Grounding of the Titanic

Parks and David,

Sorry I'm a little late to this discussion. I am in the process of digesting your very impressive paper.

It is a pleasure to read. It certainly makes perfect sense and explains many points regarding the accident.

Of particular interest was the flooding of the firemen's passage, as on this point the BoT report had always troubled me.

I hope as Michael says that it gets the level of attention and discussion that it deserves.

Best regards

Parks, I find it inconcievable that the Titanic wouldn't tip that berg over a bit. It's not as if the thing was firmly planted in the bottom. Even acounting for fuel burn and consumption of stores, the ship still had to mass something like 48-49,000 tons by that time.

Not exactly a feather.

Unfortunately, the witnesses who actually saw the berg didn't get a very good look at it befor it disappeared into the night, and at that, only for a few seconds.

Michael H. Standart

You can start to see why I left the thought about the fallen ice hanging in the paper. To complete the thought, you'd have to consider tipping the berg, which would lead into a discussion about the relative instability of icebergs, which would bring up the "black ice" theory, but if the berg recently turned over, then how could surface effect erode and create a ledge, but then if the berg hadn't recently tipped over, then the surface would have crystallised, then Lightoller's description of a one-in-a-100-year coincidence wouldn't really hold true, because the "black mass" description would have only been a cover-your-keister tactic dreamt up by the lookouts...

Aaaarrrggh! The mind explodes. I didn't want brain matter splattered all over our nice, clean report. I'd rather make the mess here.

Also, how much of Titanic's mass actually weighed on the berg? Not a feather, but also not all 49,000 tons, surely.

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Good points.(And perhaps the ledge was already there???) Or maybe it was the force of impact which sent ice chips flying everywhere.

I know! I know! This would very likely involve some impact above the waterline. How would one find evidence of that after nearly a century? It may well have been there, but I'm sure Father time and impact with the bottom would have masked it over pretty thoroughly. This whole thing is a can of worms no matter where you go.

Let me get my Industrial Strength Tylenol and we can mull this over further. Sooner or later, you know that question's going to come up, especially when the peer review comes in.

Michael h. Standart
Maybe this mental image will help explain the ice on the deck. Picture an iceberg calving. What does it do? It just falls over, away from the main part of the glacier. Because of its inherent density, it physically can't go the other way, so it falls away from the main body of ice. That's with no disruption to its base. A little jolt could easily loosen up a spire of ice.

Another possible scenario. Parts of the iceberg had already melted underneath, causing it to be curved like the bow of a ship, and the deck of the Titanic hit one of those protrusions.

I agree that the likely scenario is that of the berg calving. What I don't see is Titanic hitting the berg above C Deck, irregardless of whether the ship grounded (as we postulated) or sideswiped the berg (as holds conventional theory). There's no evidence from the wreck, everything on the ship above C Deck angles inward (away from the berg), and there's no testimony as to any of Titanic's upper works suffering contact (Fleet, Lee, Scarrott, to name a few) with the berg.

So, let's say she calved. Exactly why did the berg calve? That could be important, if we're discussing the nature of the collision. Important, but maybe not conclusive, one way or the other.

>>Exactly why did the berg calve?<<

Weak lines of fracture perhaps? Hit it hard enough...even indirectly..and something already on the verge for whatever reason gives up the ghost. (Shrug)

Michael H. Standart
"but if the berg recently turned over, then how could surface effect erode and create a ledge"

Maybe it didn't run over a ledge, but what had once been a large and sturdy spire.


Very confusing.

No, that's doesn't have to be a ledge. During the writing of the Paper, I found it easier to grasp the concept by thinking of a ledge, while Dave kept reminding me that it didn't have to be a ledge, per se. There's no telling what it was really...the evidence either broke off and/or melted a long time ago.

If you REALLY want a mind trip, just drink a few Bass Ales and then think on the possibility that some of the molecules which made up that iceberg could have splashed you in the face during the last rainstorm.

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Beware all -- the exact underwater shape of the iceberg is unknowable. All we can know for certain is that the iceberg was bigger under water than it was above.

Fortunately, that is all we need to know for the Stephenson/Brown grounding theory to work. This theory does not depend on any "special cases." Icebergs with spires or pinnacles characteristically have underwater shapes that extend outward beyond the portion of the berg that is visible. Any old medium-sized iceberg will do.

The strength of our argument is that the grounding theory requires no special cases; and that it produces the kind of damage known to have existed on Titanic in the locations where it took place.

Conversely, the conventional version requires a specific shape to the iceberg, angle of approach by the ship, and precise deformation (crushing) of the steel to mask the event from the passengers. The conventional theory has the iceberg crushing or penetrating the side of the ship in way of the firemen's stair tower to such an extent that the watertight integrity of that tower is compromised. This requires either some 3 feet of crushed plate and girders; or, a horizontal "knife" of ice at least 3 feet long. After the stair tower is compromised, the conventional story calls for the ship to extracate itself from this deep penetration and continue "bumping" along the berg for another 200 feet or so. All of this has to occur without enough of an impact to knock anyone off their feet or awaken sleeping passengers.

Our grounding theory, however, requires only a small (perhaps no more than a couple of inches) vertical displacement of the starboard margin plate of the tank beneath the firemen's passage to compromise the stair tower. Any vertical movement of the margin plate must cause damage to the overlying structure -- exactly as was reported by eyewitnesses.

The conventional sideswipe theory needs a very specialized shape to the iceberg and a highly special approach of the ship to allow vertical penetration of the shell plating at 22 knots. Then, it calls for some unnamed mechanism to mask the corresponding 3-foot rebound so that passengers never notice. Following that, the conventional version requires a special shape of the berg and a precise angle of the ship so that the two touch with just the right amount of force several times so that the crushing of the metal exactly masks the impulse and rebound of the accident.

Our grounding theory only requires a ship with a cutaway forefoot and any North Atlantic iceberg. No special cases are necessary. If we could "port around" a close-aboard iceberg in a replica of Titanic, we should expect similar results to those that occurred in 1912.

Scientists are often faced with two theories which seek to explain the same phenomenon. In such cases, they apply a philosophical principle called "Occam's Razor." It says that the assumptions used to explain something should not be multiplied beyond necessity. Or, in everyday language, the simplest theory is usually best.

Would anyone like to apply Mr. Occam's razor to this problem?

-- David G. Brown

Even more so when you think that you could have flushed some of it down your toilet. :)


As usual, right on. I've gotten carried away by the headiness of getting through a complete weekend without a household disaster of some sort (despite the fact that the week ended with my car getting sideswiped).

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Dave is taking care of personal business and will forward the images to me when he gets a chance. I have some, but not all, so I want to wait until he can send me the rest. I can say, however, that since the illustrations are excerpts from the builder's plans, there is nothing that you haven't already seen. The most significant illustrations are those of the forefoot and the Fireman's Passage.

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David, Occam's razor works for me. And you're right; the iceberg didn't have to be special at all. All the Titanic had to do was behave the way any ship would with the rudder hard over to one side then the other. The berg would do the rest of the dirty work!

I think what Park's was trying to account for was how ice ended up on the well deck. IMO, this doesn't require anything unusual. Just impact forces doing their thing and perhaps some line of fracture on some irregular projection already on the verge deciding to give way.

Parks, sorry to hear about the car. I hope it's worth fixing. New ones are rather pricy these days.

Michael H. Standart