How did the Titanic sink to the bottom

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Hi everybody!
I watched a Titanic documentary some time ago, where they showed this experiment that they did. They built a 'to - scale' model of the Titanic and sank it, to see the passage of the ship as it travelled to the ocean floor. They found out that it went down in a 'rocking' motion, which probably accounts for it being upright on the ocean floor. They missed one vital point though! The model that they built was in one piece, not in 2 pieces like the original. I am sure that this would have affected the way it sank, surely! Another thing is that the ship would have been hollow to a certain extent, with all those corridors etc. I can't belive that they overlooked this, it seems so simple, but I also can't believe it would have made any difference.
Any thoughts on this would be appreciated!


Thats interesting. I'd like to see that documentary.
I recall something similar being presented in the movie, "Raise the Titainc". They built a model of the Titanic and sank it in a big pool. They found that it 'sailed' and 'glided' underwater as it went down and ended up a few miles away from the position it reportedly sank. That's why no one had found it yet. (This movie was made in the early 80's, before Dr. Ballard found the actual ship.)
Anyway, the movie model was also in one piece just like the model used in the documentary. Now that was just a movie and definetly not a realistic, scientific experiment. So its intention was to further the plot of the movie, not enhance real knowledge. Basically worthless. Still it sounds very much like the experiment you witnessed.
The test done for the documentary could be worth some merit, except that as you correctly pointed out it was whole, and lacked the true interior structure of the ship. Very important factors in such a test. And obviously a big goof considering what we now know about the state of the wreck.
I wonder who, what organization, set up this test and when the documentary was made?

Good post.

Are you talking about the Discovery Channel special, with the yellow Titanic model? That model was one piece - the bow section. It was weighted proportionately to simulate the weight distribution of the actual ship. The model had the holes from the funnels and GSC incorporated, and did the experiment several times, pulling flanges outward on the rear of the model to see if the trajectory would change given maximum drag as a result of the torn hull plates. The model sank the same way each time.
Given enough time to fall, virtually every ship will land on the bottom upright. The keel is the heaviest part of the ship.

Dean Manning

Former Member

Mike is right, the model was just of the bow section. The idea was to model the bows behavior as it made it's journey to the bottom.

Mike is also right in that the scientist incorporated the proper weight distribution and major external features. The internal features were not of importance, simply because they did not effect the dynamics of the interaction of the hull and the water flow around it.

One other note. The name of the documentary is :
Titanic: Answers from the abyss. The experiment was done in an indoor testing tank in Mass.

Thanks a lot for that! I guess I don't 'know it all', I should have known a simple thing like that would not have been overlooked. I have got that documentary, Answers from the Abyss, I am sure it was that one that I was referring to. Well, at least my mind can be put to rest now. I shall go and look at the documentary again, I haven't seen that one for quite a while. Going off the point a little, it is interesting though that the Titanic was found in the same place (sort of) as was in the Raise the Titanic movie. I think it was, anyway, isn't it a bit concealed with a 'cliff' face under the ocean, or in a ravine or something? I am not too hot on the wreck part of the story, I am more knowlegable about the people that were on board and the costumes of the time. I would like to know a bit more about the wreck though, it is always nice to know something thst you didn't know before!
Bye for now,

Robert Howe

Former Member
The closing lines of Bob Ballard's formal statement at the press conference after the Knorr's return:

"The Titanic itself lies in 13000 feet of water on a gently sloping Alpine-like countryside overlooking a small canyon below. Its bow faces north and the ship sits upright on the bottom, its mighty stacks pointing upward. There is no light at this great depth and little light can be found. It is quiet and peaceful and a fitting place for the remains of this greatest of sea tragedies to rest. May it forever remain that way and may God bless these found souls."

Ballard's words are highly evocative and give an insight into the moving nature of his discovery. They are also AFAIK an accurate description of the wreck site.

Robert and Mike,
I think their preliminary sonar readings gave the impression that two of the smokestacks were still upright, and he was going by what he had at the time. The National Geographic from December 1985 depicts a artist graphic showing funnels 2 and 3 in place. A chart of the wreck Ballard points to during a press conference also showed funnels in place yet (Discovery of the Titanic). He had confirmed right away that the first funnel was gone. Survivors had attested to that in 1912. I remember seeing in a magazine another artist's impression of the wreck in October/November 1985, showing the Titanic with those two stacks intact (and, incidently, the stern detached but just a few yards away from the bow section, as if it broke when she hit bottom).
I don't think Ballard had the chance to view all the images until late 1985 or early 1986 (National Geographic video), where a more-rounded picture was pieced together and he was able to see that they were indeed gone. While on the 1985 expedition, he was still worried about snagging Argo and Angus in guy wires - I think he was under the impression during the expedition that the funnels were still there.

Tom Pappas

Former Member
The model in the tank didn't behave anything like the actual wreck. It planed away and wound up far from the release point (the non-scalability of water strikes again).

The real bow and stern went damn near straight down. The few hundred feet that separate them from the boilers, which did go straight down, is a pittance in comparison to the 12,500 foot depth.

Reducing the entire scene by a factor of 1,000 would mean that if you dropped an 11" model from a height of 12½ feet, it would land 2½ feet away.

Matt Pereira

Former Member
well maybe titanic`s bow spiraled down like her stern did and just ended up facing north, she couldnt have had her bow point straight down when she broke, if so how do you explain glass bottles and glass water bottles still on the nightstands in the rooms standing up right how would you explain that they didnt tip over with the bow facing straight down. i know as a fact its very possible it could happen, but the likely hood is very remote, no one and i mean no one will ever know how titanic reacted once she went below the surface, first off you cant model a accurate model cause we dont know if the aft end of the bow is like she is now after the break or if that was caused by the bow impacting the floor and the turblanace of water behind the bow smashed the aft end down and buckling her at the expansion joint.
>>well maybe titanic`s bow spiraled down like her stern did and just ended up facing north,<<

Unlikely. The tank tests that were accomplished included experiments to see if the bow section could be made to spiral, and this included adding a metal tab on the thing canted in one direction to do it.

The bow failed to spiral in spite of the very best efforts to make it do so.

>>she couldnt have had her bow point straight down when she broke, if so how do you explain glass bottles and glass water bottles still on the nightstands in the rooms standing up right how would you explain that they didnt tip over with the bow facing straight down.<<

Some of these things are anomolies which defy explaination, but then sinkings are full of anomolies. That we may not understand them or even be able the explain them at best means we don't have a full understanding of how everything works when a ship sinks.
Testimony states that the stern of Titanic pivoted around, to face the opposite direction from previously.

Looking at the wreck, we see the stern section pointed opposite from the bow. Which is more likely, that both sections pivoted around, and just 'happened' to come to rest in the same configuration as at the surface? Or that both sections went down in the same orientation as at the surface?

I definitely believe the box did not spiral down, it went down facing the same direction as it was on the surface - roughly north. And so did the stern - facing south.
Right here brother, this is what put her down.

[Picture deleted by Paul Rogers]
Sorry Bill: I've had to remove your, um, extremely interesting image to spare our members' blushes! Paul R.
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