Iceberg Breaking Open Portholes?



Reading accounts and examining the wreck it appears a number of passengers on D-deck (above boiler room 5 and 6) had shards of ice pushed through their portholes and possibly breaking a number of windows. e.g.

Edwin Kimball - "The ice came in our porthole.....the ice from the iceberg poured in our porthole."

Emma Bucknell - "I was awakened by the crash.....when I went out into the corridor between our cabins I found pieces of ice on the floor. They had been forced through a broken porthole when the iceberg was hit."

Anna Hogeboom - "We were awakened by a terrific crash on the side of the ship where our staterooms were. I called to my sister and niece to find out what it was. In going out to the corridor we found many ice crystals, which had come in through the portholes."

Alice Leader - "Someone in the stateroom next to ours called out that we had struck an iceberg and pointed to bits of ice which had fallen on the ledge outside the porthole."

Kornelia Andrews - ".....The crash came and we were all in bed. I rushed to my door and met Gretchen coming from hers and ice crystals were all over her, having come in the port hole......I rushed to the door and saw the ice crystals all over, they having come in through the porthole next to mine."

Right at their location there are a number of windows missing, yet those around them are fully intact. Can we safely assume these windows were burst open by the iceberg as it pushed against them?


The windows on D-deck appear to be several inches away from the exterior.


Does this mean the ship knocked hard against the iceberg (steered into the ice?) and broke the windows as the ice pushed against them? The ice was thrown down the corridor, so it had to be quite a punch against the side of the ship.

- Emma Bucknell - "I was awakened by the crash.....when I went out into the corridor between our cabins I found pieces of ice on the floor. They had been forced through a broken porthole when the iceberg was hit."

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May 3, 2005
Thanks, Aaron.
This is certainly an interesting new development.
I don't remember even seeing any previous posts on this subject.
Also no comments in the book or movie of ANTR.
I don't have any comments, but just wanted to thank you for bringing up another topic.
Hopefully some of the old time veterans might have some comments.
You're always learning something new on these forums.
Dec 2, 2000
Easley South Carolina
Occam's Razor applies, peeps.

While it's not impossible for the glass in a porthole to have been broken, it's also possible that some were simply open to allow "fresh air" inside. Granted, it was bitingly cold outside but some people find that refreshing.
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May 3, 2005
There were also some comments that some portholes were opened to get "fresh air" because some cabins had some strong odors from fresh paint.


Jul 8, 2017
I have no doubt she plowed into that iceberg, and it wasn't a gentle, bumping affair. Ice coming in portholes, open or not, plus people covered in ice crystals is proof enough of a pretty darned hard embrace between the ship and the ice.
Mar 18, 2008
Not much to do with the smell of paint. If I remember right it was nothing unusual to have the window open even it was cold back then in those days.


Oct 3, 2017
Yes. Open portholes on Titanic’s sister ship Britannic were one of several reasons she sank so fast.


coal eater

Mar 1, 2018
britannic had almost all portholes opened while titanic a couple but not so much. question would be how much water would be pushed throught opened porthole,counted by m3
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I think a number of portholes were broken by the ice crushing against the side, but also a much larger number of portholes were left open as well on the Titanic e.g.

Survivor Charles Joughin was asked:

Q - On E deck are the portholes in practice opened from time to time?
A - Very, very often we keep them open the whole of the passage.

Survivor Emily Ryerson was asked:

Q - When you went down into the water, from the boat, did you notice anything about the portholes in the side of the ship?
A - Yes, a great many were open.

Q - Did you notice anything in particular about the portholes on the water?
A - Yes, the water was washing in the portholes, and later I think some of the square windows seemed to be open, and you could see in the cabin and see the water washing in and the gold furniture and decorations, and I remember noticing you could look far in, it was brilliantly lighted, which deck I couldn’t tell.

Q - Did you notice any of the lines of portholes disappear after you got in the boat?
A - Yes, she was sinking very rapidly then, we saw two lines and then we saw only one. It was very brilliantly lighted and you could see very distinctly.

Q - At the time your boat was lowered the water was washing in the portholes of the C deck?
A - Yes.

Q - On that side?
A - On the side she sank, that is the port side.

Open windows on the Olympic.



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Nov 14, 2005
I read somewhere that when the plates were ruptured from the collision that the total area open to the sea was roughly equal to the area the size of a standard door. If the areas open to the sea were say 30ft below the waterline the head pressure was around 14-15 psi so the water would essentially be pumped in. If just say 10 portholes were opened that would be the same or more than the area opened to the sea from the ruptured hull plates. So it would make a huge difference if true. I'm not sure how they came up with the area the size of a door since I understand most of that area is buried in the mud to confirm it. You would think someone would have ordered the crew to make sure everything was closed up as much as possible but maybe not. Good topic. Thanks for posting it.


I'm not sure how they came up with the area the size of a door since I understand most of that area is buried in the mud to confirm it. You would think someone would have ordered the crew to make sure everything was closed up as much as possible but maybe not. Good topic. Thanks for posting it.
I think the iceberg damage consisted of the starboard plates being pushed inwards by the iceberg which caused them to buckle open just a fraction between the plates which allowed the water to rush in, and the amount of space in total was equal to the size of a door.

4th officer Boxhall was asked if any orders were given to close the portholes.

Q - Mr. Boxhall, do you know whether the air ports on the Titanic were closed at the time of the collision, or before or just afterwards?
A - The air ports? I do not know what the air ports are.
Q - The port holes.
A - Oh, the port holes? No; I could not say about that, sir.
Q - You gave no order to have them closed?
A - I did not hear any orders.
Q - You do not know whether they were closed or not?
A - No, sir.
Q - If they were not closed?
A - The ports I saw down below in the steerage, when I first visited down there a few moments after the ship struck, to the best of my memory were closed. That was in the fore part of the ship, between the forecastle head and the bridge. Those ports, to the best of my memory, were closed.
Q - You did not have occasion to observe them anywhere else?
A - No, sir.
Q - What was the custom or practice on the ship as to leaving them open in calm weather?
A - I could not say about that, but in foggy weather it had to be reported on the bridge whether they were open or closed, and in bad weather, of course, if there was any sea at all running, we knew then about the ports, and the orders were given from the bridge. But in calm weather, I am at a loss to remember what was done about them.

I doubt they were thinking about the portholes. 2nd officer Lightoller gave orders to open the forward gangway door on E-deck with no idea that she was going down by the head.

Q - If the boat was down by the head, the opening of those doors on E deck in the forward part of the ship would open her very close to the water, would it not?
A - Yes.
Q - When you gave the order, had you got in mind that the ship was tending to go down by the head, or had not you yet noticed it?
A - I cannot say that I had noticed it particularly.

This gives us an idea as to the lack of concern about the open portholes because they were quite prepared to open the forward gangway door close to the waterline. However if orders were given to close them then there still would be a big problem because the stewards were ordered to close and lock the 1st class cabin doors to prevent looters, so if any orders had been given to close the portholes it was too late because they would not be able to get into the cabins to close them after the stewards had locked the doors.

There was also confusion with the windows on the forward promenade deck. Captain Smith ordered the passengers to go to the promenade deck with orders to lower the boats down to that deck so that the crew could carry on with their work undisturbed on the boat deck and the passengers would climb through the large open windows on the promenade deck below. However he was thinking of the Olympic, because the Olympic had open windows, but the forward promenade on the Titanic had glass windows.

Mr. Woolner said to the captain:

"I made one remark to him. He said: "I want all the passengers to go down on A deck, because I intend they shall go into the boats from A deck." I remembered noticing as I came up that all those glass windows were raised to the very top; and I went up to the captain and saluted him and said: "Haven't you forgotten, sir, that all those glass windows are closed?" He said: "By God, you are right. Call those people back." Very few people had moved, but the few that had gone down the companionway came up again, and everything went on all right."

I think the crew were simply preoccupied with the evacuation of the ship and how to calmly disembark over 2,200 souls in the safest manner.

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