How the break-up occurred

The heavy weight of the engines was causing a bend in Titanic's double bottom. Does this mean the double bottom was weakened and did the breakup start there? this would go perfectly with the V breakup theory, because the double bottom would of held on and water would seep through, causing the bow to rise and the stern to sink. If there was no water in the stern, flooding would be minimal. Eye witness accounts inform us that the bow seemed to rise. After all, B deck was considered "A strength deck". Even though the Aft. expansion joint was there. But the usual bow pulls stern down theory could also be truthful, that's probable why the stern sank. Or it may be that the titanic had no power so the water tight doors failed, even though they might be hand operated as well.

here is a good theory (even though its 11 years old)

Good day!
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According to the thoughtful study «Flooding and Structural Forensic Analysis of the Sinking of the RMS Titanic» by J.W. Stettler (M) and B.S. Thomas (M), the maximum peak Bending Moment Hogging Stress appeared at surface, when the trim reached 22-23 degrees and in the area of the after expansion joint.

Any study is only as good as the assumptions that were made when it is conducted. Sometimes, the back of the envelope method done in 15 minutes yields results just as reliable as a study taking hundreds of hours using advanced computer algorithms. A simple case in point is proving that the vessel could not have achieved a high angle when it broke in two because the maximum bending moment would take place at a relatively low angle. See:

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The ship listed heavily to port. Tests tend to ignore this and the effects it played on the break up. I believe the plates would compress on the port side close to the keel and expand on the starboard side. Once the plates slowly began to buckle the sea would flood the centre of the ship. The weight of water in the main engine room would undoubtedly pull her down in the middle breaking the ship and causing the stern to cant upwards. The idea that the bow went under and the stern rose up and then broke in two does not match survivor statements. It is also unrealistic as many large ships have sunk with their sterns raised high without breaking e.g. Lusitania, Britannic. I believe the port list was the main factor which caused one side to buckle and tore away one side until she broke. Her stern then keeled violently onto her side and canted upwards into the air.

Below - Edited picture of the Lusitania. When the stern of the Titanic slightly lifted and the ship listed more heavily to port the plates would buckle on each side, the sea would rush into the centre of the ship and the weight of the engines would pull her down in the middle.


After the ship broke Charles Joughin said he climbed onto the starboard side as the stern keeled violently over to port as it broke away from the bow.


Charles Joughin
"She gave a great list over to port and threw everybody in a bunch except myself. I did not see anybody else besides myself out of the bunch.....I was on the side, practically on the side then. She threw them over. I clambered on the side when she chucked them......Many hundreds, I should say."

Looking at the broken keel of the bow and stern it appears the starboard side held on longer and quite possibly the ship was torn across from right to left as the stern keeled violently over to port.


What is rarely discussed is the ship effectively broke into three sections. The port list would cause immense strain on the hull on both sides, with plates opening, water rushing in, and the weight of the engines pulling down. The middle section is some distance away from the bow and stern and quite possibly the double bottom broke and everything heavy accelerated the ship breaking and flooding in the middle, causing the stern to keel onto its side and cant upwards high out of the water.

Only the top decks of the middle section appear intact. Possibly this was all that held the bow and stern together after she broke. One side of the middle section appears to have twisted and peeled back. Survivors said the stern turned around and faced the opposite way after she broke. Perhaps this section was holding the bow and stern together and peeled back on one side as the stern turned and faced the opposite way while still attached.

Middle section


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I was just making sure that you were alert enough to discover that the list was not taken into consideration in the study! :)

Nice drawings though … :oops:
Only the top decks of the middle section appear intact. Possibly this was all that held the bow and stern together after she broke. One side of the middle section appears to have twisted and peeled back. Survivors said the stern turned around and faced the opposite way after she broke. Perhaps this section was holding the bow and stern together and peeled back on one side as the stern turned and faced the opposite way while still attached.

Middle section

View attachment 2658

Actually this is part of the 2nd class promenade of C Deck on the stern section. There is no middle section. There are large "tower" debris which came from the break up area.
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Kyle Naber

Sorry to disappoint, but the theorized order of events are physically impossible to take place. I could see this happening maybe if the ship sank as quickly as the Lusitania, but a ship taking 2 hours and 40 minutes to completely flood makes this an improbability. A vessel bridge-deep in the ocean has no chance of resurrection. Once the boat deck becomes washed, the whole thing is finished. James Cameron and historians from from the production of a new video game coming out called "Titanic: Honor and Glory" think that it is a probability that the grand staircase was pulverized and ejected through the glass dome. This combined with the mass of smoke and sparks emitting from the base of the collapsed second funnel could give this impression. Survivors are frequently wrong about stressful and terrifying events like details about timing and lighting, especially during such a dark night.
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When it comes to trusting the word of survivors or that of James Cameron and a video simulator, honestly I would recommend the survivor testimony every time. Survivors saw the ship break in half on the surface. We don't know how long the actual break up took and in how many stages it took before the bow finally broke separately from the stern. Survivors heard two explosions between 10 and 20 minutes apart. This could have been the break up occurring as she gradually tore herself apart and the bow broke free. Quartermaster Rowe looked at his watch during the collision and noted it was 11.40pm. When he got into the starboard collapsible with Mr. Ismay he noted it was 1.25am. When this boat was lowered they noticed the ship was down so much that her starboard light on the promenade was just above the water, but that certainly doesn't mean that the decks below were flooded. On the contrary Charles Joughin was still in his cabin way down on E-deck at this time and noticed the water was just creeping up the corridor towards his room. When the ship listed more to port he noticed it left the corridor, and one must assume it flooded the port side cabins or was in fact flooding the boiler rooms as E-deck was their point of entry. The main engine room was below his feet and he saw men around 1:30am (after the starboard collapsible had left the ship) trying to close the watertight door outside his room on E-deck just above the engine room. One must assume that the sea was moving aft and not up. Mr. Pearcey was in the same collapsible with Ismay and Rowe when the sea had reached the promenade outside the ship, but certainly not inside the ship as Charles Joughin was still in his cabin on E-deck.

Mr. Pearcey was asked:

Q - Did you see the vessel go down?
A - Yes.
Q - Were you facing her when she went down?
A - Yes.
Q - Did you notice when you rowed away whether the ship had any list?
A - Yes, the ship had a list on her port side. (water rolling to port side on E-deck)
Q - Did you notice whether she was down by the head?
A - No, I did not notice. (Joughin also did not.)
Q - Did you notice whether she appeared to be going deeper into the water forward. Did you notice that?
A - No.

Mr. Weikman said the sea rushed over the boat deck at 1:50am as his watch had stopped and when he was 15 feet away from the ship he described a second explosion. All of the decks from A - E would have been dry for the large part until the ship broke in two. From what I can tell, the ship flooded at first from the bow, but then moved aft. The downward tilt would ease away as the flooding spread aft. The weight of the engines and the water and the list was simply too much strain. The ship buckled and broke sending the stern upwards into the air. The bow was no longer being pulled down by the weight of the stern and engines. What happens next - Get an empty glass or cup and put it upside down into a basin of water. It will not flood and will resist the forces pushing down against it and push up. When the stern and engines were effectively cut free the bow would dip down for a second and then rise up several feet until the air was expelled in decks A - E and then it would flood. The stern crashing down onto the rear of the bow would also contribute for the elevation of the bow. Imagine the air inside with corridors, hallways, and hundreds of closed and locked cabins all wanting to expel and force upwards. There was even a plan in the 1980's to raise the Titanic wreck using inflatable bags. Imagine those bags inside the bow just as she broke in two. There would certainly be a moment were the bow hesitated before it sank properly. There is also the possibility that some of the watertight doors were reopened by accident or by purpose to carry the pumps through and allowed the sea to spread further aft right across the ship to the main engine room, breaking the ship in two.

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Jim Currie

Here's a scenario for you. Unfortunately I can't animate anything except my imagination.

Titanic hits the iceberg. The following takes place:

1. Water pours into the ship along the starboard side for a distance of about 200 feet.

2. The ship initially lists to starboard bur as the water crosses from starboard to port, comes up right once more.

3. The ship continues to sink bodily due to the loss of buoyancy and tip by the head because the buoyancy is lost forward of the tipping center which is at the center of the water plane. (The area of the sea in which Titanic is sitting.

4. The water plane area changes shape and the tipping enter moves forward as the stern lifts and the bow dips.

5. The ship continues to sink bodily and tip by the head, The shape of the water plane area continues to change and the tipping center continues to move toward the bow. The keel and propellers at the stern are now up in the air and without and support.

6. The ship is now listing to port (then left) with her stern including all her engines and heaviest parts is up in the air.. A bending moment starts. Unfortunately it is concentrated at the weakest part of the hull... just forward of the main engine room where the depth of double bottom is reduced. There is also an enormous void area formed be the vault of the main engine room directly above this area. The keel goes into compression... the hull side plating in way of the main engine room begins to fail.

7. The engine room is unindated and massive volume of water is concentrated on the port side due to the port list.

8. A Number of things happen in quick succession:

a.The ship sinks bodily and lurches farther to port. The four massive funnels now act as levers, attempting to turn the ship over to port.
b. The water enters the base of funnl #1.
c. The added weight and heavy 'lean' to port are too much for the # 1 funnel guys and the funnel is dislodged to port.
d. The ship partly rights herself.
e. The keel forward of the main engine room, fails.
f. The ship's side opens up from the failed keel until it reaches the sheer strakes at C deck.
g. For a brief moment the sheer strakes hold.
h. The stern begins to bend back down toward the sea.
i. The stern returns to the sea and starts to sink with the rest of the ship.
j. The starboard sheer strake fails.. BANG!
k. The almost free forward section twists to port.
l. The area of double bottom in way of No. 1 Boiler Room tears away.
m. The port sheer strake fails...BANG.
n. The area of bow section including funnel # 3 shears off and downward to the right.
o. The area of upper accommodation including funner # 3 is ripped from it's location by upward thrust of water and allows bits like the barber's pole to float free to the surface.
p. The stern section including funnel # 4 is now up right, afloat and swinging to the right.
q. The stern section sinks.
r. The bow section sheers right and in doing so, spews coal and boiler out of its open wound.
s. The bow section hits the sea bed at an angle and remains at that angle for a time until the weigh and failure of structure causes it to bend at the bridge and descend to the sea bed where the side plates become splayed out.
t.The stern section spirals slowly to the sea bed, remaining virtually intact except for funnel # 4 and associated superstructure.

Just a bit of imagination but perfectly feasible.

Explains why almost all the debris from the bow section is concentrated around he stern section.
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Kyle Naber

I think that we can all agree that the ship sank bodily and to port before it went down by the head. Modern flooding simulators show the stern rising rapidly after the water reaches the base of the second funnel. This would mean that the deck was walkable even when half of the ship was submerged:


The center of rotation is directly in the center of the ship, about fifty to seventy feet forward of the break area:


Also, if the ship were mainly sinking bodily until the last few minutes, what strain would a port list have on a ship only lowering and not rising in the water? 10 to 15 degrees is shown in this simulator:


Most survivors had the impression that she went down whole, and only about a dozen out of them testified that she parted. If the scenario the V Break theory were true, then this would not be the case. In a situation where the Titanic breaks in two with no water on the boat deck occurs, then this dramatic and memorable scene would have been presented in front of most people. It is easier to understand, in my opinion, the confusion of the breakup if the lights had gone out and the vessel was immediately pulled downwards.

I could maybe see the starboard sheer stake failing and the port one compressing which Jim theorizes (One of the two explosion reports). But once the ship breaks, the bow would drop like a stone. There is no boyancy left in this section of the ship, therefore it is unable to rise. I fail to comprehend how a ship 50 feet underneath the surface could displace thousands of tons of water.
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Jim Currie

Hello Kyle. Good thought process. Just a couple or three points.

A ship trims longitudinally about her Center of Flotation, not her center of gravity. The Center of Flotation is the geometric center of the water plane area i.e. the ship-shaped area of the water surface occupied by the ship. Since the Titanic's hull was rising out of the water at the stern. the moment the keel cleared the sea at the stern post, the Center of Flotation would start to move forward and the water plane area would shorten. This process would continue as the stern rose. I'll try, with one o my dreadful sketches to illustrate this in terms of the sinking Titanic.

Moving Cf..png

If the movement of the Cf is taken into account then you can see that the suspended part of the ship forms an uneven couple due to the length of lever from the Cf to the stern frame. This would create a bending moment at the center of the water plane. Such a bend would tend to buckle the side frames and plating outward. Think about what happens to the sided of as soda or beer can when you bend the can. Now add the complication that a heavy port list would create.

As for breaking at the surface: we have an excellent description of the moment that happened, it comes from Trimmer Dillon. I quote:

"3858. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Before the ship actually went down did you see her make any movements?
- Yes, she took one final plunge and righted herself again.
3859. She gave a plunge and righted herself again? A: - Yes.
3860. Did you notice anything about the funnel? A: - Not then.
3861. Did you afterwards notice something about the funnel? :- Yes.
3862. What? A: - When she went down.
3863. Was that after you had left the ship? A:- Before I left the ship.
3864. What did you notice? A: - Well, the funnel seemed to cant up towards me.
3865. It seemed to fall aft? A: - Yes; it seemed to fall up this way.
3866. Was that the aftermost funnel? A: - Yes.
3867. Did you get the idea that the ship was breaking in two? A: - No.
3868. Did the funnel seem to fall towards you? A: - Yes.
3869. (The Commissioner.) That is the after funnel? A: - Yes, my Lord."

Dillon ws standing at the stern at that time. If the ship had remained in one piece, then the funnel would have looked to him to be vertical, if not leaning away from him. He was describing the stern section plus funnel 4 returning to an even keel.
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From accounts there was no evidence of panic until the ship broke in two. This gives us an idea of how there was no sense of danger that the ship would sink until that moment.

What we need to do is work out where each lifeboat was in relation to the ship breaking in two. If the majority of them were rowing towards the light off Titanic's bow they would see very little, or rowing away from the stern they would see very little, or if they were the first boats to leave and had rowed a considerable distance away they would see very little, so we are left with probably a handful of survivors who actually witnessed the ship during the whole process of breaking in two.

Emily Ryerson was in lifeboat 4 which was very close to the ship on the port side. She said:
"The two forward funnels seemed to lean and then she seemed to break in half as if cut with a knife."

Ruth Becker was in lifeboat 13 which was very close to the starboard side. She also saw the two forward funnels lean as she broke in two and illustrated the breaking up with her fingers.


Survivors described how - "the bow had fallen off" and how it seemed to move forward in the water.

After the ship broke the stern suddenly canted upwards and then returned to a level keel as Eva Hart shows.


E-deck was the entry point for the water to flood the boilers and move aft. As this deck was still not flooded shortly before the ship broke it is feasible that the weight of water moving aft and close to the engine room caused something in the middle close to the keel to buckle.

The ship flooded on the starboard side and rolled over to port, and the direction in which the lower decks were flooding may have caused the ship to roll from side to side and the deeper she got the more tension built up, until the pulling action caused the sides to buckle under the strain and like a Chinese burn both ends wanted to list in opposite directions until something buckled. Gracie and Lightoller both noted the ship listed heavily to port and just moments later they described how the first funnel fell to starboard. Yet the stern keeled over to port after she broke. This gives us an idea of how both sections were opposing each other's lists.

Boxhall described the suction and the difficulty he had rowing down the port side towards the stern. If there were many portholes open the ship would flood in different compartments to port and starboard. Who knows what strain this put on the hull.


Imagine you are holding an extremely heavy bag on your back and you can't stand up because of the weight. The weight of the stern and engines pushing down on the bow would have been similar. The water had only reached E-deck and for a significant time it still had not moved up, but instead moved aft. With so much compressed air in decks A - E the moment the ship broke would have removed a great amount of weight away that was pushing the bow down.



The ship has broken. What happens next? I believe most of her decks have not yet flooded. The bow will take a sudden dip (a few feet) and come up again. The sea will then rush into the opening and the stern will cant violently upwards and crash down against the bow. As Mrs. Hippach described - "The steamer sank towards the center."

The Andrea Doria took nearly 11 hours to sink. When she was sideways and all of her decks were largely below the waterline it still took her 9 more minutes before there was enough weight to bring her down and sink her.


Titanic survivors said when they were trying to free the starboard collapsible they heard and felt an explosion deep inside the ship. This was undoubtedly the ship starting to break. The bow took a sudden thrust forwards and dipped down only several feet - "The Titanic gave a lurch downward and we were in the water up to our hips. She rose again slightly, and I succeeded in cutting the second rope which held her stern. Another lurch threw this boat myself off and away from the ship into the water." This gives us a clear idea of how the bow was breaking free regaining some buoyancy as most of the decks were not yet flooded, and until she flooded properly she could tilt and move in any direction. It was likely pushed down at the rear as the stern and the enormous engines pushed down against it and the stern canted upwards.

Since the water had not flooded E-deck yet there would have been an enormous volume of air inside the ship from all of the decks above that would compress and expel out of the ventilators and openings on the top deck as soon as he ship broke. Lightoller and Gracie were blown free by the escaping air. Lightoller thought the boilers had exploded as the sea rushed down and into the lower decks.

"This explosion, or whatever it was, took place. Certainly, I think it was the boilers exploded. There was a terrific blast of air and water, and I was blown out clear..............There was an explosion.....There was another explosion, and I came to the surface......The ship had turned around while I was under the water........The ship seemed to be heaving tremendous sighs as she went down.......The water rushing down below as she was going down..........The ship took a dive, reeling for a moment, then plunging."

This gives us an idea of how the water rushed into the ship from the boat deck, forcing the compressed air outwards even to the point that smoke and coal were seen shooting out of the funnels. If the lower decks were already flooded before she broke then the water would not have rushed down into the dry decks and sucked people against the gratings as the water continued to roar into the ship, and the air would not have burst out at such a terrific rate as the air from the decks compressed and burst out at an alarming rate. When Lightoller rose to the surface he was sucked down a second time as the sea continued to pour down into the lower decks, and when he reached the surface again he noticed "The ship had turned around while I was under the water". This gives us an idea of the timing of the break up as the stern had apparently already turned around when he was sucked down just moments after the bow took its sudden plunge after breaking.



On a related note survivors described how the stern returned to a level keel and stayed horizontal for 5 minutes. e.g.

Q - How long was the stern afloat in that horizontal position?
A - About four or five minutes, I should judge.

"She uprighted herself for about five minutes, and then tipped over and disappeared."

This tipping over is what Charles Joughin believed happened as the stern keeled heavily over to port and he had to climb over the rail onto the side of the ship. I believe Eva Hart also witnessed the stern tipping over to port after she broke.

She witnessed the ship break and looking at the angle of her hands it appears that her lifeboat was facing the ship's side.


She then described the stern staying afloat for a long time and then keeling over.

"The stern of that ship stood up in the water for quite a long time, or what seemed a long time to me, and then keeled over."


This second observation tells us the stern had rotated and turned around at least 90 degrees and she is now observing one end of the ship as she describes the stern staying afloat and then keeling over. This could be the moment Joughin climbed onto the starboard side and when Buley noticed her tipping over to one side.


Talira Greycrest

I've always assumed that the break-up started from the top of the ship right down to the keel, which stayed attached for a few minutes until the bow completely flooded. Since, at that moment, the bow and stern were still attached, the weight of the flooded bow before it broke free would probably have pulled the stern up, as shown in the movies. As for the explosions the survivors heard, those would have been caused by the hot boilers coming into contact with the freezing water.