How much water could the Titanic hold before it sank

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Hi John!

It would be easiest if you re-iterated your question in more detail -- are you lookin for the amount of water in tons? the number of watertight compartments?

If you speak of the watertight compartments, Bruce Ismay stated in America that the company had been anxious for the ship to afloat with any two large watertight compartments flooded; with four forward compartments flooded, the ship would probably also have floated in reasonable conditions. Titanic's sister-ships Olympic and Britannic's bulkhead between boiler room #5 and #4 was later extended all the way to the underside of B-deck, so that they could float with six forward watertight compartments flooded; but Britannic got damaged so badly that she still sank.

Best regards.

I need to know the amount of water in tons that the titanic could have held and still have been able to stay afloat. I knew the theory on the number of boiler rooms that could be flooded with it still being able to stay afloat. However, I have been unable to find the amount of water in tons that the titanic could have held because it seems to be an uncommon question. I also can't find the dimensions of those watertight compartments because if I could I would be able to
answer the question myself.

I hope this further clarifies the type of answer I am looking for.


Hi John!

If you follow the link to the British enquiry on the main page, check Lord Mersey's report where it gives the *exact dimensions* of every watertight compartment. Note, however, that the boiler rooms -- although each housed in a watertight compartment, or rather between watertight bulkheads -- are not the same as the forward or aft watertight compartments.

At a *very basic estimate* I would guess 15,000 tons of water, housed in the four forward watertight compartments. The number of tons Titanic could have held and remained afloat will vary depending on where you put the water, or rather where the flooding occurs.

Best regards,

The page you are referring to is the link to "report" under the British enquiry, and then the link that says "watertight compartments" right?
Well, it's there somewhere. I have a paper copy of the enquiry report and minutes, so I have not looked at the on-line version for ages.

It sounds right, though. Hope you find it useful for your project?

Best regards.

It is difficult to determine exactly how much water entered the ship. Naval architects Bedford and Hackett used a computer simulation to investigate Titanic's sinking in their 1996 article "The Sinking of S.S. Titanic - Investigated by Modern Techniques."

One of the main problems in deciding how much water entered the ship is the amount of space occupied in the cargo holds. This cannot be calculated with any degree of accuracy. At the British Inquiry, Edward Wilding stated that "in the cargo spaces about one-quarter of the volume of the space would be occupied by water-excluding materials." (20299)

That is, about 3/4 of the cargo holds could be filled with water. Further, Wilding assumed that the coal bunkers were about 50% full. Bedford and Hackett disagreed, believing the bunkers to be about 1/3 full.

Two numbers may be found in the Bedford/Hackett article:

First is 39,542 tons of water.

Second is 40,174 tonnes of water.

I do not know what the difference between "tonne" and "ton" is. Perhaps someone else can clarify.

It seems strange that this number is less than Titanic's gross tonnage (46329). However, the number IS greater than Titanic's lightweight (38760).

Which of Titanic's tonnages should the Bedford/Hackett number be compared to? Mark, do you know?

Nathan Robison
Archimedes law states that an object immersed in water experiences an upward thrust (buoyancy) equal to the weight of the displaced water. The Board of Trade report stated a displacement for Titanic of 52,310 tons at a draft of 34'7".

Flooding inside the hull had the same effect as reducing the amount of water that Titanic displaced. As the amount of displaced water went down, so did buoyancy. Unfortunately, the mass of the ship remained the same even though the hull filled with water. When Titanic's buoyancy reached zero the excess weight of steel, wood, linoleum, wine bottles, brass beds, ornate clocks, and jeweled tiaras that made up the ship took it to the bottom.

A "long" ton used in naval architecture is equal to 262 U.S. gallons. Simple multiplication gives Titanic's displacement at 13,702,600 gallons, or 109,620,800 pints (U.S.). That's how much water was necessary to reduce Titanic's buoyancy to zero.

Now, if anyone knows the specific gravity of Guinness, we could convert that salt water to something a lot more palatable.

-- David G. Brown
Hi Nathan, Dave.

Which of Titanic's tonnages should the Bedford/Hackett number be compared to? Mark, do you know?

and Dave responded: Archimedes law states that an object immersed in water experiences an upward thrust (buoyancy) equal to the weight of the displaced water. The Board of Trade report stated a displacement for Titanic of 52,310 tons at a draft of 34'7".

In my view the problem is that Titanic's displacement would have been somewhat less at the time of the collision. I have information from Thomas Andrews on this from 1911, when he testfied about Olympic to the Hawke enquiry:

  • 33 feet 6 inches - - - - 50,500 tons
  • 34 feet 0 inches - - - - 51,340 tons

I worked-out a rough table to give me an idea of different displacements:

<table border=1>[tr][td]29 feet 6 inches - - - - 41200 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]30 feet 0 inches - - - - 42600 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]30 feet 6 inches - - - - 44000 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]31 feet 0 inches - - - - 45300 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]31 feet 6 inches - - - - 46400 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]32 feet 0 inches - - - - 47500 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]32 feet 6 inches - - - - 48300 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]33 feet 0 inches - - - - 49400 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]33 feet 6 inches - - - - 50500 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]34 feet 0 inches - - - - 51340 tons [/td][/tr][tr][td]34 feet 7 inches - - - - 52310 tons* [/td][/tr][tr][td] [/td][/tr][tr][td]38 feet 6 inches - - - - 60000 tons[/td][/tr][/table]

*One inch addition.

*Disclaimer: It's only VERY rough estimates.*

Cal Haines also posted: June 26th 2001: (I hope he doesn't mind me re-posting it in this thread for ease):


Wilding estimated Titanic's draft at the time of the collision for the British Inquiry. Hackett & Bedford published his calculations in their 1996 RINA paper, as follows:

Titanic's actual draft leaving Southampton:
34'-4" aft, 33'-8" forward, 34'-0" mean

Olympic's average change in draft for three voyages: 2'-8"

Wilding's estimate of Titanic's draft after 165 hours at sea:
1'-9" mean change in draft
32'-9" aft, 30'-9" forward, 32'-3" mean

From elsewhere I have Titanic's Tons per Inch as

143.8 at a draft of 34'-7" (load draft)
138.8 at a draft of 26'-7&frac12;" (light draft)

Wilding's numbers indicate that she had used about 3,000 tons of fuel and other expendables by the time of the collision.

Best regards,

For technical information regarding the ship, check the British Report found at the Titanic Inquiry project. Michael Standart provided a link above.
John -- the amount of water necessary to sink the ship is independent of the watertight bulkheads. Titanic floated until it lost buoyancy, then it sank. The bulkheads only controlled the speed and location of the flooding. If they had worked perfectly, the bulkheads would not have allowed the ship to take on a fatal amount of water. However, that's not the way things played out.

--David G. Brown
John, I'm not quite sure I understand what your question is. The Titanic had 15 transverse (As in going from side to side.) watertight bulkheads starting with bulkhead A forward and ending with bulkhead P aft. The highest, Bulkhead A went up to C deck, B extended to D deck, C through J went up to E Deck, and K through P went up to D Deck.

For more detailed information, go to the section in the British Wreck Commission's final report at;,html

Hope this helps.

Michael H. Standart
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