History Channel's Worst of the Worst program


Apr 11, 2001
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For once there was something worth watching on TV. The History channel had a 2 hour program on terrible design mistakes. The Liberty Ships were cited. a story which I was not aware of- apparently inferior steel, when exposed to cold water, would have a disastrous effect on the welded seams and the ships would literally come to pieces-Titanic was used as a comparison- the remedy was to band heavy steel braces along the sides of the hull to reinforce the integrity of the steel and the problem stopped. Titanic was also examined from a point of high sulfur in the steel which reacts badly in the steel exposed to cold temperatures- and also the rivets were critcized for being vastly inferior in construction and composition. One statement put forth which I had NEVER heard of before was that Smith insisted that some of the lifeboats destined for Titanic were superfluous and should be removed before she sailed- sounds more like an Ismayism to me- There was a segment on the Andrea Doria as well- one theory was that if her fuel had been pumped to the other side of the ship via the port-starboard channels designed for that purpose, she may have floated. Was also fascinated to learn that the radar dial illuminator was not equiped with a 10 cent light bulb, so that on a darkened night bridge, the scale reader was not readable and instead of the 12 miles apart supposed, it actually read 2 miles- due to the darkened screen it was not read properly. Fascinating. After the wreck, all radar scale illuminators were equipped with permanent lights. The Hindenburg and the Thresher were also discussed- great program- sure to be repeated this week- try to catch it.
 

Bill Sauder

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Dec 19, 2000
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Shelley writes: "There was a segment on the Andrea Doria as well - one theory was that if her fuel had been pumped to the other side of the ship via the port-starboard channels designed for that purpose, she may have floated"

I didn't see the show so I don't know how the writer framed the issue, but the engineers on board in fact tried to counter-flood. The problem was the control valves for these tanks were destroyed or inaccessible because they were very close to the point of impact with the Stockholm.

Bill Sauder
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Shelly,

All I can say in reply is that anything can be said with the benefit of hindsight. I think it was either David or Bill (or both) who pointed out that the primary purpose of these shows is to entertain.

Parks
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Parks- usually the History Channel spends a little more time on getting it right than the network TV -the problem was trying to cram so much in 2 short hours and much got left on the cutting room floor I suspect. And they do from time to time make glaring errors-frquently from quoting "perceived experts" who got it wrong but somehow the misinformation develops authenticity in the re-telling. Was glad to know about the Doria footnote, Bill. And it was a show worth watching as I was made aware of several issues - like the flaw in the construction of the WWII
Liberty ships- which I was not familiar with. It
shouldn't be hard to entertain AND educate at the
same time- History is certainly more fascinating
than anything Hollywood can come up with- take note Mr. Cameron!
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Shelley,

I would have thought that about the History Channel, too, until I saw the "History's Greatest Blunders" episode on Titanic. It was full of errors and incorrect assumptions, as far as I could tell. Since that time, I've watched more of the "History's/Military Greatest Blunders" series, and have not been impressed by the depth of their research.

I have nothing but the highest praise for the History Channel and watch it whenever I can. I hold with most, but not every, program they air. The "Greatest Blunders" series is the only programming on the Channel I have seen that I take exception to; aside from the errors, I think history is trivialised for the sake of entertainment when a series is built around "blunders."

The "design mistakes" episode (again, "worst of the worst" is a trivialisation) you mention is another example. It's so easy with hindsight to criticise rivets and steel content, when the end result is known. However, the forest is overlooked for the trees...Titanic sank because she ran into or grounded upon an iceberg. Failed rivets and brittle steel explain the mechanics of how the skin was compromised, but because of the forces involved, welded joints and modern A36 steel would have been compromised by the collision all the same. Focus on rivets and impurities in the steel obscures the larger issue that Titanic sank because of the arrangement of her internal subdivision.

Parks
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
I'd take the rivits thing with a large grain of salt in any event as only a very few removed from the wreck were ever examined. I think it was something like 26 out of three million that actually went into the hull...somebody correct me if I'm wrong...but in any event, way too low a number to be useful for any valid statistical analysis.

Sparks, I saw the Greatest Blunders thing on the Titanic, and like you, I wasn't particularly impressed. Every time I see it, I keep catching mistakes. Next time I catch it, I'll have to keep a notebook handy to write them all down.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Agreed all around- Discovery and A&E seem to have a better research and historical advisory team- maybe we should volunteer the resources of the ET Board! History Channel is online after all- we could send 'em an email- the Titanic Blunders episode was dreadful- too bad- it does a disservice to novices looking to gain knowledge. Was intrigued with the theory that the Hindenburg skin paint had flammable properties akin to black powder used in ammunition! Actually the guy had done the tests- hard to fine fault with the science there.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Shelley,

No doubt about the Hindenburg, as anyone who has built a balsa-wood airplane model should know. Now, THAT (Hindenburg) was an accident waiting to happen...

But that's a matter for another list...

Parks
 

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