Lights Out


May 3, 2002
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We know that 4 minutes after the attack the lights in the ship went out.

Is there any description of this in the literature?

Did they fail without warning or, more likely, progressively dull down before snuffing out?

On consideration the turbines were winding down without the head of steam to drive them. The dynamos would do likewise. How did people still below respond to the loss of light?

any thoughts?
 

Jim Kalafus

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>How did people still below respond to the loss of light?

By that point, there were very few left below.

There is a ton of literature on this point. The mother and brother of a victim, never recovered, feared he had been trapped below and wrote to about 60% of the adult survivors asking "Did you see him, what was it like, were people trapped?"

They got several hundred responses, which closely match in relevant details. There was a "crush" for the stairs outside of the first class dining room, but it wasnt a panic and soon dissipated as people swiftly climbed upward. No one was hurt, and by the time the power failed nearly everyone was heading upward. The word 'crush' was used a lot and I'm pretty sure that the word they were groping for was 'bottleneck.'

The same thing happened in second class, the most crowded part of the ship. There was a wave of people up the stairs, and then a second wave. By the time the power failed nearly everyone was out, or could see the end of the road ahead.

A pregnant woman wrote that even in her condition, she was able to run down 3 flights, and then back up, and that there was virtually no blockage on the stairs. By the time she ran down, the power was already out.

A number of first class passengers, already 'free' of the interior, went back into the ship. Some penetrated as deep as E deck, which was begining to flood, despite the loss of electricity. Again, no crowds, no panic, and no one blundering around in the dark.

The timing of the disaster was fortunate, in that the majority of the passengers were in the dining rooms, or on one of the upper decks having just finished lunch. It was not the same situation that would have arose had, say, 900 people been deep in the hull when the explosion came.
 
May 1, 2010
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>>The timing of the disaster was fortunate, in that the majority of the passengers were in the dining rooms, or on one of the upper decks having just finished lunch. It was not the same situation that would have arose had, say, 900 people been deep in the hull when the explosion came.<<
No kidding about that. Anyone who has been on a cruise ship waiting to disembark can attest to the hordes of humanity that accumulate, waiting to get off. And that is in an orderly state. The last time I was in a ship doing just that, all I could say to myself was "I am thankful the bloody thing isn't going down right now"
 

danny perry

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Must say, Im not clear what happened. Steam pressure seems to have collapsed in 5 minutes. However, there were four boiler rooms (3 in use), and I dont think anyone has suggested that the damage affected more than the first two. Arguably only the first one. I dont understand why there would not be valves to isolate the boiler rooms individually from the steam system so that at the very least boiler room 3 could have continued producing steam for electrical power and even a bit of engine power. Does anyone have any knowledge of the engineering of the ship to be able to say whether the steam system could be isolated?

Alternatively, would there be open doors in the bulkheads between boiler rooms so that whatever happened spread through all of them immediately?
 

Jim Kalafus

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>Alternatively, would there be open doors in the bulkheads between boiler rooms so that whatever happened spread through all of them immediately?

I can tell you this. There was an explosion. The ship heeled violently. After about 3-4 minutes, she rolled back to close to an even keel. The power failure coincided with the roll back.

You can judge how long this process took by studying first week accounts. For instance, the Hammonds were in the first class lounge when the explosion came. They exited directly on to the port boat deck, at a point between funnels 3 and 4. Ogden said he was going below for life jackets; Mary said he wasnt. They then walked from next to boat 14, aft to boat 20. By the time they reached 20, the ship had righted herself and the power had failed. We know the ship was on an even keel, because a minute ot two later when #20 dropped by the bow, those who fell 60 feet went straight into the water- they did not strike the side of the ship.

One can assume, from Mr. Hammond's deposition, that neither he and his wife, nor their companions (Lady Marguerite Allan and her party) dawdled in the lounge after the explosion. Nor did they flee shrieking for an exit. The roll, recovery, and power failure took the amount of time it takes for a pair of reasonably fit 30-40 year olds to react to an explosion, then stride at an emergency pace across about 30 feet of room and 60 or so feet aft, with a pause on deck to discuss life belts.

Most of those exiting the dining room described the ship righting herself and the power snapping off as they were on the final flights of stairs.
My guess is that whatever went wrong was tied in to whatever design flaw or structural failure caused the ship to temporarily pull out of the list.
 

danny perry

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The only way for the ship to right itself is if the flooding spread from the starboard side to port. An immediate list after the strike suggests a very big hole instantly flooding some compartment. but then to right itself, I dont think it would suffice to, say, flood the boiler room. It would have to flood an equivalent volume on the port side: flooding the boiler room would just maintain status quo or make matters worse as water would pile up on the side already lowest. So maybe flooding entirely across the boiler room into the port bunkers would explain it. I can imagine it might happen if the initial flooding is very fast, but then spreading to port only happens either after another explosion makes some holes, or after a delay if the water has to get through a relatively small opening, such as still open bulkhead doors.

Something which does occur, is what would be the effect of dumping all the steam in boiler room 1? would it force all the water back out through the hole? While simultaneously sending flames leaping from the funnels? (im posting to two threads with overlapping arguments!)

So far I dont see any evidence the longitudinal bulkheads were a cause of the sinking, rather they failed to act as bulkheads and thus the ship sank. The coal bunkers were designed as a defensive wall, but they were largely empty. Was the fault that the blast destroyed the internal bulkhead, or simply that all the internal doors were open to get at the coal so the water just came in.

Now what happened to that man from the seamens union who wanted to discuss watertight compartments at the wreck enquiry?
 

Jim Kalafus

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>Now what happened to that man from the seamens union who wanted to discuss watertight compartments at the wreck enquiry?

Ah, you should read the fearsome struggle Cunard put up to prove that lower deck portholes were not open on May 7, 1915. One of the more... revisited... aspects of the Liability hearings.

What you have are a few crewmen saying "Honest to goodness, they were closed." And lots of passengers, mostly from the first class dining room, saying "open." This detail is reenforced by letters from the first week, in which passengers casually mentioned the portholes being open.

Passenger AND shipowner C. Bowring attempted to bridge the story gap by saying YES the portholes were properly closed but the explosion blew a lot of them out.

My guess is that both views were probably partially correct. It is not hard to imagine a steward or two opening a porthole here or there after a favorite first class passenger or four complained about the room becoming stuffy. I think they WERE open, but not due to slack management... earlier voyage accounts agree that the Lusitania was a tight ship as far as safety concerns went in the warzone.

ANYWAY, shortly after the ship righted herself, witnesses saw water pouring thru open portholes in E Deck transverse corridors. And, although I have not found a specific account stating so, it would not be long after that before water reached the open dining room portholes on D Deck.

Around the 12-14 minute mark, the ship heeled very dramatically to starboard again. And then righted herself somewhat as she sank.

I'm trying to think of any other wreck in which a severe list corrected itself, returned, and then partially corrected itself again even as the ship was sinking deeper.

Here is the torpedo damage to the Mount Vernon, ex Kronprizzessin Cecile. In this case, the ship settled so deep that water flooded her lowest passenger deck, but she did not violently heel or, obviously, sink.

mt_vernon_3_copy1.jpg


mt_vernon_4.jpg


mount_vernon_1_copy1.jpg


(Shortly after she was struck)
 
Mar 18, 2008
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>>Something which does occur, is what would be the effect of dumping all the steam in boiler room 1? would it force all the water back out through the hole? While simultaneously sending flames leaping from the funnels?<<

Huh! Unimpossible!
 

danny perry

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>Huh! Unimpossible!

How so? that same steam was previously propelling a 200m long ship weighing 30,000 tons at 10 m/s. Thats displacing sideways 1000 tons of water per second. How much water was in the ship? If the boiler room was sealed from the air the water would be out of there in no time flat. (though admittedly would return when the steam was exhausted)

I dont know how the bulkheads were arranged in mount vernon. Lusitania was pretty much designed to heel in a situation like this. If i was the designer and standing there, I think I might have been worried to discover she was righting herself. I still dont see how it is possible for this to happen unless the port side of the ship was flooding.

Portholes didnt right the ship, nor sink it. Im not quite sure where the water line was on the day. The published deck plan has a marked waterline which seems to coincide with a white line painted on the ship in some pictures I have seen. The same picture showed the actual water about 4ft below the painted line. Presumably when low on coal at the end of a voyage she rode higher in the water. So, I thought, a torpedo set to a depth of 10 ft would strike some 15ft below the notional waterline.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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>>>Huh! Unimpossible!

How so? that same steam was previously propelling a 200m long ship weighing 30,000 tons at 10 m/s. Thats displacing sideways 1000 tons of water per second. How much water was in the ship? If the boiler room was sealed from the air the water would be out of there in no time flat. (though admittedly would return when the steam was exhausted)<<

You don't mean that serious?!
That is physically and technically impossible!
Also the steam created went from each boiler room into the machinery. The steam was running the turbine which has thousands of small blading inside. These turbines were turning the propeller shafts..... (Only a small quick summary.)
So how would you place the that steam in one boiler room and without steam escaping?????
Sealed from the air? How? It was no submarine!

And sure there was water more than in one place.

>>Portholes didnt right the ship, nor sink it.<<
Yes, they can! According on which side they are open and how many they can help to sink a ship faster and also to create an additional list.
(Same thing on Britannic sinking 1916!)

>>The same picture showed the actual water about 4ft below the painted line. Presumably when low on coal at the end of a voyage she rode higher in the water. So, I thought, a torpedo set to a depth of 10 ft would strike some 15ft below the notional waterline.<<
On what did you base that numbers? Have you also take in the cargo and other things?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>How so? that same steam was previously propelling a 200m long ship weighing 30,000 tons at 10 m/s. <<

That's under carefully controlled conditions and confined to the steam lines so that the energy could be directed against the turbine blades.

Expended all at once...explosively...might have pushed some water out, but the steam would have dissipated so rapidly, that it would be back inside in extremely short order, and most of that would have gone out through any sort of vents and even the smokestacks.
 

danny perry

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As to the steam, honestly I dont know. The rule of thumb calculation demonstrates that there was enough pure energy in the steam being created to displace that amount of water every second, on and on indefinitely. If anything, the mechanical inefficiencies in the engines probably waste most of the energy of the steam. The principle of forcing out water is just the same as a piston driven up by steam.

The scenario for a secondary steam explosion seems to be some sort of catastrophic failure of the steam system which vented all the boilers into room 1 in a few minutes. That is one hell of a lot of steam. I agree most of it would zoom straight out of whatever vents there were, but im not wholly convinced all of it did. If the boilers exploding is in fact the second serious explosion, then its power was sufficient to do serious damage to the steel structure of the ship. That implies rather a lot of pressure from this steam.

In fact, if the steam pressure fell over a few minutes but nonetheless it was a steam explosion which was the second serious damaging blast, then there must have been a very high overpressure for this time. Enough to drive water into port compartments while simultaneously out of starboard ones, perhaps? Im veering to the conclusion that either the possible effects of a steam explosion are small and we shouldnt even be considering it as damaging the ship, or inevitably there must have been a sustained high pressure in that room.

>>Portholes didnt right the ship, nor sink it.<<
Yes, they can! According on which side they are open and how many they can help to sink a ship faster and also to create an additional list.

Exactly. They can help sink a ship. Not, sink a ship. They may have made things worse, but they were not the cause of the sinking. causes were 1: torpedo explosion. 2: bulkhead failure 3: secondary explosion (not necessarily 2 and 3 in that order. My guess is it was the same as HMS Victoria in 1890 odd. no one shut the bulkhead doors, then when they tried they couldnt. Was cunard going to admit that? If I take that to the next logical step, cunard would have a motive to cover up any suggestion bulkheads were open. Perhaps by encouraging a suggestion ammunition exploded? certainly by playing along with any suggestion of a second torpedo strike, so obviously it would have been impossible for anyone to have saved the ship... by such a simple act as closing the doors.

I still dont see how the ship could right itself unless port bulkheads failed. Sinking more or less flat fore-aft suggests transverse bulkheads failed. Though, if we supposed that in fact the bow sections remained clear of water that might help explain it
 
Mar 18, 2008
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>>As to the steam, honestly I dont know. The rule of thumb calculation demonstrates that there was enough pure energy in the steam being created to displace that amount of water every second, on and on indefinitely. If anything, the mechanical inefficiencies in the engines probably waste most of the energy of the steam. The principle of forcing out water is just the same as a piston driven up by steam.<<

A piston is completely different as water.

>>In fact, if the steam pressure fell over a few minutes but nonetheless it was a steam explosion which was the second serious damaging blast, then there must have been a very high overpressure for this time. Enough to drive water into port compartments while simultaneously out of starboard ones, perhaps?<<

No.
And how do you know that the "second explosion" was caused by steam?


>> >>Portholes didnt right the ship, nor sink it.<<
Yes, they can! According on which side they are open and how many they can help to sink a ship faster and also to create an additional list.

Exactly. They can help sink a ship. Not, sink a ship.<<

In a storm with portholes open they sure will sink a ship.
 

danny perry

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>>And how do you know that the "second explosion" was caused by steam?
i dont. thats the problem. But something did happen to all the steam in 18 boilers.

>>In a storm with portholes open they sure will sink a ship.
Happily it was a flat calm when lusitania sank
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>The rule of thumb calculation demonstrates that there was enough pure energy in the steam being created to displace that amount of water every second, on and on indefinitely<<

Perhaps but hardly indefinately, and hardly against the mass of the Atlantic Ocean crashing in through a 20 foot hole. Wherever the steam went, it would have traveled in the direction of the least resistance.

Of course, all this assumes that the boilers themselves exploded. For my own money, I don't think it happened that way, and I'm not really convinced that they did. Scotch Marine boilers were extremely robust and short of having a whopping big bomb go off next to them, were known for NOT exploding even when swamped by cold water.
 

Jim Kalafus

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There was some sort of explosive noise at the very end, as the ship was disappearing. Nearly everyone who took the time to describe it, described it as being "exploding boilers."

The initial explosion was described as a thump, a bump, a door slamming, glass breaking, a rowboat grounding on a beach, followed a second or two later by a massive, floor shaking concussion.

There were no further explosions between the initial one and whatever it was that people heard as the ship vanished... which could very well have been escaping air or some other noise that a ship produces as it vanishes under water.

If the second blast, which I doubt WAS the second blast, was an exploding boiler one would assume that there would have been a subsequent explosion or two as water reached additional boilers. But, there wasnt.
 

danny perry

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>>Perhaps but hardly indefinately,
well, obviously, steam condenses in the presence of cold water, that is how a steam engine works. But its a question of how much water and how much steam. The amount of steam being generated by the boilers when functioning normally was more than enough to force out the floodwater. if the compartments were sealed from the air and you opened the steam main, out would go all the water. The guy on the valve would rapidly turn into cocked meat, but no one said this was an ideal design. If the system was sealed and you regulated the steam flow to only what the boilers were producing, youd keep the ship free of water. And have a massive steam cloud coming out the side. As someone reported? Now, our situation is less than ideal with most of the steam venting. But then there was also all the reservoir of steam contained in the boilers (operating full blast) which would have created considerably more steam for a short period than they could produce continuously.

>>hardly against the mass of the Atlantic Ocean crashing in through a 20 foot hole.

The pressure at a depth of 10 ft is exactly the same whether its the atlantic ocean or a swimming pool. The only analogy which comes to mind at the moment is a nuclear power station, which has a massive containment building to hold in the pressure should something go wrong and the pressurised whatsit (depending on design) inside the reactor burst out. They are massive because it is considered undesirable for radioactive anything to escape, but the level of engineering involved gives an idea of the explosive force inside. Ordinary power stations would presumably take the reverse strategy, of making sure escaping steam could vent very fast indeed. I read something which said torpedoes had greater effect on passenger ships than cargo ships, because cargo ships had large hatches which blew off, resulting in less internal damage as more blast got out faster.

Accounts say there was no power because all steam had been lost. I posted somewhere I didnt see why they could not isolate boiler rooms 2 and/or 3 from 1 which seems to be the damaged one, and thus restore power. But if they couldnt, then it sounds like literally all steam was lost. Raging fires in boilers no longer having any water in them. Heat, of course, but no compressed steam. Biggest explosion would be a hulking great red hot lump of iron being suddenly quenched in water. My inclination right now is a catastrophic failure of the main steam trunking and no valves to shut off the damaged section. To think about that more it would be handy to have some engineering diagrams of the plumbing. But no steam explosion as such when the boilers finally flooded. The power is in the contained steam, not the metal.


>>There was some sort of explosive noise at the very end, as the ship was disappearing.

As I just posted on the other thread, did the bow hit the sea bed while the stern was still afloat? only needs maybe 25 degree tilt?
 
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>>And have a massive steam cloud coming out the side. As someone reported?<<

No one!

>>The amount of steam being generated by the boilers when functioning normally was more than enough to force out the floodwater. if the compartments were sealed from the air and you opened the steam main, out would go all the water.<<

Very unlikely.

>>The pressure at a depth of 10 ft is exactly the same whether its the atlantic ocean or a swimming pool.<<

Based on what?

>>The only analogy which comes to mind at the moment is a nuclear power station, which has a massive containment building to hold in the pressure should something go wrong and the pressurised whatsit (depending on design) inside the reactor burst out. They are massive because it is considered undesirable for radioactive anything to escape, but the level of engineering involved gives an idea of the explosive force inside. Ordinary power stations would presumably take the reverse strategy, of making sure escaping steam could vent very fast indeed.<<

That is something completely different then the boilers and turbines on Lusitania.
You can not compare them!!!!

>>Raging fires in boilers no longer having any water in them.<<

Again, on what did you based this? Does any of the firemen said that????
 
Mar 18, 2008
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>>There was some sort of explosive noise at the very end, as the ship was disappearing. Nearly everyone who took the time to describe it, described it as being "exploding boilers."

There were no further explosions between the initial one and whatever it was that people heard as the ship vanished... which could very well have been escaping air or some other noise that a ship produces as it vanishes under water.

If the second blast, which I doubt WAS the second blast, was an exploding boiler one would assume that there would have been a subsequent explosion or two as water reached additional boilers. But, there wasnt.<<

Like descriptions of Titanic sinking were also no boilers explode.
In case of Lusitania in was more likely escaping air and possibly also the "breaking" of the hull about the high of boiler room No. 4.
 

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