Could the stern have floated?

mitfrc

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Well, that's true for the entire Titanic disaster; I mean, the best way to save more lives would have been to fully load the lifeboats by mustering people on the boat deck and forgetting the gangways, because the boats were rated for it. But the lack of adequate operational practices meant nobody remembered the boats were rated for it, and so they sent a team below to the gangways which may have brought the end about a few minutes earlier and ended up costing several hundred people their lives by failing to fully load the boats.

Speaking of which, one article I will post that I've been working on for a bit is an operational engineering analysis of how many lifeboats, based on the best available documentation of the historical performance, that Titanic could have successfully launched. The bottom line is that there was no point in fitting more than 32 as not even the lines could be cut in time for more assuming the first priority was launching; and only 26 - 28 could have been properly launched. I look forward to posting it for critique and commentary, though. I know a lot of work in the past has correctly assessed that Titanic could have never put enough boats in the water; but I think I might be the first to try and actually use process engineering to quantify the number, and if not, I'd really love to see who did. Kind of a divergence, I grant, but this topic doesn't have much more to it unless someone else really, really wants to understand the exact structural reasons the stern didn't float.
 
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SmileyGirl

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I study design histories and I'm trained in damage control. I am extremely aware of the problems. We could have ourselves quite the time going over this in detail but it would miss the point that the subdivision and building standards for a merchant vessel are very different from that of a warship. The latter is designed to take a lot of abuse, the first is not.

Not that the purpose made designs always work out in practice. The Audacious was an example of that. Great when dealing with shellfire at the level or even from above, but not so swift when eating a torpedo.

As often as not, it isn't even the design which is at fault as it is the operational practices. The Britannic learned this the hard way when Iceberg Charlie parked the thing on a mine. It would have floated so much better if the watertight doors had been closed! ;)
It’s such a shame Titanic was not built like a warship :(
 

mitfrc

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It’s such a shame Titanic was not built like a warship :(
I doubt Fuso's stern would have floated for two hours when she was commissioned in 1915; coal scuttles made water-tightness almost impossible in Edwardian warships, and there was a relaxation of requirements in ships after Dreadnought (which the Japanese largely duplicated) due to the difficulty of operations with the extreme level of watertight subdivision that was successfully obtained in the Lord Nelson class and Dreadnought. Normally for civilian ships, the gold standard is Great Eastern; if Titanic's subdivision had been carried out on the same level as Great Eastern she would have easily survived, the full double hull being the most obvious example of why, no ship splitting in two required. But Great Eastern was a dysfunctional black hole for money to be poured into as a liner, and part of it was that the lavishness of her internal subdivision actively hindered her operation and her passenger carriage.

And, as an aside, let's say Titanic's stern had floated as long as Fuso's did at Surigao Strait? Carpathia's lights would be sighted 1 hour and 10 minutes into a 2 hour clock; she would be alongside 20 minutes before the stern sank, and she would be incredibly unlikely to rescue more than a few hundred additional souls as a consequence. Rostron took risks but there are no risks to take here; it wouldn't be a risk but a matter of fact that any ship lashed to Titanic's rapidly settling stern would be dragged down with her. He would have to use boats, and then stand in with nets once the stern sank. Most of those on the stern would still perish.

It's all quite silly, really, though Suevic shows how the stern of a liner really could float and be brought into port. But the number of incidents like this are incredibly small. Though there was one freighter on the Great Lakes which broke in two during a storm and then the stern, still under power, rammed the bow! That one was one in a million...
 

Kyle Naber

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Because the stern sank, does that mean the double bottom failed when the stern was already being pulled down? If the double bottom separated when the stern was in a near horizontal position, would it still have sank due to its port list?
 
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SmileyGirl

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I doubt Fuso's stern would have floated for two hours when she was commissioned in 1915; coal scuttles made water-tightness almost impossible in Edwardian warships, and there was a relaxation of requirements in ships after Dreadnought (which the Japanese largely duplicated) due to the difficulty of operations with the extreme level of watertight subdivision that was successfully obtained in the Lord Nelson class and Dreadnought. Normally for civilian ships, the gold standard is Great Eastern; if Titanic's subdivision had been carried out on the same level as Great Eastern she would have easily survived, the full double hull being the most obvious example of why, no ship splitting in two required. But Great Eastern was a dysfunctional black hole for money to be poured into as a liner, and part of it was that the lavishness of her internal subdivision actively hindered her operation and her passenger carriage.

And, as an aside, let's say Titanic's stern had floated as long as Fuso's did at Surigao Strait? Carpathia's lights would be sighted 1 hour and 10 minutes into a 2 hour clock; she would be alongside 20 minutes before the stern sank, and she would be incredibly unlikely to rescue more than a few hundred additional souls as a consequence. Rostron took risks but there are no risks to take here; it wouldn't be a risk but a matter of fact that any ship lashed to Titanic's rapidly settling stern would be dragged down with her. He would have to use boats, and then stand in with nets once the stern sank. Most of those on the stern would still perish.

It's all quite silly, really, though Suevic shows how the stern of a liner really could float and be brought into port. But the number of incidents like this are incredibly small. Though there was one freighter on the Great Lakes which broke in two during a storm and then the stern, still under power, rammed the bow! That one was one in a million...
Thanks for the info :)
 
Wow, this is a really old thread, so sorry if I'm a bit late to the party here.

To answer your question if the stern could float by itself - hypothetically yes, but practically no. The reason I say hypothetically is because many large ships have broken into two pieces with both or at least one of the two staying afloat (Baltimore class cruiser USS Pittsburgh, the SS Pendleton and SS Fort Mercer).

However they were made much differently than the titanic in that they were assembled in parts made separately that came together only when the skeleton of ship's hull was completed at the shipyard. Titanic was made piece by piece, meaning plates had to overlap with rivet construction as well as the fact that there were no exact pressure points where the ship was weak overall aside from the individual rows of rivets, which are small in the grand scheme of the ship's size.

That means when it broke it was an ugly break that bent bulkheads and everything in the vicinity. That does not mean it could not happen but does make it highly unlikely, especially once you factor in the weight of the engines in the belly of the ship and superstructure balancing on what little was left of the now structurally unstable vessel.
 
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It’s such a shame Titanic was not built like a warship :(
There would have been little point in doing so. There are a lot of problems with dealing with the sort of watertight subdivision you see on a warship, not the least of which is training the crew to set it properly and keeping them trained. With a warship, you have a crew aboard long term with a relatively low turnover rate. This makes is relatively easy to get them up to the acceptable standards and keep them there. Even then, from the time a given unit starts it's workups to combat readiness, it still takes a year or more to get them up to par.

A merchant vessel rarely has any sort of permanent cadre and has a very high rate of turnover since. The guy who is there now wasn't there for the previous voyage and won't be there for the next. Since customarily, crew signed for the voyage and that was it, that makes it extremely difficult to keep people around who are fully trained on every single fitting (And there are thousands...literally thousands!) which has to be set properly!
 
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mitfrc

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No, it's okay, none of this is obvious. Take for example bringing the pipes forward from the shaft alley to, IIRC, Boiler Room 4, where they actually re-opened watertight doors on the Titanic. That would have been impossible on Great Eastern or Dreadnought, because there were no watertight doors. Just solid bulkheads. You would have to move the equipment up to the main deck and back down--which is fine with the huge crew of a warship and no consideration for the layout of public spaces, because there are none, and damage control is a critical function. But none of that is true for a liner (which then explains part of why Great Eastern didn't make money). Note that as equipment got better, in particular oil firing of boilers, this was progressively mitigated.
 
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SmileyGirl

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Thanks. I know this is a thread about the stern but just a quick question. After Titanic sank, they extended Olympic’s double bottom and the bulkheads. So if these had been done on Titanic, would she most definitely have stayed afloat with the damage sustained? Thomas Andrews wanted these things done didn’t he but he was ignored, is that right? Apologies if this has been discussed, I’m new and it’s going to take ages to read everything!
 

mitfrc

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It is correct that Olympic was subjected to a very substantial reconstruction. As for Andrews, he is reported to have wanted a double-hulled ship or at least a double bottom extended higher up the hull, and the bulkheads extending to B deck, you are correct. But it is very hard to say what impact this would have had because so much of the problem in a circumstance like Titanic's is in terms of progressive flooding, which is the intrusion of water into undamaged spaces through failed glands, pass-thru seals, and the fitness and seal of bulkhead doors and especially coal scuttles. So when the watertight doors closed, did they actually close, or did the collision derange them? So, it's very difficult to say, because so much evidence is circumstantial, how much the Titanic's situation would be improved. I think it would have definitely been improved, but enough to save the ship? Or enough to keep her afloat until multiple vessels were carrying off passengers the next day? And if saved, under her own power, or towed to Halifax after being evacuated of passengers?

I do however believe Olympic and Britannic were the safest passenger ships in the world in 1915. And look what happened to Britannic.
 
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SmileyGirl

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Thanks very much. If only to have stayed afloat for another 2 hours! I wish we had the answers. Yes, of course, poor Britannic. Those three ships didn’t have much luck at all did they!
 
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I see. Sorry I’m a bit naive on this, I just know the basics.
Everybody is on a learning curve.
I do however believe Olympic and Britannic were the safest passenger ships in the world in 1915. And look what happened to Britannic.
Britannic might have managed done a LOT better if the watertight doors had been closed. Obviously there's some fudge factor here because we have no idea how much distortion would have been caused by the mine's explosion. Given a sufficient amount of racking and anything can be distorted, but in my opinion, had all of the doors been shut in the first place, the ship would have survived.
 
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SmileyGirl

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Thanks Michael but you guys know so much on here about the ins and outs of everything that I’ve never even thought of (I’ve only read about 20 general books on it). I am looking forward to learning all about the small details. I realise I know nothing about the sea either!
 
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mitfrc

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Thanks Michael but you guys know so much on here about the ins and outs of everything that I’ve never even thought of (I’ve only read about 20 general books on it). I am looking forward to learning all about the small details. I realise I know nothing about the sea either!
Apologising isn't necessary at all. I'm really happy people are interested in learning the ins and outs of naval architecture, which is a really rare subject these days in the western countries. I studied Ocean Engineering (basically interdisciplinary engineering for marine applications--ROVs, offshore platforms, offshore wind, buoys, etc) precisely because there weren't many career opportunities for proper Naval Architects, and now I work professionally as the manager of a couple of tow tanks, a wave tank, and hydraulic flume, but most of my knowledge of this is because I'm a nerd and I spent most of the period of 1999 - 2005 posting on the old warships1.com forums before they went to heck. Part of my job is to handle public outreach and I love fielding sincere questions, so ask away.

Michael H. Standart said:
Britannic might have managed done a LOT better if the watertight doors had been closed. Obviously there's some fudge factor here because we have no idea how much distortion would have been caused by the mine's explosion. Given a sufficient amount of racking and anything can be distorted, but in my opinion, had all of the doors been shut in the first place, the ship would have survived.
Absolutely no disagreement from me... I was actually bringing it up to drive home the point that operational decisions are everything. Britannic should have survived the damage; and if Britannic was sinking, her lifeboat davit system should have carried everyone away safely. Neither happened because of operational decisions.
 
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SmileyGirl

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That’s awesome. A lot of this is well over my head but I shall try and understand. I know nothing of seafaring generally which is sad. My New Years Resolution is to learn more about these aspects of Titanic and not just know about the people aboard.
 
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I learned at least the fundamentals of naval engineering because I had to. Since I've been running with the techies and forensics people within the community, I had to understand such things as stability curves, margin lines and construction fundamentals above and beyond my training in damage control. That way, I would know what they were talking about and I could make a useful contribution to the discussion.

Britannic should have survived the damage; and if Britannic was sinking, her lifeboat davit system should have carried everyone away safely. Neither happened because of operational decisions.
Unfortunately, the Royal Navy and the merchant marine back in World War One didn't take the threat of mines as seriously as the should have. Even after the loss of the Audacious, some of the skippers out there just weren't getting the message. Those watertight doors and the portholes on E-Deck should never have been open in waters infested with hostile submarines and which were known to be mined.
 
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mitfrc

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They learned, though, and Harland and Wolff had started building massively more resilient ships after the sting of Titanic. Though she was ultimately sunk, Justicia's incredible resilience, taking six torpedo hits (granted, it's still debated how many exploded, possibly as few as half) and taking three hours to sink after the last two struck her, demonstrates what acceptable merchant design practice could do, with all lessons fully learned, in late WW1 -- that is a level of underwater damage no capital ship survived in WW1, and many foundered in minutes after taking as few as two torpedo hits.
 

Scott Cosso

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When the titanic broke in two initially, the keel still attached the two together. At this this time the titanic's stern fell back to even level. The Titanic's sunken bow pulled the stern back up before breaking free, putting to stern in a position to sink. The stern had little to no water in it at the time. So if it was level could it have floated if the bow broke completely free or would the weight proportion pull it down anyways? Any thoughts to this subject would be appreciated.