Damage control in 1912


Scott Mills

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Visiting this site has brought up a number of questions for me that I am sure others here are much more capable of answering.

Specifically I wonder what the state of damage control science was at the time of the sinking. For example, what type of emergency repairs could be conducted by a large liner at sea? Obviously collision plates were unavailable.

Would the engineers on board be familiar with the idea of counter flooding, not that it would have mattered at all for Titanic.

How about divers? Would Titanic have been able to send divers to ascertain the mangnitude of the damage if a collision occurred during the day?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Remedial action for damage would have included steps such as isolation (Closing watertight boundries) as well as shoring and collision mats, the materials for which were not present on the Titanic.

Divers are a non-starter for the same reasons. The essential tools were not aboard.
 

Scott Mills

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Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Remedial action for damage would have included steps such as isolation (Closing watertight boundries) as well as shoring and collision mats, the materials for which were not present on the Titanic.

Divers are a non-starter for the same reasons. The essential tools were not aboard.

That is mostly what I was wondering, but I was also curious about damage control generally as well.

For example were at sea divers available to large naval vessels like dreadnoughts or battle cruisers, or would you need a port for this. Similarly collision mats.

I'm also pretty curious if engineers on large passenger vessels would be familiar with counter flooding (as I understand it Titanic was not equipped to do so in any case).

And I assumed as much about the above availability on Titanic. For example no attempt to repair damage indicates no collision plates and I would have assumed, even if Titanic could deploy divers she would not be able to do so at night, and in any case would be pointless when it was clear the ship was going to founder.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Collision mats were fairly common on naval vessels and the idea of counterflooding as a concept was known even if it was very difficult to carry out in practice. The problem was that in the case of catastrophic damage, there weren't a lot of pumps which were capable of pumping fast enough to deal with it.

There were other problems as well, not the least of which was that even capital ships were extremely vulnerable to damage from beneath, an example of which was the battleship HMS Audacious which was sunk by a single mine. The armour was designed to deal with fire from ships fairly close at hand although the problems of plunging fire were just starting to be understood as battle ranges increased.

Naturally, this sort of understanding was of little use for liners in peacetime but it became a serious issue when some were pressed into service as armed merchant cruisers. The naval authorities on both sides found out very quickly that a civilian vessel which was built to mercentile standards didn't do very well in combat, and also had very poor endurance. That's why the armed merchant cruiser didn't last very long as an idea in either war. It just wasn't very practical.
 

Scott Mills

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Well you would have figured the Russo-japannese war would have given a small lesson in the dangers of plunging fire.

Certainly, that lesson was learned very quickly at Jutland. How many magazine explosions did the Royal Navy suffer there?

But, more on topic, I was just curious as to what might have been going through the minds of Titanic's engineering staff that night.

But, even with most of the potential remedies in mind, Titanic's crew didn't have the tools to do anymore than they did.

For example, I just saw an abstract for a lecture series given by a University of Missouri engineer that asserted counter flooding of the rear 2 compartments on Titanic could have delayed the foundering by up to 4.5 hours. That said, I am fairly sure Titanic was not actually capable of controlled counter-flooding.

So, as I said, I wonder if the same thoughts past through the minds of engineers on Titanic as she was sinking.
 
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>>Well you would have figured the Russo-japannese war would have given a small lesson in the dangers of plunging fire.<<

True, but it wasn't that much of a problem there. With battle ranges as short as they were, what was coming in was a lot more likely to hit the hull directly or glance off of the armoured deck.

>>Certainly, that lesson was learned very quickly at Jutland. How many magazine explosions did the Royal Navy suffer there?<<

Too many but plunging fire wasn't the problem. The problem was that in order to facilitate rapid fire, the practice was to load as much ammunition and powder charges in the hoists as possible, and often without shutting the flame tight doors which would prevent the explosion from going all the way down into the magazines.

>>But, more on topic, I was just curious as to what might have been going through the minds of Titanic's engineering staff that night.<<

Prayer at some point. You're right in that they didn't have the tools they needed to do what might have bought them more time. They did their best but they were overmatched and underequipped.
 
Mar 12, 2011
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>>Well you would have figured the Russo-japannese war would have given a small lesson in the dangers of plunging fire.<<

True, but it wasn't that much of a problem there. With battle ranges as short as they were, what was coming in was a lot more likely to hit the hull directly or glance off of the armoured deck.

>>Certainly, that lesson was learned very quickly at Jutland. How many magazine explosions did the Royal Navy suffer there?<<

Too many but plunging fire wasn't the problem. The problem was that in order to facilitate rapid fire, the practice was to load as much ammunition and powder charges in the hoists as possible, and often without shutting the flame tight doors which would prevent the explosion from going all the way down into the magazines.

>>But, more on topic, I was just curious as to what might have been going through the minds of Titanic's engineering staff that night.<<

Prayer at some point. You're right in that they didn't have the tools they needed to do what might have bought them more time. They did their best but they were overmatched and underequipped.

I'd be willing to wager modern liners aren't any better equipped, as far as tools or crew knowledge goes, than Titanic was in 1912, though I might be wrong.
 
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>>I'd be willing to wager modern liners aren't any better equipped, as far as tools or crew knowledge goes, than Titanic was in 1912, though I might be wrong.<<

I'll place my bets on "Better Equipped" but I won't go anywhere near "better trained." You would hope that they all would be but one of the really huge issues is that there is an extremely high rate of turnover in the crews of merchant vessels which you just don't see with a warship. With reletively stable crews and a predictable rotation, this makes it possible for a warship to train it's crew as a tream with the reasonable expectation that most of the people who are a part of it will still be around for the long haul.

You rarely see that with a merchant vessel, and that makes it very difficult to build up a team where the members know each other and what they can expect from each other.
 

Scott Mills

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I'd be willing to wager modern liners aren't any better equipped, as far as tools or crew knowledge goes, than Titanic was in 1912, though I might be wrong.

I am acquainted with two people who serve as officers on Carnival ships. While I am not a sailer, and can not really judge, they seem to be very knowledgable and well trained. And on the occasions I've heard them talk about their work they:

1. Complain about the pay versus the amount of time and apprenticeship they had to put in.

2. Complain about the high turnover in their subordinates, and have commented that there have been times when they've found themselves trying to give commands to people who can't say more than 10 phrases of English.

Also, I have been lectured to about conflating a cruise ship with a liner. Apparently they're very different and "QE2 and QM2 are the only 'liners' around."
 

Jim Currie

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Hello there guys!

Here are the basic requirements to become an officer in the British MN:

"Qualifications / Skills Required:

Deck Officers are required to undertake Merchant Navy training involving college time and sea time to work towards an Officer of the Watch Certificate of Competence. They are also required to complete STCW 95 basic safety training courses, covering personal survival techniques, fire prevention and fire fighting, elementary first aid and personal safety and social responsibilities and hold an ENG1 seafarer’s medical certificate.
Additionally, they require GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress Safety System), Medical First Aid, Advanced Fire Fighting and CPSC & RB (Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats).

Note the last paragraph! This has been mandatory for a long time!

Here it is for AB's:

"CPSC & RB (Certificate of Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats) or CPSC (Certificate of Proficiency in Survival Craft) or Lifeboatman ".


Jim C.
 
Apr 4, 2012
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>>I'd be willing to wager modern liners aren't any better equipped, as far as tools or crew knowledge goes, than Titanic was in 1912, though I might be wrong.<<

I'll place my bets on "Better Equipped" but I won't go anywhere near "better trained." You would hope that they all would be but one of the really huge issues is that there is an extremely high rate of turnover in the crews of merchant vessels which you just don't see with a warship. With reletively stable crews and a predictable rotation, this makes it possible for a warship to train it's crew as a tream with the reasonable expectation that most of the people who are a part of it will still be around for the long haul.

You rarely see that with a merchant vessel, and that makes it very difficult to build up a team where the members know each other and what they can expect from each other.
The other thing to mention is that the crew size of today's merchant and navy ships makes it very difficult to compare. While today's ships have much greater advances in damage control technology, the reduced crew sizes would make it nearly impossible to handle the level of damage that occured on Titanic...or even the levels of battle damage that warships encountered during WWI and WWII.

V/r,
Andrew C. Hochhaus
 
Apr 4, 2012
11
0
31
San Diego, CA
Hello there guys!

Here are the basic requirements to become an officer in the British MN:

"Qualifications / Skills Required:

Deck Officers are required to undertake Merchant Navy training involving college time and sea time to work towards an Officer of the Watch Certificate of Competence. They are also required to complete STCW 95 basic safety training courses, covering personal survival techniques, fire prevention and fire fighting, elementary first aid and personal safety and social responsibilities and hold an ENG1 seafarer’s medical certificate.
Additionally, they require GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress Safety System), Medical First Aid, Advanced Fire Fighting and CPSC & RB (Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats).

Note the last paragraph! This has been mandatory for a long time!

Here it is for AB's:

"CPSC & RB (Certificate of Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats) or CPSC (Certificate of Proficiency in Survival Craft) or Lifeboatman ".


Jim C.

Essentially the same for the US Merchant Marine as standardized by STCW 95
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Remember it well. Had to up-grade my 'Ticket' for that (was bloody-well insulted!)

On the subject of crew numbers, I think you were referring to modern-day cargos ship crew sizes.

In the case of Titanic, she had a ratio of 1 crew member for 2.7 passengers. Whereas, the modern cruise liner ... the MS Queen Victoria to be specific has 2.2 passengers per crew member.

Personally, I think the Titanic lads did really well and would compare well with their modern counterparts who have all that extra training.

The big problem with non-seafarers is that they can't get their heads round the reasons for not loading the lifeboats to full capacity before lowering them. Come to think of it.. it was the same in 1912!

Noadays, gravity lowering, steel wire falls and a pile of big, self-inflating rubber dinghies helps a lot too! lol.

Jim C.
 

Scott Mills

Member
Jul 10, 2008
670
88
133
43
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Hello there guys!

Here are the basic requirements to become an officer in the British MN:

"Qualifications / Skills Required:

Deck Officers are required to undertake Merchant Navy training involving college time and sea time to work towards an Officer of the Watch Certificate of Competence. They are also required to complete STCW 95 basic safety training courses, covering personal survival techniques, fire prevention and fire fighting, elementary first aid and personal safety and social responsibilities and hold an ENG1 seafarer’s medical certificate.
Additionally, they require GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress Safety System), Medical First Aid, Advanced Fire Fighting and CPSC & RB (Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats).

Note the last paragraph! This has been mandatory for a long time!

Here it is for AB's:

"CPSC & RB (Certificate of Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats) or CPSC (Certificate of Proficiency in Survival Craft) or Lifeboatman ".


Jim C.

Its been awhile since I've had a conversation about this with the people I know who work as officers on cruise ships, but my understanding is that this is the minimum you need to qualify for the job. Of course, for the deck officers they want higher certificates (I'm not sure which, or what these are) and for Engineers specialized training.

The real complaint of these guys was something like the amount of apprenticeship you have to go through to secure your job. Apparently you have to spend something like 2 years either working for free (I'm not sure about this) or working for very low pay with (less than $1000 us a month) with lots, and lots of time at sea.

Then you have to work your way up, slowly, and you can get assigned as a staff officer. At least the officer I know doesn't like basically managing to service part of the ship, and would much rather be on the bridge.

I'm not sure of all the steps for engineering officers. At any rate, as it was explained to me, you have to really want to pilot these big cruise ships/liners, otherwise getting on cargo/tanker vessels is much easier, you rise more quickly, and are paid more.

But, saying all of this, I will point out this is what I recall from 5 year old conversations with people.
 
Apr 4, 2012
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San Diego, CA
On the subject of crew numbers, I think you were referring to modern-day cargos ship crew sizes.

More or less....my merchant experience was dry cargo, but I was more referring to crew size compared to size of the vessel. When you think about the size of the engineering department alone back then to that of any modern day ship....well in a DC situation, that is a whole lot of bodies that aren't around to assist anymore.

Personally, I think the Titanic lads did really well and would compare well with their modern counterparts who have all that extra training.

The big problem with non-seafarers is that they can't get their heads round the reasons for not loading the lifeboats to full capacity before lowering them. Come to think of it.. it was the same in 1912!

Noadays, gravity lowering, steel wire falls and a pile of big, self-inflating rubber dinghies helps a lot too! lol.

Jim C.
Agree completely. When you put it all in the context of technology of the day, it really is amazing, and as Lightoller stated, a true testament to the merchant sailors that they were able to launch all of the boats in the time they had.

I've been a Chief Engineer of a US Navy ship and lived through more than my share of engineering casualties, floodings and other near disasters. Even with modern hand held radios, intercoms and even with all the damage control knowledge we have gained in the last 100 years, I can't imagine doing a better job keeping that ship afloat and organizing the efforts to abandon ship than the crew of Titanic did that night.

V/r,
Andrew C. Hochhaus
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>While today's ships have much greater advances in damage control technology, the reduced crew sizes would make it nearly impossible to handle the level of damage that occured on Titanic...or even the levels of battle damage that warships encountered during WWI and WWII.<<

That's one of the gripes I have with reduced manning, especially with warships. Numbers matter. They always have and there wasn't a single aspect of the training I received in shipboard damage control which wasn't manpower intensive, almost in the extreme. All that push button technology is nice, but it has a really nasty habit of letting you down when there are holes in the hull and fires raging out of control.

>>I've been a Chief Engineer of a US Navy ship..<<

Which one?

>> and lived through more than my share of engineering casualties<<

I was aboard the USS Ranger for a number of fires, one of them a major one which killed six guys in 4MMR. NOT a nice way to spend the day!
 
Apr 4, 2012
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San Diego, CA
Which one?

>> and lived through more than my share of engineering casualties<<

I was aboard the USS Ranger for a number of fires, one of them a major one which killed six guys in 4MMR. NOT a nice way to spend the day!

I was Chief Engineer for USS COMSTOCK (LSD 45). Not exactly an old ship, but the USN doesn't treat its amphibs very well. We had a lot of engineering 'challenges' let's say.

Haven't had to deal with much in the way of fire at sea, fortunately. Only fires I have ever experienced were minor electrical ones. Flooding, well I've seen way too much of that, including having my forward main engine room flood due to a rupture in a ballast tank bulkhead.

Which brings me to another question since this thread is about Damage Control in 1912: What de-watering capability did they have back then on Titanic? Did the ship have fixed eductors? Steam pumps?

V/r,
Andrew C. Hochhaus
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,649
835
563
Easley South Carolina
>>I was Chief Engineer for USS COMSTOCK (LSD 45). Not exactly an old ship, but the USN doesn't treat its amphibs very well. We had a lot of engineering 'challenges' let's say.<<

Small world! I was on the commissioning crew for that ship! Left in 1993 for the DECA Commissary at Port Hueneme. The only thing worse then dealing with SUPSHIPS Boston (Which cleared over 700 QDR's on us in Supply without bothering to tell even their local office about it!) was dealing with Avondale!

>>Which brings me to another question since this thread is about Damage Control in 1912: What de-watering capability did they have back then on Titanic? Did the ship have fixed eductors? Steam pumps?<<

Not much. About 1900 tons per hour. For pumping arrangements, click on TIP | British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry | Report | Detailed Description - Pumping Arrangements
 
Mar 12, 2011
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>>I was Chief Engineer for USS COMSTOCK (LSD 45). Not exactly an old ship, but the USN doesn't treat its amphibs very well. We had a lot of engineering 'challenges' let's say.<<

Small world! I was on the commissioning crew for that ship! Left in 1993 for the DECA Commissary at Port Hueneme. The only thing worse then dealing with SUPSHIPS Boston (Which cleared over 700 QDR's on us in Supply without bothering to tell even their local office about it!) was dealing with Avondale!

>>Which brings me to another question since this thread is about Damage Control in 1912: What de-watering capability did they have back then on Titanic? Did the ship have fixed eductors? Steam pumps?<<

Not much. About 1900 tons per hour. For pumping arrangements, click on TIP | British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry | Report | Detailed Description - Pumping Arrangements

What sort of pumping capacity would you find in a modern vessel of Titanic's size?
 

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