Did Funnels Flatten upon Collapsing?



The drawing below shows the shrouds supporting funnel #1. I believe it was Lightoller's belief that the strain which caused the forward expansion joint shown in red to open and cause one or both of the shrouds aft of the expansion joint to part.
Funnel shrouds20001.jpg

Bill Vanek

Jul 22, 2019
North Carolina USA
"Are you suggesting that the port cables would have snapped due to the ship being at a port list? In my mind, I imagine that stresses would be placed on the cables placed opposite of the direction of the list (if this is the case, stresses would have been highest in the starboard guy wires).

"Another question to raise would be "If the funnels fell due to stresses of the port list, why didn't all of the funnels collapse at roughly the same time?" The third and fourth ones gave way under the gyrations of the breakup and the second funnel may or may not have had the same fate as the first."
Those are all good points, Kyle. I see that I didn't explain myself well. I was saying that whatever stresses were going on, they caused the port-side guy wires to fail first. (Thank you for pointing me to Mr. Lightoller's testimony, which aligns with that aspect of my jabbering.) I'm kind of saying the opposite of what you're thinking I am: that for the funnel to "fall uphill", against a port list, it means that there had to be more force in the starboard direction than what gravity was exerting due to the list. There were forces large enough to put the whole system in tension; large enough to fail the cables (more likely, one of the cable connections (top or bottom)), and large enough to break the funnel loose at its bottom somehow. (I say that last thing because Mr. Lightoller said that he saw the aft cable stays snap, port one first, and the funnel fell due to the starboard cable failing just after. But two cables failing at only the aft end would not be enough to topple a smokestack. There had to have been serious damage around the bottom--as when a tree is most of the way sawn through, but not yet "chopped down".) I don't know how all the stresses were arranged to set up such a situation--especially on the port-side cables; all I can say is that there had to be more force in the direction that the funnel moved; that the port-side cables could not have been intact to allow such a fall; and the funnel's bottom attachment had to be severely compromised by that point. What Lightoller saw was "the end of the story" and, like all of us, he had the strong desire to explain what was counter-intuitive and hard to explain.
Mar 18, 2008
The drawing below shows the shrouds supporting funnel #1. I believe it was Lightoller's belief that the strain which caused the forward expansion joint shown in red to open and cause one or both of the shrouds aft of the expansion joint to part.

Despite Lightolllers claim in his book (which has many mistakes and is from years later) it is a wonder how he was able to see the expansion joint.
Gracie was clear that it did not opened and he was closer to it than Lightoller ever was.
Thayer Jr. stated that the ship got on a even keel before he jumped which would mean the list to port would have been not there when funnel No. 1 collapsed.
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Tim Aldrich

Jan 26, 2018
In regards to the funnel stays I think this video might be of some interest. The relevant part starts at 02:18. I would assume Titanic's funnels would also have the stays slackened while getting ready for sea. The steel would certainly expand as the temperature increased. Another point to ponder is since boiler rooms six and five exhausted into the first funnel, and were the first boilers to be shut down, was there enough time for the funnels to cool sufficiently that the steel contracted allowing the stays to be somewhat slack?


I don’t believe there is any evidence that the funnel shrouds were slackened when the boiler rooms were active. The reason is because hot gases were not in contact with the inner surface of the exterior funnel skin. The functional funnel was actually an inner funnel inside the exterior funnel skin. This interior construction can be seen in the photo below.

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Oct 28, 2000
Titanic's shrouds and stays probably were intact as the funnels fell. They served to support the steel cylinders, yes, but not in quite the way as is being imagined. For 15 years I was a paid yacht race manager. During that time I say many dismastings, usually of deck-stepped masts. A deck step mast has its butt on a fitting on the deck. It does not extend down through the deck to the keel. When one of these masts fails, the break usually comes at the spreaders (a weak point due to lots of fasteners in that area." The mast may fold or bend, or if the failure is at the deck step it usually comes down in one piece. The action is surprisinly slow mostly because of the wind in the sails. None-the-less, when the mast falls the shrouds and stays do not part. They remain attached to both the mast tube and the chain plates at deck level.

The bases of Titanic's funnels were supported by the uptakes and other part of the boiler ventilation system. In a way, this supporting mechanism was quite analogous to a deck step mast. If, as Sparks Stepheson suggested to me, the inrush of water caused the uptakes to move or collapse, then so would the funnels above. It would not be necessary for any stays or shrouds to part to allow the cylinders of steel to come toppling down.

In simple, nothing is as simple as it looks.

-- David G. Brown
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Jun 9, 2016
Figure this: The funnels are anchored by a series of cables, some of which snap, but others retaining the stacks alongside the ship. The bases collapse or fold up as they twist free from the "Titanic", then hang alongside the hull until the remaining cables snap. At this time they are full of seawater and start to spiral to the ocean flook. I have to agree with the near vertical dynamic during decent. I don't see them punching a cookie-cutter hole in the seabed. Speed of impact, angle of impact, any of a thousand unknowns would cause them to angle in. Partially buried, they fell over and eventually rusted into dust.
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Cam Houseman

Jul 14, 2020
Maryland, USA
If the popular theory that the first funnel collapsed due to the water pressure on the outside of the structure, would it be probable that the cylindrical figures would pancake in on themselves as they fell?
in Titanic: The Final word with James Cameron (my favorite doc) shows the channel's plating peeling off as they were dragged down by the ship. Maybe if so, the pancaking caused the rivets on the funnels to loosen.

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