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hello again - another titbit, this one hidden in this months BBC History magazine (well, if you think 75% of page 6 is hidden....)(honest, I do do other things apart from hunt out Titanic stuff in publications)

It's an article entitled 'Did hidden fire fatally weaken Titanic?' UK members can get the mag in the shops now, but I don't think it's breaking copywright to give you all a flavour of the piece.

Prof Ray Boston claims that the fire in bunker six was a key reason in the decision to belt across the Atlantic at high speed, despite the risk of the ice field. He believes that it may have damaged a key part of the ship's structure, acclerating the sinking rate.

Arnie Gellar of RMS Titanic inc chips in with a word or two about historians disagreeing about the importance of the fire, using the term 'pooh-poohing', which is no term for an adult man to use. Prof Boston reappears to back up his claim that the ship jack-knifed near coal-bunker six, and thus sank before help could arrive.

Prof Boston also claims that JP Morgan ordered Ismay to command full speed ahead so that the fireboats in New York harbour (which were there to join in the celebrations for President Taft) could help with fighting the blaze.


It also claims in this article that the crew were instructed not to tell passengers about the fire (well, it would hardly have come up in conversation, would it ?) though the ship was visibly listing before she sailed.

Now, I always understood that it was not exactly a raging inferno in there, but more of a smoulder situtation, which certainly had to be watched, but was not unusual in ships at that time. I was once told of a similar situation aboard the Queen Mary, where a bunker smouldered to New York and back. It was accepted practice aboard these ships not to go into 'tackle the blaze', since the mere practice of throwing water into the bunker could cause a 'fire damp' effect, with really serious consequences.

Sorry, I appear to have rambled a bit here. Hope this is the right forum for this!
 

Erik Wood

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I am familar with Professor Boston's work, and as far as I am concerned it is on the level with SNAME. It needs a lot of work to become remotely true. Most of what he writes is based off assumptions of how ships operate and not on the reality of how ships work or operate which is 95% of SNAME's problem.

Not telling the passengers about a fire in the coal bunker is common sense not some secret conspiracy. Professor Boston does have one good point, perhaps there was a desire to get to the smouldering coal in a timely manner and hence it was either moved or shoveled into the furnaces. Since Barrett testifies to the later (but does not say it was done with haste)we are forced into the belief that Bell and Smith both thought the situation wasn't all that serious and Barretts attitude in the testimony makes it sound almost routine. Having never served on a coal fired ship I don't know what the SOP would be.

The thought that a FDNY fireboat could help Titanic fight an internal fire is almost laughable, especially considering that 20+ years later they did a marvelous job on the Normandie and out of that mess came, the basis of FDNY's current fire doctrine regarding ships. It is laughable especially considering that doing so would have caused quite a scene and doing so would have required, equipment and doors to be opened, and if the fire was that bad, she wouldn't be just tootling into the harbor, and a fire of that magintude would produce quite a lot of smoke, none of which to my knowledge is true, that doesn't even bring into mention that it would have been quite noticeable and ports (these days anyway) are not very interested in having ships that are a blaze come into a port where are a bunch of other ships.

When historians study Titanic they need to realize that Titanic was at sea, where everything happens because something else happened which caused it to happen. Every event is linked to a decision by crewmen and the eventual summation of the event is the result of thoasands of decisions or lack of them and how that decision effected a situation, and how that situation effected another situation. Before every action there is a reaction.

Now I can't recall off the top of my head whether it was Professor Boston or not, but there is a professor who claims that the fire (which was out when Titanic hit the iceberg) is what fatally wounded Titanic and caused her to sink. Although the general idea of the theory I don't believe, there are certain aspects of it which some may believe merit further research.
 
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Cal Haines

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Hi Susan & Cap'n Erik,

First of all, anyone who talks about "Bunker 6" betrays their ignorance of Titanic. The bunker in question was designated "W" in the ship's notebook. The fireman referred to the stokehold in question as "section 9", so I might believe "bunker 9". It sounds as if Prof. Boston thinks the fire was in a bunker in boiler room #6. The testimony is pretty clear that it was in the forward bunker of #5, starboard side.

The bunker #6 stuff probably comes from a quote in period book by Everett, see the following for the quote and a discussion thereof:
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/cgi-bin/discus/show.cgi?tpc=5914&post=17845#POST17845

see also my article here: http://titanic-model.com/db/db-03/CoalBunkerFire.htm

The whole business about New York fireboats also has it's origins in the Everett book. I think the quote attributed to a "J. Dilley", is very questionable. (see the above links for discussion)

The fact of the matter is that the bunker fire was burning BEFORE Titanic set sail from Southampton. In fact, the fire started before Titanic reached Southampton, perhaps even starting while she was still at Belfast! (See Sanderson's BOT testimony, beginning at #19630.) Apparently, the plan was to deal with the fire once she got under way. They probably also had a few leaky faucets that they planned to fix while at sea and likely considered the bunker fire to be just about as big a deal.

The easiest way to deal with the bunker fire was to shovel the coal out of the bunker and burn it. If you work through the coal consumption of the adjacent furnaces the time comes out about right for them to have done just that. Bear in mind that there was a shortage of coal owing to a recent coal strike. They weren't about to waste all that coal. A bunker fire was just not that big a deal. It created some smoke and a nasty smell but in no way endangered the ship. For coal to burn rather than smolder requires a huge amount of air which it did not have while in the bunker. But a that doesn't make for a very sensational news story.

The buckling of the wreck in that general location probably has more to do with the fact that the swimming pool was located there than anything else. It could also just be the way the bow section hit the bottom.

Here's a link to a thread where the effects of the fire on the structure is discussed, including quotes from a Dr. Foecke a Ph.D. Metallurgist:
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/cgi-bin/discus/show.cgi?tpc=5664&post=30195#POST30195

Cal
 

Tim Foecke

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I guess "a" Dr. Foecke is me. Only 4 days a lurker and I get to contribute!

We did simulate this a while back. First, a bit of Metallurgy 101 for you.

The bulkheads and hull were constructed of mild steel, which is iron with (in this case) 0.2% carbon, 0.5-1.0 % manganese, and some tramp contaminants like sulfur and phosphorus. I've actually worked on bulkhead steel, so I know exactly what it is.

The report is it was heated to cherry red, though I caught a glimpse somewhere in this forum that if you search on the word cherry in the inquiry transcripts, you can't find it. It might be a wild hare, but let's assume it's true for the moment. We did a simulation of a 5/8" thick bulkhead bounded by rivets through two angle iron pieces, which were then riveted to other pieces like the shell or the floor. We heated the center to cherry red (roughly 650 degrees C)

Variables: temperature (we're going with the cherry red assumption)
how tightly it's gripped around the edge (we assumed that the holes were reamed a 1/4" oversize and that this oversize was one half filled with rivet metal - thus there is an eighth of an inch of play around the periphery)
thermal conductivity and heat sinks - we assumed that the shell plate would stay at the temperature of the sea, and that the floor above and below would heat somewhat due to conduction

We found that the plate would undergo a biaxial Euler instability of about 6" in the center of the bulkhead. For non-techno-dweebs, that means that it "oilcans" with a bump in the middle 6" high. Remember that we are calculating displacements in the model, and then we calculate what the loads will be on the rivet after the displacement eats up the rivet hole gaps, etc. We found that the load on the rivets was something like 10-20% of the failure load.

Bottom line - mechanically, the bulkhead **probably** did not pop loose due to the fire. One circumstance where it might have is if all the expansion of the bulkhead, for some strange reason, only pushed on the rivets on one edge. Then the load would have been 60% of breaking, and then we are into the regime of rivet quality, shape of heads, etc. But this is not the likely scenario.

Metallurgically, if you heat this sort of steel to cherry red, the grains inside will grow VERY SLOWLY. As the grain size increases, the steel gets 1) softer and 2) tougher. So simply being at this temperature and cooling down does not change the properties of the steel appreciably at room temperature.

Now, if the steel is cherry red, and is hit with cold sea water, it quenches at some rate. If it is fast enough, you get another phase coming out of the steel called martensite. This particular phase is brittle. HOWEVER, quenching from cherry red would not form much martensite at all. Not hot enough to get the carbon out of the other phases and let it make martensite. So I doubt that even quenching with sea water affected the low temperature properties.

Double bottom line: absent hearing any other details, I think that the bulkhead burning issue is not important. Not saying the bulkhead didn't collapse, but that the fire probably did not weaken it.

Clear as mud, 'eh?

By the way, Prof. Boston of where?

Tim
 

Jim Stein

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I find it hard to believe that the bulkhead could be cherry red (I forget the temp range my metallurgical instructor would be horrified) without a decent draft of air. From my readings these coals fires in bunkers were at a low temp because of the lack of air.
 

Tim Foecke

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I've run across this same sort of problem working on the investigation of the World Trade Center collapse. Sorry, no, I can't get into details. If you are interested, check out http://wtc.nist.gov.

Anyway, people forget that thermodynamics rules. People's initial impression regarding the jet hitting the WTC is that the jet fuel burning caused the steel to melt. Jet fuel, or coal, burns at a fixed temperature with a given oxygen supply. For jet fuel (kerosene), it's about 700 degrees C. For coal, it's about 400-500 degrees C, something like that. Jim Stein is correct, that lacking a burst of oxygen and the associated draft, similar to a blacksmith furnace, the coal would smoulder a some rather low temperature. If the fire were so hot, ala blacksmith hearth, to begin to make steel glow, the bunker would have lost a lot of coal, there would have been a LOT of fumes and a pretty good air draft moving. Heating the steel to cherry red, which I took as given just to test the hypothesis, is not very likely, I agree.
 

Cal Haines

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Dr. Foecke! Welcome aboard, sir! I'm delighted to have your expert contributions. I've been fighting this damn bunker fire for years (although not as many as you) and it just seems to keep flaring up again and again.

Sorry about the errant "a"--proofreading failure.

As far as the "cherry red" color, that seems to be something that shows up first in Garzke's 1997 paper:
quote:

During the period the fire burned, steel in the lower corner of the transverse watertight bulkhead between Boiler Room Nos. 5 and 6 ultimately became cherry red[4]. ...

Notes:
[4] From the testimony of Leading Fireman Charles Hendrickson at the Mersey Inquiry.

Garzke, et al, Titanic, The Anatomy of a Disaster -- A Report from the Marine Forensic Panel (SD-7), The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Annual Meeting Technical Sessions, 1997, page 1-4.
Garzke references Hendrickson, but Hendrickson never said "cherry red". In describing the condition of the bulkhead after the fire was put out he says, "... you could see where the bulkhead had been red hot":
quote:

5239. Did you hear when the fire commenced? - Yes, I heard it commenced at Belfast.
5240. When did you start getting the coal out? - The first watch we did from Southampton we started to get it out.

5241. How many days would that be after you left Belfast? - I do not know when she left Belfast to the day.

5242. It would be two or three days, I suppose? - I should say so.

5243. Did it take much time to get the fire down? - It took us right up to the Saturday to get it out.

5244. How long did it take to put the fire itself out? - The fire was not out much before all the coal was out.

5245. The fire was not extinguished until you got the whole of the coal out? - No. I finished the bunker out myself, me and three or four men that were there. We worked everything out.

5246. The bulkhead forms part of the bunker - the side? - Yes, you could see where the bulkhead had been red hot.

5247. You looked at the side after the coal had been taken out? - Yes.

5248. What condition was it in? - You could see where it had been red hot; all the paint and everything was off. It was dented a bit.

5249. It was damaged, at any rate? - Yes, warped.

5250. Was much notice taken of it. Was any attempt made to do anything with it? - I just brushed it off and got some black oil and rubbed over it.

5251. To give it its ordinary appearance? - Yes.

http://www.titanicinquiry.org/BOTInq/BOTInq05Hendrickson03.html

Note that Hendrickson says "the bulkhead". Now if that means the watertight bulkhead and not the bulkhead that forms the front of the bunker, Hendrickson would not have been able to see it until the coal had been removed, since it is sandwiched between two bunkers and tons of coal. All he could see is the damage left behind by the heating.

Any idea how hot the metal would have to get in order to have visible signs of heating and distortion?

When Mr. Lewis questioned Wilding on the matter, he misstated Hendrickson's testimony:
quote:

20882. Now, with regard to the coal bunker, where the fire took place. You remember the evidence with regard to the fire in the bunker? - Yes.

20883. It was stated by one Witness, I think Hendrickson, that the fire caused the bulkhead to be red hot. If that is correct, would that make the bulkhead very brittle? -What do you mean by "very brittle"? It does not convey anything very definite to me.

20884. Well, exceedingly brittle, so that a blow would cause damage much easier than if they were not brittle? - It depends on the force of the blow. It would not be brittle like a piece of sheet glass, but it might be more brittle than in an undamaged condition.

20885. More brittle than in an undamaged condition? - It might be a little more - yes, somewhat more

http://www.titanicinquiry.org/BOTInq/BOTInq20Wilding02.html
In any case, the testimony doesn't give us too much to go on vis-a-vis the temperature that the metal might have reached.

Apparently water was used to fight the fire, but the fire was out well before the collision, so a rapid, sea-water quench is out. According to Barrett:
quote:

2338. Did you work out that bunker yourself? - I was in charge. There were between 8 and 10 men doing it.

2339. Was it fire or only heat? - It was fire.

2340. Did you play upon it? - The hose was going all the time.

2341. And did they get it out by the Saturday? - Yes.

2342. Cleared all out? - Yes.

http://titanic-model.com/db/db-03/CoalBunkerFire.htm
With water being used, I would expect a fair amount of steam to be generated, which would probably limit the temperature that the metal could reach. But I doubt it would give a very thorough quench of the metal. More likely, it heated up sufficiently to cause visible damage and cooled again in air and/or steam without any real quenching.

Another point: Assuming that the watertight (middle) bulkhead was slightly damaged. That still leaves two other very substantial bulkheads (the ones that from the faces of the bunkers), at least one of which (in BR#6) is unaffected by the fire. It's pretty hard to imagine the type of loading that would then have to be applied to cause the whole thing to fail (barring an errant 767 crashing into it, that is). Even IF the metal became brittle due to the fire, the gradually increasing loads imposed by the flooding would not cause the it to fail, would it? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the proposed metallurgical changes wouldn't really diminish the metals strength, it would just make it more susceptible to cracking if a sudden shock load was applied, right? By the time the bulkhead supposedly failed, the collision was an hour or more in the past. Thoughts?

Cal​
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I see most of the ground has already been covered, and by some bona fide experts. I might as well have a go at this little gem:
quote:

Prof Ray Boston claims that the fire in bunker six was a key reason in the decision to belt across the Atlantic at high speed

Sounds to me like the Professor wasn't doing some elementary research in how the mail boats in general and the Titanic in particular were actually operated. There was nothing unusual about ships in general and the crack liners in particular operating at their best speed. Simply put, there was a schedule to meet and time was literally money. The Titanic was hardly an exception to this.

And the Titanic hardly belted across the Atlantic but gradually worked up to her 21.5 knot speed over the course of the voyage to...among other things...run in the engines.

In short, the Professor is making too much out of something that in reality was simply business as usual.​
 

Dave Gittins

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Cal has covered most of what I was going to post.

I'll just add that Hendrickson might well have been using the term "red hot" rather loosely. We sometimes spill "red hot" coffee or sit on a "red hot" park bench. I think his remark is a poor basis for serious metallurgy. As water was being sprayed on the fire, it can hardly have got very hot.

Fred Barrett corroborates testimony that the bulkhead was distorted. He said it was "dinged". Part bulged forward and part bulged aft.

The fire was definitely observed at Southampton and was reported to the White Star office. That's testified to by Harold Sanderson. Sanderson said that it obviously wasn't regarded as serious. Hendrickson said that he heard it had been going since Belfast and Barrett said that work on removing the burning coal only began on the day they left Southampton. It's possible that it really was burning between Belfast and Southampton but the ship was taken to Southampton by a crew of casual workers ("runners"), who left at Southampton and never appeared at the inquiry.

As to Boston's "theory", in Australia we have a useful expression. We call such ideas ratbaggery and those who purvey them are ratbags, sometimes raving ratbags.
 
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Jan 2, 1997
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Well, that put the cat in the cinders.

Erik - pardon my total ignorance, but what does SNAME stand for ? So who is this Professor Boston ?

I've never heard of this Prof Boston before, but this little item appears to be full of misinformantion and half-truths, which is a pretty poor show for a mag that is aiming for the enthusiastic amateur historian.

I think the claim which astonished me the most (aside from the fire story itself) was the comment that 'the ship was visibly listing before she sailed'. I've been trawling through my stuff - esp 'Titanic Voices', and I can't see any reference to this listing at all. Has anyone else come across this ?

Dr Foecke - welcome to the lifeboat - we expect tales and jokes to entertain us ! And if I'm ever the proximity of burning metal, I'll know now what to look for.
 

Tim Foecke

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SNAME is the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. The panel that Bill Garzke heads is SD-7, the Marine Forensics Panel, one of many standing panels within SNAME.

I was a member of the panel for a number of years, but chose to resign after I got in trouble at work. NIST has a very thorough internal review process for papers before they are published. Bill had an unfortunate tendency to publish papers and include me as a co-author. I'm sure he did it to recognize my input on the panel and as a favor, but it wound up getting me in hot water when managers became aware of the paper and asked why it hadn't been reviewed. Common research practice is to give each and every co-author on a paper total signoff and review, and if they disagree with the paper's content they can back away. Bill has me on a few things that I didn't even read.

I will say that I did write some input for the "Anatomy of a Disaster" paper that I'm on, but Bill changed it a bit and did not let me see the final paper, though not out of malice I'm sure. He probably was unaware of my requirements at work. Anyway, I disavow authorship of the particular paper. What I stand behind is in my internal report at my web site at work (http://www.metallurgy.nist.gov/personnel/)

Tim

PS I really do want to know who this Professor Boston is and where he is from.
 

Erik Wood

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I have seen bulkheads and bulwarks (spelled wrong...I think) get to a redish color. Whether I would go so far as to call it cherry red I don't know.

Garzke makes several if not hundreds of blunders in his works, which is why 99% of the maritime community including some naval engineers and architechs dispute it and folks like myself warn those not nautically trained to stay away from it. While it does bring and highlight some very intersting points, the basis of his "finite analysis" is not based on the ships construction and nature of impact as reported by the survivors and he does not use basic damage control or any (that I can find) damage control computations to affirm his stance's. But most of all most of his work goes against the eyewitness testimony. SNAME stands for Society of Naval Architechs and Marine Engineers (I think).

I would have to agree with the thought (because I have no other evidence to say otherwise) that the fire in the bunker had little if anything to do with the overall picture of the sinking.

It is good to see the likes of Cal, Dave G. and Dr. Foecke amoung the ranks.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Well, I've been snooping around on Google.com to see if I could find something on this guy. About the only reference I could find was to a Professor Ray Boston who's a Professor of Applied Biomathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, Center For Cancer Pharmacology.

Hardly a credential for an authority on history. I may be looking at the wrong man however. If anybody else wants to poke around, you can check the same links I got on This Hotlink
 
T

Tom Pappas

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Whenever people say to me that Titanic was speeding, I ask why she would do that, and I have heard (only) two responses:

1. To win the Blue Riband (which is easy to dispel, because the prize was 5 or 6 knots beyond her).

2. To get to New York ahead of schedule to impress people and make headlines (which is absurd, as it would inconvenience everyone from the passengers to those meeting them to the stevedores needed to offload the cargo). It simply makes zero sense to burn perfectly good coal (which was also scarce at the time) to arrive sooner when doing so doesn't get the ship turned around and producing revenue one minute faster. White Star Line was, first and foremost, a for-profit enterprise, and not one run by people who played fast and loose with its resources.

I suspect that most of the popular lore (read: misinformation) would succumb to a similar application of Occam's Razor.

(One wonders where the good Professor's diploma was printed.)
 

Dave Gittins

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Susan, I can't recall anybody seeing the ship listing before she sailed and she looks OK in the photos. However, Lawrence Beesley later noticed a list to port. From the context, this was at lunch time on April 14th. Beesley was told by a steward that it was probably due to more coal being used on the starboard side. Somewhere in the evidence somebody mentions that the bunker on the other side of the bulkhead was also cleared, to prevent the heat igniting it, so the explanation seems reasonable. Certain people specialise in distorting evidence to support their own wild ideas.
 

Noel F. Jones

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I have no particular wish to join this discussion save that I think I can safely take exception to the following in the initiating post:

"I was once told of a similar situation aboard the Queen Mary, where a bunker smouldered to New York and back."

Noel
 
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>>I suspect that most of the popular lore (read: misinformation) would succumb to a similar application of Occam's Razor.<<

Probably not, Tom. Why confuse the issue with a few awkward things like facts? Not that we don't try in this forum, but it would seem the mythos has long taken on a life of it's own.

On the matter of trying to get into New York a little earlier, it's hard to tell what was on anybody's mind. It's not as if they left detailed diaries spelling it all out. I don't think they would have minded beating Olympic's time at all. Good publicity that way, and they may have intended to attempt just that.

All of which is moot. The boilers in BR#1 were never lit off, and if they intended to do so, the iceberg tossed that plan right out the window.
 

George Behe

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Hi, Tom!

>2. To get to New York ahead of schedule to >impress people and make headlines (which is >absurd, as it would inconvenience everyone from >the passengers to those meeting them to the >stevedores needed to offload the cargo).

Nevertheless, the Olympic arrived in New York on Tuesday night on at least one occasion prior to April 1912; the Titanic's passengers, greeters and stevedores would undoubtedly have followed the very same procedures that were followed by the Olympic's passengers, greeters and stevedores on that occasion.

Hi, Mike!

>The boilers in BR#1 were never lit off,

For what it's worth, my book provides evidence to the contrary.

All my best,

George
 
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Tom Pappas

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Hello, George -

Don't leave us in suspense! What did the passengers, greeters and stevedores do? And why was Olympic in such a hurry? Could her early arrival have been the result of favorable wind conditions? A diminution of a knot or two in the prevailing westerlies would do it.
 
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George Behe said: For what it's worth, my book provides evidence to the contrary.

Mmmmmmm...perhaps...I'll have to check it out again when I have the chance. The problem is that Thomas Dillon pretty specifically affirms that BR#1 was cold iron in sworn testimony and it's rather difficult to get past that.

quote:

3708. You were a trimmer on the "Titanic," were you not? - Yes.

3709. I suppose your duties as a trimmer would be in the engine room? - Yes.

3710. Were you on duty in the engine room on the night of the accident? - Yes.

3711. Is there more than one engine room? - I do not know.

3712. I see on the plan immediately after the last boiler there is a compartment marked "Reciprocating engine." Is that where you were? - That is where I understand I was - in the engine room. I have never been down below before; it was my first trip down below.

3713. Would you be in a coal bunker, or where? - In the engine room where the main engines are.

3714. What were you doing there? What were your duties there? - I belonged to the upper section, but the upper section of boilers was not lit up, and they sent us to the engine room to assist in cleaning the gear.

And also;

quote:

3745. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did you open the watertight doors? - Yes, I assisted to open them as far as we could forward.

3746. And did you go into the stokehold? - Yes.

3747. Do you know which stokehold that would be? - The after-stokehold.

3748. The one immediately forward of the engine room? - Yes.

3749. Were the boilers lit in the stokehold? - No.

Could Dillon be wrong or untruthful?

Sure he could.

It's not as if this is the first time that contradictory evidence has come up within and outside of the inquiries.

Still, all was rendered moot by the iceberg. If they were getting set to build up steam for a full power run, they never got a chance to do anything with it. I suspect the only time Titanic exceeded 23 knots or more was just about the time she plowed into the bottom.
sad.gif
 

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