kyle Naber

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I think the recent video of THG's breakup seems pretty violent to me, especially if you're there in real life. Yes, it settles somewhat slowly, but you have to picture yourself as small as one of those people clinging on the decks or watching from the boats. You'd hear the "explosion," the break bobs up like a cork and pieces fall out of the opening, the funnels collapse and most of the lights go out. If you didn't know what was happening completely (everyone witnessing it) it would seem like something extremely catastrophic like boilers exploding was happening. But really, the weight of the stern just had to be relieved.
 
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Scott Mills

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Old news, but there is good evidence of catastrophic implosion damage on some of the boilers in the debris field. This is exactly what one would expect in the case of a boiler failure resulting from cold water coming into contact with an active boiler. Given that, I suspect that, as David points out, water finally came into contact with some of the lit boilers, which were being used to keep the electrical dynamo's, pumps, lights, and electrical equipment running. The resulting implosion would then cause water to flash to steam, with a corresponding explosive force, or "boom!"

The detritus from the boiler room, including the still smoldering remnants of what was in the boiler (or boilers), would then be carried by the steam along the path of least resistance: up, and then out of the funnel.

Occam's razor is very sharp, and this seems like the simplest, and thus most likely, explanation for the phenomena/event reported by the survivors.
 
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chrismireya

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You can see a similar effect here as this vessel sinks, though without the soot igniting. Skip to 2:10.

I appreciate this video (at the 2:10 mark). I think that this is the smoke that people actually saw.

However, I don't know if anyone can truly account for the sparks -- because I don't know that anything would explain it.

It could simply be an example of people who saw the smoke repeating what others have said about the sparks. Sometimes, collective memories are a bit more unreliable than individual memories because of influence -- especially in a "fog of war" type of scenario. The sinking was quite slow -- until it rapidly sped up near the end.

When I read through all of the Titanic testimonies, I feel that some people are more trustworthy than others. Obviously, those who watched it sink saw different things depending upon where they were during the sinking. Some lifeboats were far away while others were somewhat closer to the ship. Moreover, the perspective differs from the list on the port side versus the view of boats looking at the ship from the bow, stern or starboard sides. And, of course, all of these testimonies were from sea level -- further beguiling the perspectives of lifeboats located all around Titanic.
 
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Rancor

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I appreciate this video (at the 2:10 mark). I think that this is the smoke that people actually saw.

However, I don't know if anyone can truly account for the sparks -- because I don't know that anything would explain it.

It could simply be an example of people who saw the smoke repeating what others have said about the sparks. Sometimes, collective memories are a bit more unreliable than individual memories because of influence -- especially in a "fog of war" type of scenario. The sinking was quite slow -- until it rapidly sped up near the end.

When I read through all of the Titanic testimonies, I feel that some people are more trustworthy than others. Obviously, those who watched it sink saw different things depending upon where they were during the sinking. Some lifeboats were far away while others were somewhat closer to the ship. Moreover, the perspective differs from the list on the port side versus the view of boats looking at the ship from the bow, stern or starboard sides. And, of course, all of these testimonies were from sea level -- further beguiling the perspectives of lifeboats located all around Titanic.
Sparks could have been caused by the soot igniting?
 

Scott Mills

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I appreciate this video (at the 2:10 mark). I think that this is the smoke that people actually saw.

However, I don't know if anyone can truly account for the sparks -- because I don't know that anything would explain it.

It could simply be an example of people who saw the smoke repeating what others have said about the sparks. Sometimes, collective memories are a bit more unreliable than individual memories because of influence -- especially in a "fog of war" type of scenario. The sinking was quite slow -- until it rapidly sped up near the end.

When I read through all of the Titanic testimonies, I feel that some people are more trustworthy than others. Obviously, those who watched it sink saw different things depending upon where they were during the sinking. Some lifeboats were far away while others were somewhat closer to the ship. Moreover, the perspective differs from the list on the port side versus the view of boats looking at the ship from the bow, stern or starboard sides. And, of course, all of these testimonies were from sea level -- further beguiling the perspectives of lifeboats located all around Titanic.
I tend to think that there was a catastrophic boiler failure, which blew the coal dust and embers out through the path of least resistance; however, you are absolutely correct about memory, how it has a strong social component, and that this social component can result in people actually remembering things that did not actually happen, or things that they were not actually present to see.

I always, always keep this in mind when reading descriptions of Titanic's survivors; and unfortunately, those survivors had multiple days on Carpathia, isolated and only in communication with themselves over a traumatic incident.

Just based on what we know about human psychology and social psychology, how humans process traumatic events--work almost immediately begins with everyone experiencing the event discussing it and attempting to universalize their experiences--that time on Carpathia means we are almost always going to need to read between the lines with survivor testimony, and this leaves aside the issue of Titanic's crew maybe saying things they know to be less than true to limit their, and White Star's, culpability in Titanic's loss.

And, as it goes, it is typically the first descriptions of an event (those descriptions closest in time to the actual event they are describing) are usually far more 'accurate' than those written down in a memoir 30 years on.
 
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Tim Aldrich

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I tend to think that there was a catastrophic boiler failure, which blew the coal dust and embers out through the path of least resistance;
The path of least resistance would not likely have been out of the funnels. The path of least resistance would have been right into the boiler rooms themselves. Pressure certainly could have come out of the Fidley trunks as they were basically open right down to the boiler rooms. I would think that if a boiler did explode it would have extinguished its own fires via the water which was once contained in the boiler.
 

Scott Mills

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You are correct, but... remembering I am neither a physicist or an engineer, you would have to keep in mind a few things:

  • A catastrophic boiler failure would most likely be the result of cold water touching the hot boiler;
    • This would mean that the boiler room would be, at least partially, occupied by water;
  • The boiler failure, on its own, would result in an implosion, and then an explosion;
    • During this process a lot of explosive force would be generated by water flashing to steam;
  • The boilers were very directly connected to the ships funnels;
Therefore, if a boiler failure were to have occurred there would, within less than a second, have been an incredible amount of over pressure created. Some of this pressure would go into the boiler room itself, you are correct; however, much of that room, normally occupied with air, will be occupied with water.

Because the air pressure will follow outwards along the path of least resistance, air would be pushed to where there is less air pressure, and not into the water (at least not much of it). This means out any opening the pressure wave has access to... and the path of least resistance for that pressure wave, given the conditions of a partially flooded boiler room, is going to be up and out of the boiler ventilation system--and through the funnel.

Also, this explanation has the happy side effect (well not so much for the people on Titanic) of being able to explain why the witnesses not only reported steam and soot coming up, and out of the funnels, but also the smoldering embers of coal.

Finally remember some of the boilers in the debris fields show evidence that they failed in the catastrophic way we are describing here.
 
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Rancor

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Possibly he was referring to boilers visible in BR2 which show some damage.
 

Tim Aldrich

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I've been thinking about my previous post, Mr. Mill's reply and the video Rancor shared. I would like to write something more detailed to make my point but I don't think my literary skills are up to the task. What I can do is ask you to study the style of boilers in Titanic vs. Norway and the path burning coal would have to take in order to exit via a stack. Titanic had fire tube/water tank (depending on who you talk to) boilers and Norway had water tube boilers and that is my main consideration. The weak points in each style of boiler would also have to be taken into consideration but I don't even know where to begin with that question.
 
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Rancor

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In my unqualified opinion I don't think there was a boiler explosion. Sparks and stuff from funnel possibly due to massive rush of air due to water quickly flooding a boiler room.

If there was going to be a boiler explosion it would have been in BR6 in the moments afterimpact as there were 4 hot boilers under full ahead conditions and the compartment seems to have flooded quickly.
 

Scott Mills

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I like this video. It's a good illustration.

It is interesting to speculated at how much like this a boiler failure on Titanic during the sinking might have looked, because:
  • SS Norway (formerly SS France) was not using coal boilers, but rather fuel oil boilers--I am actually kind of surprised that Norway still had a steam plant at all in 2007! But that's another discussion;
  • I am not sure what state Norway's boilers were in at the time of the explosion, but on Titanic most of the boilers had been, at a minimum, put on 'stand by.' This meant that heat was still being generated, but not nearly as much as if the boilers were generating steam; and
  • Excess steam had been, or was in the process of being, bled off;
Finally, I think it is important to note the difference between Norway's funnels and Titanic's. First, as I recall Titanic's funnels were 'higher,' and by this I mean the distance from the top of the funnel to the deck was a bit greater; and second, Norway's funnels had a 'wing' vent on each side of each funnel (4 in total).

This is why, in that video, the soot seems to come out of the side of the funnels and the debris cloud seems to hug the deck and the sides of the ship.
 

Scott Mills

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In my unqualified opinion I don't think there was a boiler explosion. Sparks and stuff from funnel possibly due to massive rush of air due to water quickly flooding a boiler room.

If there was going to be a boiler explosion it would have been in BR6 in the moments afterimpact as there were 4 hot boilers under full ahead conditions and the compartment seems to have flooded quickly.
I don't think so. I am fairly certain, and by fairly I am as close to certain as I can possibly get until someone manages to get an ROV into the boiler rooms, that Beauchamp's testimony is more accurate than Barrett's.

And as you know, both Beauchamp's and Barrett's testimony matches perfectly until the impact. Barrett says that water came gushing into BR 6; whereas Beauchamp perfectly describes everything Barrett does until the collision.

After the collision Beauchamp says there was no water, and the firemen calmly finished stoking down the boilers. When Beauchamp is ordered up on deck, he does report water; however, he says that water is slowly seeping up from the stoker plates on the floor.

Then you have to remember that:
  • Titanic's engines were ordered to make revolutions again after the collision;
    • Evidence from the engine room and turbine room suggests 'slow ahead' while Quarter Master Olliver testifies seeing Captain Smith move the telegraph from 'stop' to 'half-ahead' after the collision;
    • There is evidence to suggest Titanic continued in this way from somewhere between 2 and 25 minutes. Personally, I thin we can narrow that to between 5 and 15 minutes, but this is one of the (in my mind) really open questions left about what happened on Titanic immediately after the collision;
  • In any case, Titanic need some boilers to continue steam production to generate electricity;

Unfortunately, none of the engineering crew tasked with trying to keep Titanic afloat survived; however, we do know that some of the water tight doors separating the boiler rooms were manually opened at some point to run lines for pumps forward. What we do not know is whether or not those doors were ever closed again, which were closed, or when they were closed.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that there is actual evidence from the wreck sight, that shows that some of the boilers have exactly the kind of damage one would expect them to have if they failed--keeping in mind that a boiler explosion does not mean that the boiler itself 'explodes'--at least not in the context we are discussing here.
 
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Scott Mills

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The boilers in the debris field are from BR #1. They were not lit and were from the break area.
No boiler explosion.
Ioannis, you are doing history by fiat again. There is a whole thread on this, so I won't regurgitate those arguments, but suffice it to say there evidence the boilers have damage caused specifically by the implosion.

In fact, evidence from the First World War also supports that Titanic's boilers could fail, stoked down or not.
 
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Ioannis, you are doing history by fiat again.
Sorry, no idea what you mean with that.



There is a whole thread on this, so I won't regurgitate those arguments, but suffice it to say there evidence the boilers have damage caused specifically by the implosion.
Which boilers? BR #2? BR #1?

In fact, evidence from the First World War also supports that Titanic's boilers could fail, stoked down or not.
Ships had different types of boilers, Titanic's are from scotch-type which are (generally said) not to easily explode.
 
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I don't think so. I am fairly certain, and by fairly I am as close to certain as I can possibly get until someone manages to get an ROV into the boiler rooms, that Beauchamp's testimony is more accurate than Barrett's.

And as you know, both Beauchamp's and Barrett's testimony matches perfectly until the impact. Barrett says that water came gushing into BR 6; whereas Beauchamp perfectly describes everything Barrett does until the collision.

After the collision Beauchamp says there was no water, and the firemen calmly finished stoking down the boilers. When Beauchamp is ordered up on deck, he does report water; however, he says that water is slowly seeping up from the stoker plates on the floor.
Aside that this had been discussed several times on other threats, others confirm Barretts version like leading stoker Hendrickson.
 

Rancor

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Ioannis, you are doing history by fiat again. There is a whole thread on this, so I won't regurgitate those arguments, but suffice it to say there evidence the boilers have damage caused specifically by the implosion.

In fact, evidence from the First World War also supports that Titanic's boilers could fail, stoked down or not.
Would have to agree with Ioannis on this one. Lots of testimony about boiler room one never being lit.

I suspect you are referring to BR2 as visible in the wreck?

Regarding Beauchamp and Barratt, if you put Beauchamp in the forward end of BR5 his testimony matches Barratt's perfectly.