How the break-up occurred


Kyle Naber

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Here's a cleaner revision of how I think it happened.
Love the spreadsheet! I do have to disagree with a couple of points, however.

I believe what Joughin heard in the pantry was the collapse of the number 1 funnel, water rushing on the deck, and people running aft. I don’t believe this was the breakup.

The problem with the bow rising as a whole because of the stern is that this requires listlessness. Due to the port list, I don’t think the stern could have forced the bow upward. I think what was happening was the port list getting worse, lifting the starboard side of the boat deck out of the water. Did anyone on the port side report the deck rising?

I do like your insight on why some described the stern’s plunge as noisy and others as silent.
 
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Bill Vanek

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Take a look at the quotations in section 1D of my sequence of events. Note that at one time, just prior, people couldn't hardly do anything without holding onto something. But look at the several quotations just afterward, and you'll see that that was no longer the case. People were working on the collapsible boats; people were moving aft; etc. The port list had therefore righted itself, and the testimony of it is true. All of the simulations which show a constant port list are wrong.

Joughin was getting drunk for the hour before this. His testimony in most basic terms is okay, but the details are not. One such "basic" is that he went to the pantry on Deck A. Now, he said that he went there for a drink of water, but in reality, there was access to the lounge bar for the first-class lounge. He was seen to have had a full bottle of spirits around that time--probably beforehand, because the witness who spoke of it was not in distress or in a hurry. Joughin's pantry visit was right at the start of the break-up, and that pantry was at the 3rd funnel. In fact, the aft expansion joint ran right through that pantry. So the footsteps that he heard above him were on the boat deck at the third funnel. He then left that pantry and went aft. All of his jabber about the ship jerking to port and 'chucking' everyone in a heap to starboard is simply wrong. The ship tilted forward, as many eyewitness said (sequence nos. 5 and 6B).

Plus, no. 1 funnel didn't fall until after the breakup began. Jack Thayer used that funnel as one of his "landmarks" when he said, 'The water was over the base of the first funnel'. When he was describing that, it was from the time that he was in the water, floating, and looking back at the ship. He had jumped seconds after the bridge went under the first time; he was under water when the sparks came up and the ship bobbed up again; and he had already described the loud noise prior to that (when he was jumping off). So the sequence for Thayer was: sinking/noise/jumping; swimming under water for several seconds; looking back and seeing the funnels (including #1); and then #2 funnel falling right at him, on the starboard side. I'm unsure when the #1 funnel fell, but it wasn't before the sinking and breakup starting. Col. Gracie, 1st officer Lightoller, and several others were right next to that funnel, trying to "fix up a collapsible" (collapsible A) when the ship "gave the first signs of going under" which then started all of the rapid sequence of events (sinking and break-up). None of those survivors spoke of the #1 funnel falling while they were right there by it. It sounds to me as if #1 funnel fell right around the time of #2 going--after its base was sunken.
 

Kyle Naber

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I think the overall shallow breakup and the bow re-appearing and the stern rising up more than two times is all too busy to explain why someone might simply say, ‘the bow went down, the stern came up, and it disappeared.’

Lightoller’s account was very straightforward. No mention of a break. Simply the bow going down, the ship goes vertical, and it shoots down. Now he probably was in a poor position to see a break, but wouldn’t you think he’d see something suspicious with the “non-traditional” theories? He mentions a rumbling roar and the extinguishment of the lights when the vessel achieved about an angle of “60 degrees.” In my mind, this was the first and only visible mass break of the ship. Of course the stern never reached 60°, but it tells me that the stern was a team a considerable height when it broke away from the bow (25-30°).
 
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Bill Vanek

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I think the overall shallow breakup and the bow re-appearing and the stern rising up more than two times is all too busy to explain why someone might simply say, ‘the bow went down, the stern came up, and it disappeared.’

Lightoller’s account was very straightforward. No mention of a break. Simply the bow going down, the ship goes vertical, and it shoots down. Now he probably was in a poor position to see a break, but wouldn’t you think he’d see something suspicious with the “non-traditional” theories? He mentions a rumbling roar and the extinguishment of the lights when the vessel achieved about an angle of “60 degrees.” In my mind, this was the first and only visible mass break of the ship. Of course the stern never reached 60°, but it tells me that the stern was a team a considerable height when it broke away from the bow (25-30°).
Many people missed a lot of things that happened. Lightoller, Col. Gracie, and others never heard the breaking up--something that was mentioned by someone in a lifeboat this way: "Then we heard the most awful roaring and rumbling that seemed as if it must be heard over the ocean for miles." Those men didn't see it, so they thought it didn't happen. They were absolutely wrong...and their error skewed all of the rest of their testimony. So, focusing on what people missed is a completely backwards way of looking at it. In failure analysis, we look at what people say, and what they think they know, and then try to figure out what really happened. People get things wrong all the time. Lightoller was one of several such people.

Here's an example. "She was getting lower in the water, I could not any longer deny it. Only three decks now, and still not a list to one side or the other....I watched Titanic give a lurch forward, one of the huge funnels toppled off like a cardboard model, falling into the sea with a fearful roar." The facts are that the ship was sinking at the bow, and a funnel fell at the same time as a very loud roar. It is not a fact that there was no list; many people experienced it. Just because this woman didn't see it does not mean that it didn't happen. Another error is thinking that the funnel falling is what made the 'fearful roar'. It did not. The roar came from a giant ship breaking apart--something that nobody on earth had ever heard, including all of those listening in the dark that night. She saw the funnel at the same time as hearing the roar, so the timing is right, but the causation is wrong in what she said. That is how investigation must be done: separating fact from opinions and conjecture.

Over-simplified explanations are bad in several ways. FIrst, we've known for more than a hundred years that the ship sank by the bow, and tilted up, and went down. If that were enough, there would not be this forum, nor any of the engineering and forensic analyses that have been going on. We've always wanted to answer the more intriguing question, "Yes; but how?" Second, to make sense of the large variety, and similarity, of observations ("the stern, fully lighted, stood up in the air" and "the stern stood up for several minutes, black against the stars"), we have to figure out how both of those testimonies can be correct in their own ways. A shallow-angle break-up alone does not explain either of those accounts of how the stern "stood up". There had to have been 3 rises of the stern: the initial shallow-angle one that commenced the breaking up, the one fully lighted, and the one that was dark. And finally, an over-simplified explanation fails to explain the debris pattern as found. There is a 1300-foot gap between the location of the keel pieces and the 5 boilers that sat on one of those keel pieces. Even further away is the "deckhouse debris" that was adjacent to the "forward tower" chunk. Such mysteries are fascinating, and fun to figure out, so an oversimplified summary is for people who don't care. We care, so we should press on.

My 30 years as a mechanical engineer have been, among many other things, often doing failure analysis--from mechanical seals and bearings to weld cracks, corrosion, and fires and explosions. I've heard all kinds of stories, conjecture, opinions, and guesses that try to explain things that are actually readily explainable if you weed out the opinion and focus on the facts. The facts end up being like individual dots. Then you connect the dots, and a picture of what happened appears. It's interesting and it's worthwhile. And it's what we, as inquisitive human beings, like to do. It disappoints me every time someone tries to randomly guess instead of figuring out what happened (examples: 'an engine must have come loose because of the port list and fell and broke the hull', or, 'the engines weighed so much that they were over-stressing the keel', etc.). There really are answers, and they may be really complex, but that doesn't mean that we cannot look at them to see how they fit the evidence.
 
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Kyle Naber

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Another error is thinking that the funnel falling is what made the 'fearful roar'. It did not.
Why don’t you think so? I’d imagine cables snapping, the frame buckling, and the structure sort of slapping the water would be very loud.
 
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Bill Vanek

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Nobody else spoke of the noise of the funnels falling, as a separate thing. By contrast, dozens of people spoke of the noise of the ship breaking up. So that's the first thing: no corroboration of what a woman in a lifeboat thought.

Secondly, her power of observation is weak, because she thought that there was no list to the ship. She was also at a distance, in a lifeboat.

I'm certainly not saying that the funnels fell quietly. Steel structures that tall would have made noise. But it would have been primarily a singular smash and splash, not a roar.

Most importantly, there is the timing issue. As soon as the ship started sinking quickly, with the stern rising out of the water, Thayer's friend jumped overboard, and Thayer followed: "About five seconds after he jumped, I jumped out, feet first. I was clear of the ship, went down, and as I came up I was pushed away from the ship by some force. I came up facing the ship, and one of her funnels seemed to be lifted off and fell towards me about 15 yards away, with a mass of sparks and steam coming out of it. I saw the ship in a sort of red glare [from the pulverized coals that blew out of the third funnel], and it seemed to me that she broke in two just in front of the third funnel." In another re-telling of that same moment, he said, "Now, without warning, she seemed to start forward, moving forward and into the water at an angle of about 15 degrees. This movement, with the water rushing up toward us, was accompanied by a rumbling roar, mixed with more muffled explosions. It was like standing under a steel railway bridge while an express train passes overhead, mingled with the noise of a pressed steel factory and wholesale breakage of china." And seconds later, when in the water, he saw and heard that "the rumble and roar continued, with even louder distinct wrenchings and tearings....Suddenly the whole superstructure of the ship appeared to split, well forward to midship, and blow or buckle upwards. The second funnel, large enough for two automobiles to pass through abreast, seemed to be lifted off, emitting a cloud of sparks." Even the woman's testimony about the 'roar' agrees with that timing, because she uses the identical term that everyone else was using when the ship went under, came up, and went under again as part of the shallow-angle break-up: "lurch".

So the second funnel fell as the ship started breaking up; the roar was primarily from the ship; and the funnel's noise of falling undoubtedly contributed to the overall racket, but its contribution was inconsequential compared to what was happening.
 

Kyle Naber

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"About five seconds after he jumped, I jumped out, feet first. I was clear of the ship, went down, and as I came up I was pushed away from the ship by some force. I came up facing the ship, and one of her funnels seemed to be lifted off and fell towards me about 15 yards away, with a mass of sparks and steam coming out of it. I saw the ship in a sort of red glare [from the pulverized coals that blew out of the third funnel], and it seemed to me that she broke in two just in front of the third funnel."
This quote seems to be used among both "traditionalists" and those who stand by a shallower break. To me, this confirms that the ship broke apart after the second funnel had collapsed near Thayer. "...it seemed to me that she broke in two just in front of the third funnel." Does he mean that it broke in front of the third funnel, or it had broken in front of the third funnel (prior to the collapse)?

I also approach the "lurch" simply as the bow accelerating downwards at an exponential rate. Once the boat deck made direct contact with water, the downward acceleration would have sped up very quickly. I'd also expect the water crashing onto the boat deck mixed with the No. 1 funnel falling to make a "roaring" type of sound.
 

Bill Vanek

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I completely agree with you when you wonder if Thayer's 'suddenly it seemed to split' was actually that he 'suddenly' noticed it, and not that it suddenly happened. I think that it had happened some seconds earlier, while he was under water, and when he came up he saw it. So to him the ship was 'suddenly' seen as different from before. Anyway, we cannot know which it was for certain, but I think it was that he 'suddenly' noticed it, not that it 'suddenly' happened.

You're also right about the 'lurch' being downward, and accelerating. A lurch is a sudden movement--different from what has been happening previously. And every person who used the term was speaking of a sudden downward movement (except one, who also used it for describing a movement forward). Once the bridge went under, the ship's sinking was faster--very different from what it was for the previous 2.5 hours.
 

Kas01

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This quote seems to be used among both "traditionalists" and those who stand by a shallower break. To me, this confirms that the ship broke apart after the second funnel had collapsed near Thayer. "...it seemed to me that she broke in two just in front of the third funnel." Does he mean that it broke in front of the third funnel, or it had broken in front of the third funnel (prior to the collapse)?
It sounds more like the latter to me. The way it's written comes off as if Thayer had just surfaced with the fallen funnel about 15 yards away, already in the water. I'm hesitant to say that the hull had already broken up though, but that might just be confirmation bias.
 

R.M.S TITANIC

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The hull was probably already cracking way before the break up. DIdn't Charles Joughin say that he found water in his cabin somewhere around 1:40 A.M further aft even though the corridor outside his cabin was dry? I'm not sure about how accurate that is, as I can't really find a source on where his cabin was located.
 

drjamess

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What we really need to consider when discussing a breakup is how much water has entered the ship. 2012 flooding analyses has concluded that 40,000 tons of seawater had entered the ship. The bow could not have risen up with that much water inside it.
 
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Kyle Naber

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Wherever the bow was at the point of the break, I don’t think the prow could have lifted up above its initial placement- only the stern end of the bow section could sink downwards. This theorized “V” position of the ship would not have caused the bow to rise- only the middle section would sag.
 
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Kyle Naber

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If we think about the accounts that say both ends of the ship were visible after the break, this simulation actually shows the stern end of the bow popping up momentarily, even in it's traditional break-up stance:

(33:58)
 

drjamess

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How the breakup occurred can be based on these main things.
1. How high the ship is out of the water
2. How far it is listing to port
3. How much water has entered the ship
4. The boilers in the bow cannot be dislodged from their seats
5. Where the breakup starts
 

R.M.S TITANIC

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As you can see, in Titanic Animation's analysis of the sinking, There was already a considerable amount of water in the bow, so the front end of the bow has practically 0 chance of rising. I can see the bow slightly leveling out with the water intake from the broken end of the ship, but the front is not going to rise. The 2012 GHS simulation puts a bigger dent with everything forward of number 2 funnel flooded.
 
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Animations are not reality. At best, they are second or third hand assumptions with the expected errors and mistakes of such work. Not to make fun of the animators, but few of them have done as much research into Titanic as they have into computer programs, pixels, and wot-not. Take them for what they are, and not for factual presentations.

Look at the image just above. The ster is up in the air like the nose of a dirigible. However, from scientific analysis of the ship's hull girder strength, that's really impossible. A positive trim by the stern of 13 to 15 degrees takes the girder into the failure zone. That's the trim of Titanic when Lightoller walked into the sea and noticed that the crow's nest was still above water. How does that bit of reality fit into the typical animation? Hmmm...

-- David G. Brown
 

Kyle Naber

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Animations are not reality.
We have been over and recognized this. My reference to the animation (which has been created under supervision of figures like Bill Sauder and Parks Stephenson) was simply showing how the bow might have appeared to rise from the water, and nothing more.

I also do not understand where you pull "13-15 degrees" from. Most recent analysis shows 20-25 degrees (which does fit into the "typical animation"). Lightoller also describes the lights extinguishing followed by a "rumbling roar" when the ship was at an angle which he descibed to be around 60 degrees (obviously an over-estimation, but clearly the ship was at a greater angle than 13 degrees during this phenomenon (which I believe to be the breakup)).
 

R.M.S TITANIC

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Animations are not reality. At best, they are second or third hand assumptions with the expected errors and mistakes of such work. Not to make fun of the animators, but few of them have done as much research into Titanic as they have into computer programs, pixels, and wot-not. Take them for what they are, and not for factual presentations.

Look at the image just above. The stern is up in the air like the nose of a dirigible. However, from scientific analysis of the ship's hull girder strength, that's really impossible. A positive trim by the stern of 13 to 15 degrees takes the girder into the failure zone. That's the trim of Titanic when Lightoller walked into the sea and noticed that the crow's nest was still above water. How does that bit of reality fit into the typical animation? Hmmm...

-- David G. Brown
Well David, you are right that animations are not reality, but the 23 degree angle I believe was pulled from when the ship would have maximum stress... As in, where the ship would most likely break up. However, it does not mean that the ship couldn't break up earlier.

Though, where did they pull the 23 degree from? From what I remember, wasn't the angle at which the stress on the hull was at it's peak about 12-15 degrees?