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Damage Control

Discussion in 'Collision / Sinking Theories' started by Scott Mills, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    I posted something about this in the Facebook group awhile ago and never got a response, so I am coming to the official forums.

    Essentially, I think most of us agree that had Titanic's crew done a better job at damage control, the ultimate sinking of the ship could have been delayed, if not prevented altogether; however, it is certainly the case that lessons about "modern" damage control were not really learned until the experience of the First World War.

    What I am curious about is what kind of damage control efforts could be expected on Titanic? Is there any source of information on damage control practices--ranging from rigging collision plates and fotherings to fire fighting--on large liners prior to the First World War.

    I've read Joseph Greely's short article on the damage control efforts, and while interesting, I think is demonstrably false. For example he claims no attempt at damage control was done whatsoever; however, we know that at a minimum an attempt was made by the engineering staff and firemen to save Boiler Room 6 by running extra bilge pump lines through the aft compartments.
  2. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    Not much damage control could be done. Titanic was not a warship. Seaman Edward Buley, ex RN, said no collision mats were carried. Even if they had been, the damage extended over too great an area for them to be useful. About all that was done was to try to improve pumping capacity by rearranging pipes and by trying to use pumps normally used for things like ash ejection. Details are scarce, because few of those involved survived, including all the engineers.

    Armchair admirals come up with all sorts of ideas, such as stuffing holes with mattresses, but they are in fantasy land. The best damage control is to avoid hitting anything!
  3. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Lawrence Beesley mentioned the incident with the SS New York. "On the New York there was shouting of orders, sailors running to and fro, paying out ropes and putting mats over the side where it seemed likely we should collide." Curious why this was done on the New York and apparently not on the Titanic? Does this mean the SS New York also had safety mats belows decks ready to contain any leaks should any arise?

  4. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    Beesley was a landlubber. By 'mats' he probably means the fenders commonly kept handy.
    Harland Duzen likes this.
  5. >>Essentially, I think most of us agree that had Titanic's crew done a better job at damage control, the ultimate sinking of the ship could have been delayed, if not prevented altogether;<<

    With what?

    A lot of this assumes at it's base that Titanic had the sort of damage control training, tools and technology which we take for granted today and they didn't.

    >>however, it is certainly the case that lessons about "modern" damage control were not really learned until the experience of the First World War.<<

    Quite right; they weren't and a lot of those lessons either didn't stick the way they should have or waited until the Second World War to be learned and stay learned. Titanic was not subdivided the way a warship is either, so the sort of damage she took over a third of her length was non-survivable.

    Be that as it may be, Dave hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that nothing could be done beyond what was attempted with what they had. People come up with all kinds of ideas but even the best ones...and there are a few....only work if the tools needed to get it done existed in the first place.

    They didn't.
    Harland Duzen likes this.
  6. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    That's just my point. Effective damage control could have saved Titanic, at least for a few hours; however, whether or not any sort of effective damage control should have been, or rather could have been, expected on April 14th/15th 1912 is exactly the question I am seeking the answer to.

    Joseph Greely, in the article I referenced above, certainly believes that at a minimum had Titanic's crew could have slowed the flooding in Boiler Room 6 via fothering, which was a well established damage control technique known from the age of sail. Essentially, I gather this is an attempt to rig a sort of collision plate with a tarred sail, which could be placed over a damaged section of the hull to slow or stop the flooding.

    Now, in this case, Titanic did not have any sails, but Greely argues that, given the size of the actual breaches in the hull, almost anything could have been used--from canvas hatch covers to mattresses and rugs. I am, at least at first glance, more willing to give Titanic's crew the benefit of the doubt here by saying that they did not necessarily know how big or small the openings in the hull were.

    That being said, I find I cannot say that definitively without more information on how damage control on these large liners was actually handled in 1912. For example, I do not even know what steps were taken on Olympic to mitigate the ingress of sea water after her collision with Hawke.

    AND I think Greely is certainly correct about some things that were left undone, which really should have been done. For example the forepeak tank could have been sealed, and it wasn't. Since it was completely undamaged in the collision, and itself a watertight subdivision, sealing the tank would have preserved critical buoyancy--at least for a little while.

    Similarly, steps could have been taken to ensure that all watertight doors, which were not critical to the evacuation, were closed. In addition to rousing passengers, stewards could have also closed doors and hatches behind them, and where possible checked to be sure that portholes were closed.

    Even if these actions couldn't have bought Titanic the 2 hours or so it needed for Carpathia to arrive, every minute counted. Even had the crew been able to buy Titanic an hour, I think it likely more lives would have been saved. Certainly enough time to adequately launch the two collapsible boats--one of which washed of the deck upside down, and the other with knee deep water inside her.

    Correct, and that's why I am asking for information! I do not want to make assumptions! However, I am assuming that some of the card carrying seamen, officers, and engineers had some sort of damage control training, if only "this is what we do if there is a fire." Which, by the way, we certainly know that they had an idea of how to fight a bunker fire.

    Certainly not in heavy seas; however, just from a design perspective it was very nearly survivable in the flat calm of that night. The difference between foundering and floating until help arrived was literally Boiler Room 6. Save that room, you save the ship long enough for help to arrive.

    Also, completely tangentially... Titanic's subdivision was a damn site better than modern cruise ships (or even Queen Mary 2). She very nearly, with some minor modifications, surpasses the contemporary SOLAS standards. :D And tighter subdivision on warships sometimes (not often, but sometimes) ended up being worse as it prevented water from flooding evenly across the beam of the ship. Obviously, depending on how much flooding there was, and how quickly or capable the crew can counter-flood, this lead to ships rolling over much more quickly than it took Titanic to founder.
  7. >>That's just my point. Effective damage control could have saved Titanic,<<

    No, you're missing my point. "With WHAT" speaks to what did they have with which to make this happen?

    In order to do what you propose, the tooling and the body of knowledge would have to exist in the first place.

    it didn't.

    Beware anachronism.
  8. PRR5406

    PRR5406 Member

    Given the damage in the sixth compartment was so minimal, shoring up something like a mattress might have stemmed flooding there alone. The first five compartments flooded so rapidly that the bulkheads were insufficient, no matter what else was done. Grazing the iceberg was the worst possible condemnation to a slow death, and nothing could have prevented the outcome.
  9. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    Again, exactly why I am asking for some resources so I can learn more about what would have been available to them; however, while actually rigging the fothering on Titanic might have been impossible (again, looking for resources because I do not actually know enough to say this is definitively the case,) Titanic's officers certainly would have known what the technique was. Furthermore, the following was completely possible:

    • Sealing the forepeak tank: this was not done and certainly could have been. While the water tight seal would not have lasted, the added buoyancy of the a dry forepeak tank would have bought Titanic critical minutes;
    • Systematic closure of all of the manual water tight doors: according to witnesses this seems to have been done piecemeal on the whim of passing crew members. Again, we aren't talking about anything that would have saved the ship, but it could have bought the ship time;
    • Systematic closure of any open portholes and windows: There were many open windows and portholes, even on that cold night. Largely I think to ventilate a ship filled with fresh paint and varnishing. There are witness reports of water entering these open windows and portholes throughout the ship. Closing them would have bought the ship time;
    • Closing non-watertight doors: wasn't done. Would there have been much effect? Probably not, but any slowing of the progress of water ingress would have given people a greater chance of surviving.
    • When water tight doors were opened from engineering to boiler room 6 to extend extra bilge pump lines, it is unclear if the water tight doors were resealed after the battle in boiler room 6 was lost. Again, given the break up of the ship, if these doors had been closed again it may or may not have bought the ship time. More likely it would have bought the stern section some time.
    Given the above things, it seems clear that with some understanding of damage control concrete steps could have been taken. All I am trying to do is comprehend what sort of understanding of damage control did the officers and crew have? How was damage control handled in other cases (like the Olympic/Hawke collision)? How would a fire on board a large liner have been handled? To what extent to White Star and IMM have standard damage control or fire fighting procedures, practices, and training?

    Someone has to have a book or an article that would give me some idea of this. :D
  10. Not sure where you have that from but the doors forward of BR 4 were not opened. (It might be that the door between BR 5 & 4 was opened to bring engineer Shepherd with the broken leg aft but was closed again.)
    The doors would close automatically when the water reached the float (hope I remember it right).
  11. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    That does sound correct. I think the door between 5 & 4 was opened very briefly before water started coming through and then was immediately closed when Bell was running the aft pump extensions forward. After that the pump lines were left in 5 and stayed there battling the flooding until--and I know this is a point of contention--the bulkhead between 4 & 4 failed.

    After that the people in BR5 scrambled out immediately, but I cannot recall any of them commenting on the fate of that door.

    The float system makes sense; however, do we know (I am sure someone does) whether or not that float system would operated as designed after the WTD, which had been closed from the bridge, was manually reopened? I do know that the doors had to be manually reopened, but under normal circumstances doing so would have been accompanied by the toggling of the switch on the bridge to "open."


    Plus all the doors aft of 5 were ordered reopened by Bell during the period where damage control was being attempted in some capacity.

    Double edit: I'm confusing myself I think. The battle was for BR5 not 6. So they were opened as far as BR5 until, at least, the bulkhead between 4&5 failed.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  12. Henry Sincic

    Henry Sincic Member

    In a documentary called Titanic: The Final Word, James Cameron gave the world the wackiest solution of all: Sail backwards.

    Of course, this wouldn't have helped much (or so I've heard), but it's interesting to see people come up with more and more outlandish solutions to save the Titanic.
  13. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    :D :D About that "theory":

    Yes, Cameron is correct--sort of. Steaming backwards may have reduced the ingress of water somewhat, and was certainly better than the actual decision to begin making way again after the collision. Now having said that, would steaming backwards have saved the ship? Absolutely not. Would it have bought Titanic the time it needed for help to arrive? Nope.

    And good luck trying to launch lifeboats from a ship traveling at any speed forward or backwards. It could be done, but not safely...
  14. Scott Mills

    Scott Mills Member

    That looks like an interesting thread. I'm at work right now so cannot read through it completely, but I look forward to it. In any event I agree completely. The damage reported immediately following the collision should not have resulted in the ship foundering so quickly. In fact, I think if we just accept the damage as reported, moderate damage control might have saved the ship.

    So it is partially related to this thread at least.

    In any case my argument would be that we can assume one of two things:

    1. The surviving initial damage reports were somehow incomplete; OR
    2. Something happened that caused the damage to be exacerbated;
    I have been "working" on a book that I haven't even begun writing (I haven't started it :)) that assumes the second is the case. In fact, I would like to make the argument that Titanic's officers did not know the seriousness of the damage until at a minimum 35 minutes after the collision. During that time it is mostly accepted at this point that Titanic began making way again for at least 10 minutes. I'd argue that this was probably more like 30 minutes.

    Any naval engineer will tell you that if you have significant damage to the bow of a ship where there is active ingress of water, moving forward at any speed, let alone half speed, will significantly increase both the volume and rate of flooding.

    In fact, my granddad who spent 36 years in the USN (20 as a chief engineer) was the genesis of my particular theory... he passed away in 2007, but he will receive credit if I ever do write that book.

    Unfortunately, this is a hard avenue to explore because I'm not a professional historian, have young children, and a full-time job. To do a good job on this topic would require actually contacting the families of surviving officers and crew members and the collection of "family stories." On top of that, as I've discussed this theory before here, there are some Titanic historians who push back really hard.

    Despite this, just using the testimony from both inquiries AND written accounts, I think there is enough evidence to support at least one part of my thesis--Titanic's officers were unaware of the seriousness of the issue until relatively late in the game AND the ship made way again, possibly much longer than the "accepted" (there still some who disagree) 10 minutes.
  15. PRR5406

    PRR5406 Member

    Renewing the forward motion push the holes against incoming water, increasing the flooding. Steaming backwards might lessen the forced flooding, but wouldn't negate the fact that "Titanic" was a bowl in the ocean with perforations below the waterline. The late physicist, Richard Feynman, might have set up a test tank and tried it out, as the simplicity is often deceiving. Remember when he dipped the space shuttle booster "O" ring seals in ice water and showed the elasticity negated?
    The other factor is, an inertial mass of 46,000 tons wasn't going to stop on a dime anyway.
    I've wondered if steaming in reverse towards the "Californian" might have saved lives, but covering 12 nautical miles while taking on water is problematic in itself.
    The sinking, the collision, the rupture of the sixth compartment, all of this is a fragile daisy chain of impossibilities that connected. We keep looking at faulty rivets, coal fires, and tiny fractures in the events, but the fact is, that daisy chain became an iron hard reality. If you wrote it and tried to sell it as a movie story, they'd turn you away as "nuts".
    Scott Mills likes this.
  16. codad1946

    codad1946 Member

    I have mentioned sailing astern a few times with no response. Sailing ahead would force more water into the ship and hasten its demise, so sailing astern - even at slow speed of say 8knots - would have tended towards the opposite and would also have closed with the ship they could see on the horizon? That would of course have interfered with launching the lifeboats. Interestingly, Lightoller when in command of a warship in the war had his bows blown off, and sailed astern to avoid collapsing the collision bulkhead and losing the ship. Perhaps he thought the same thing on Titanic and put it to effect in his later career?
  17. codad1946

    codad1946 Member

    Scott -
    Damage Control is a relatively new science. Whilst sailing ships fothered, careened, keelhauled etc., which practices would have been known to Titanic's officers as they all had Masters tickets in Sail, there wouldn't have been the materials on board an "unsinkable" ship to be able to carry out these operations. I was in the British Merchant Navy and also the Royal Navy and, whilst we undertook to fight fires on merchant ships "Navy fashion", there was no way we could effect damage control in the likes of tankers, bulkers and container ships in the same way as we did in warships. The latter are supplied with shores, jacks, dunnage, soft and hardwood wedges etc., and practiced periodically in the very realistic "DRIU" (see attachment) that offers damage control experiences very like the real thing.
    Fighting fires in the RN was revamped following the HMS Bristol fire, where so many errors were made that it's a wonder they didn't lose the ship. Then again post the Falklands, ship design, weaponry and damage control techniques were further refined. In recent years a few RN ships have met with severe damage (one hit Australia, another was almost rolled in the Persian Gulf and another was in collision with another ship) and in each case damage control by the engineers saved the ships -a result of their training in the DRIU.
    All we had on merchant ships was cement, in order to make cement boxes to patch leaking hull valves and various cracks here and there in the holds. A breach in the hull is a "free flood" and there's not a lot you can do with that other than rely on your "two compartment damage stability" to stay afloat. Enginerooms are large open spaces, as are boiler rooms in the likes of the old passenger ships, so trying to shore up the damage even if you had the materials would have been an extremely difficult task in view of the location of the damage (probably in the double bottom as well as the sides) and against a pressure of around 1bar from the outside.
    I do remember one damage control scenario where we had a steering failure (ram system) which - in bad weather - had the rudder banging from port to starboard as the ship rolled; it sounded as if it was trying its best to smash the sides of the ship in, so something had to be done. We chucked all sorts of dunnage from the deck, empty oil drums, mattresses, bunks etc., which were quickly crushed by the action of the tiller, but gradually closing the space it had to move until it was eventually secured. We attached a chain block onto an eyebolt on the tiller arm to hold it there whilst we fixed the catastrophic oil leak, primed the system through and got everything under control. Incidentally, this was the exact same failure as the Amoco Cadiz, the difference being we didn't run aground but did something about it. All in a day's work!

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  18. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    It's true that water can be sucked out by using the motion of the vessel. Racing dinghies do it every day. BUT the racing dinghies are fitted with cunningly designed venturi bailers that work at a few knots and can be closed if needed. All Titanic had was a series of ragged holes and that's very different kettle of fish.
    Rob Lawes likes this.
  19. Dave Gittins

    Dave Gittins Member

    On damage control, I have before me a letter to the press from Rear-Admiral Carden RN, dated 3 May 1912. He describes naval damage control of the time and urges that merchant ships should carry similar equipment to that used in the RN, especially various lengths of timber, put aside for emergencies. I doubt if anybody took much notice.