Did the bulkhead collapse or not


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Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Hi all,
Just thought I'd start a debate about the "collapse" of the buklhead between boiler room 5 and 6. However, Lord Mersey said that it was only the coal bunker door that failed, filling the boiler room with its contents. I recall doing some calculations and worked out that, given the time, and the size of the hole in the bunker, it would have filled up to such an extent that, when the door was opened, it would have "filled" the room to a depth of a couple of feet, giving the impression that the whole buklhead has failed (something that writers have repeated unquestioningly for decades).

What do people think?

Best wishes

Paul
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Sounds about right to me. Personally, I don't think a bulkhead failed in the sort of catastrophic sense that some people might think. I suspect what really happened was that a door to the coal bunker gave up the ghost, or a seam somewhere split, effectively opening up the floodgates.

As ruggedly as the bulkheads were built, my bet is on the door to the bunker failing first.
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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I doubt very highly that the bulkhead collapsed in the manner in which some writers have portrayed. I am now begining to doubt that a bunker door gave in.

You have to look at bulkhead E as more then just a bulkhead at this point. Remeber that all four compartments forward of it are full of water at this point. Something gave, there is no doubt about that, it could have been an open seam in the bulkhead it could have been the door but I think it was something else. A combination of what Roy Mengot suggested in Topeka a couple of years ago and something that related to how boiler room 4 would eventually flood.
 
May 3, 2002
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Isn't the bunker where they had that slow coal fire? The heat from the from the fire would have dinged the bulkhead weakening its ability. add to this Ismay's stupid idea to try for Halifax to speed up flooding and sooner or later the rising water in #6 would have collapsed the bulkhead.
ref David Brown: The Last Log of the Titanic.
as for Lord Mersey I'm afraid he isn't the last word in maritime investigation. He wasn't on the ship and some of his performances in the Lusitania inquiry leave me less than impressed.

Martin
 

Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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>>Isn't the bunker where they had that slow coal fire?<<

It is. However, I would be surprised if the the whole bulkhead just gave way through the water pressure.
 
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Alicia Coors

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I don't think it makes any sense that the inrush of water could have come from anywhere but the bunker door. After all, in order for either Bulkhead E or its watertight door to fail, the design strength of one or the other would have had to be exceeded by the hydrostatic head imposed by a "nominal" amount of water behind it - the load represented by a depth of water just short of the top of the compartment. Assuming that H&W engineered these very important structures with at least a 50% overload factor, it is well-nigh inconceivable that either would fail.

The remaining possibility, that the water came from over the top of the bulkhead, does not match the known facts in one significant way: water would tend to come in no faster than it was entering the ship further forward, creating a "waterfall" across the entire width of the compartment - not the torrent sufficient to force Barrett and the engineers to abandon the injured Shepherd to his fate.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Hello Alicia,
and I thought your forensic mind had deserted us. Fireman Barrett did quite a bit of dramatic dashing about, didn't he?
 
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Alicia Coors

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On the other hand - Paul said (with reference to the bunker door)
quote:

...when the door was opened, it would have "filled" the room to a depth of a couple of feet...
I don't think this is true. The bunker was approximately the full width of the compartment, but although it was nine feet deep (fore-to-aft), its height was only about one-third of the length of the compartment. Since the floor plates were six feet above the tank tops, a bunkerful of water wouldn't even have come up to the floor (provided always that the water from the "fire hose sized" leak had been pumped all the way down).

So unless Barrett & Co. simply panicked and split without assessing the situation completely, neither conclusion is supported by all of the evidence. Take your pick.​
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Paul is right! The bunker space extended about 32 ft above tank top to F deck, and the boiler compartments were generally about 57 ft long. The floor plates were about 2 feet above tank top, not 6. The width of the ship in the boiler spaces was 92 ft. The approximate volume for 1 bunker was 32x9x92=26,496 cubic ft. The volume of the compartment below the floor plates was 57x2x92=10,488 cubic ft. So the collapse of just 1 bunker was enough to raise the water to about 5 ft above tank top, or 3 ft above the floor plates.

As an aside, water coming over the top of a WT bulkhead between compartments (which extended to E deck) could theoretically flow down into the forward bunker space of the compartment aft of that bulkhead and start to fill the foreward bunker of that compartment. You may not see a waterfall in the compartment from water flowing over the bulkhead ahead. You would see a flood if and when the bunker door burst open. I'm not saying that is what happened, but just something to consider about what might have happened.
 
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Alicia Coors

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Oh, well that's different! My math was right; the dimension I had was wrong. I was going by Barrett's testimony
quote:

1883. Lord Mersey thinks you might also be able to point it out on the section above. You see there is the water level outside the ship where she would be? - The plates were supposed to be six feet above the tank tops. That is what it is reckoned to be.

1884. The floor you are standing on is supposed to be six feet above the top of the tanks? - Yes.

1885. What tanks are those? - I could not tell you.

1886. The tank top is marked there, is it not? - Yes. (The Witness pointed out the position on the top plan.) There would be about six feet over these tank tops.

1887. (The Commissioner.) Those were the plates you were standing on? - Yes
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Alicia: In a way this shows that poor Barrett didn't know all the details. If the plates were 6 ft above the tank top, the furnaces of the boilers would be below the plates. Here is a drawing the boiler room cross section with dimensions shown. Floor plates highlighted in red, tank top in blue, waterline in green.:)

86005.gif
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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I am adding some late information:

Sam mentioned water coming over the tops of bulkheads. While Sam probably knows what I am about to say others dont'.

From a forensic standpoint, it is highly unlikely and in Bulkhead E's situation mathmatically impossible for water to have come from above to flood boiler room 5. Roy Mengot and others discussed this in Topeka in 2002.

My reasoning for this is somewhat complex, but basically revolves around two factors.

1. Is that we have no solid evidence of the mass flooding of hold 2 early on in the sinking. In order for the bow to be weighed down enough by pure water weight this compartment must flood at nearly the same rate as hold 3 and faster then hold 1 (by the Testimony of Lee and Haines).

2. For this to have occured the flooding had to have been much worse, and the ship should have sank much faster then it did. We know this isn't true. The nature of the accident as described by Fleet, Lee and Boxhall does not make much sense with a catastrophic flooding of hold 2.
 
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Cheryl Adair

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I have a lot to learn here.....

Someone please tell me what is a bulkhead?

sad.gif
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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It falls to me to serve the interests of pedantry yet again.

Bulkhead: neither the general nor the specialist dictionaries seem to give any etymological derivation for this term.

My own understanding is that the derivation is from 'bulk' in the sense of cargo; that is, it defines the delimiter of a particular reach of cargo. In other words it was literally 'the head of the the bulk'.

It follows that a bulkhead was historically a space delimiter within the hull of a cargo carrier and it is only from that basis that the term has become extended to other shipboard applications.

Strictly speaking (and by exclusion), any structural divider in a ship's superstructure is a 'partition' and not a 'bulkhead'.

I trust you are not now all terminally confused!

Noel
 

david wilson

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Mar 17, 2003
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A bulkhead is a bulkhead is a bulkhead,a rose is a rose by any other name is still a rose.Dosen't matter what you call it,as long as we all know what it is.
regards.
dw.
 
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Alicia Coors

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CPO: What are you doing, sailor?

SR: Just sittin' here on the floor, Chief.

CPO: FLOOR!? That's a DECK, mister! And that's a BULKHEAD...that's an OVERHEAD...and that's a LADDER! And if you don't get it straight, I swear I'll throw you out of that little round window!
 
Mar 3, 1998
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I'm with David on this...there are terms that you might find in a nautical dictonary and those that are actually used aboard ships by the variety of people who sail in (or work on) them. As long as people know what you're talking about, no one will scold you...unless it's in an Internet discussion forum.

I like to use "walls" to describe the vertical non-structural partitions in a ship's superstructure. Anything that really hurts you when you smack a body part against it I usually call a "bulkhead," and often I accompany that with a colourful metaphor to describe how I feel about the thing being in my way. In addition, one man's "deck" is another man's "overhead," and passenger vessels sometimes have "ceilings" hung from the overhead (or deck above) to hide all the ugly wires and pipes that frequently run above. Again, most people can figure out what you're talking about without too much trouble.

Sometimes, though, I violate my own rules...it all just depends.

Going back the original question...did Bulkhead E fail? Don't know...not enough information available to tell for certain. Given the height of the hydrostatic head calculated to have been working against that bulkhead at that point of time, I doubt that any failure in the structure would have resulted only in the rush of water described by Barrett, but one never knows for sure what can happen in this scenario. Personally, I would be more interested in what was happening along the bottom of the hull inside BR#5, rather than Bulkhead E itself.

Parks
 
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