Lusitania - Titanic switch scenario


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Arun Vajpey

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Part of this has probably been asked elsewhere but I thought of a switch situation of the two most famous maritime disasters in history.

If all other conditions - design, deck plans, fitting out, the lifeboats available, passengers and crew - being exactly as they really were on each ship, what would have been the consequences if:

1) The Lusitania had collided with the iceberg in the same spot as the Titanic at the same speed in April 1912?

2) The Titanic has survived its maiden voyage without incident only to be torpedoed by Walther Schwieger's U-20 in May 1915 instead of the Lusitania?
 
>>1) The Lusitania had collided with the iceberg in the same spot as the Titanic at the same speed in April 1912?<<

She might have survived, the catch being that if enough side compartments were flooded, her stability would have been seriously compromised. If it was compromised enough, she would capsize.

>>2) The Titanic has survived its maiden voyage without incident only to be torpedoed by Walther Schwieger's U-20 in May 1915 instead of the Lusitania?<<

My opinion: With only one or two compartments flooded out, she would have survived.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
That is a very interesting opinion Michael, especially the Titanic coping better than the Lusitania with the torpedo damage. Would that be because of lack of longitudinal bulkheads, thereby avoiding the big starboard list that quite literally forced the Lusitania under?

With the other scenario, flooding of the first 5 compartments on the starboard side of the Lusitania could have limited the water inflow to that "corner" because of bulkheads running in both directions? Since the Lusitania had transverse bulkheads as well, were the chances of capsizing that significant?
 
>>Would that be because of lack of longitudinal bulkheads, thereby avoiding the big starboard list that quite literally forced the Lusitania under?<<

That and very likely only two...maybe three...watertight compartments would have been compromised. Since the Titanic didn't have longitudinal bulkheads, assymetric flooding would not have been an issue, and an Olympic class liner could remain afloat with up to four of the forward compartments flooded.

>>Since the Lusitania had transverse bulkheads as well, were the chances of capsizing that significant?<<

Yes. J Kent Layton has done more research on this then I can even dream of doing, but it could have been a problem and they knew this much at the time.
 
Regarding the Britannic, we need to be mindful of the fact that a lot of the watertight doors had been left open to facilitate the change of the watch, and also that the portholes on E-deck were left open to air out the wards.

The Britannic certainly had better protection, but it ain't no good if you don't use it!
 
There were a few E deck portholes on Titanic that were left opened too. Ice actually came through some of these as the berg glided by; e.g., James McGough's cabin. Also, the WTDs had floats which should have caused the doors to drop if a compartment flooded. But none of that would work if blast damage bent the tracks just enough to prevent the doors from sliding down and closing properly. Designing a ship to survive wartime damage is very different from designing it to survive a collision with another ship or object.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Sam, from your quoted post, I understood that if the Mauretania (and therefore presumably the Lusitania) would have survived with a big list if it had encountered exactly the same kind of DAMAGE as the Titanic did following an encounter with an iceberg in mid-Atlantic, right?

Looking at this in another way, would I be correct in assuming that if the Lusitania, built partly to Admiralty specifications, would have suffered less actual physical damage than the Titanic if the Cunard ship had had exactly the same type of IMPACT with the same iceberg as the latter?

>>>>>> As far as your question #2 is concerned, it depends where exactly a torpedo would hit. <<<<<<

The torpedo would have hit the Titanic exactly in the same spot as it did the Lusitania - between the first and second funnels on the starboard side. Of course, the layout differences between the two ships would remain exactly as they were reality.

Here again, there are two slightly different scenarios within the alternative scenario. In both cases let us assume that the Titanic was carrying (or not carrying) the same "undeclared cargo" that the Lusitania was (or was not) in the same (or closest similar) holds. The first scenario, the same torpedo, fired under similar circumstances, hits in the same place on the Titanic as it did on the Lusitania but we have to work out the extent of the damage and its consequences. In the second scenario, a torpedo causes exactly the same type of hole on the Titanic as U-20's one did on the Lusitania, again leaving us to work out the consequences.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
OK, by 'undeclared cargo' I meant the controversy on whether the Lusitania was in actuality carrying any munitions that could have exploded following the hit by the torpedo. Since this is as yet unproven, in considering a hypothetical torpedo attack on the Titanic instead of the Lusitania, the White Star liner should have the same cargo status as the Cunard liner did in reality. But rest of the individual ships' layout should remain as they really were.

In the last paragraph of my previous post, I was trying to point out 2 slightly different scenarios if the Titanic had come under torpedo attack instead of the Lusitania. In the first, the SAME torpedo that hit the Lusitania might well have caused a different type of damage to the Titanic's hull. In the other scenario, we are imagining that the torpedo made a hole the same size and shape in the Titanic as it did in the Lusitania.
 
>>I understood that if the Mauretania (and therefore presumably the Lusitania) would have survived with a big list if it had encountered exactly the same kind of DAMAGE as the Titanic did following an encounter with an iceberg in mid-Atlantic, right? <<

With the provision that somehow they were able to open the watertight bunker doors on the port side of Lusitania allowing those bunkers to flood freely. In other words, they had to effectively counter flood the bunker spaces on the port side of the ship to keep the water from overtopping the bulkheads.

Regarding a torpedo hit on Titanic between the 1st and 2nd funnels, knowing what I know now about floodable lengths, if I were the sub commander, that is exactly where I would want my fish to hit resulting in damage to BRs 4, 5, and 6. The ship would sink even if all WTDs had be closed beforehand.
 
>>But none of that would work if blast damage bent the tracks just enough to prevent the doors from sliding down and closing properly.<<

And if they had the doors shut to begin with, then it wouldn't have been a problem.

Unfortunately, British merchent crews were a bit slow on the uptake in learning to respect mines which is kind of strange considering that by 1916, they had been on the dirty end of that stick on a number of occasions. The HMS Audacious was one of the first casualties but not even close to being the last.

>>I meant the controversy on whether the Lusitania was in actuality carrying any munitions that could have exploded following the hit by the torpedo. <<

A nice fabricated controversy if ever there was one. While they played quite the shell game with the manifests, the idea was to snooker German spies which were known to be operating on the waterfront. The fact of the matter is that all of the munitions were declared on the amended manifest after the ship sailed, all of which has been known since 1915. (See Bailey & Ryan's work on this matter) There are no secrets here and no evidence whatever of any sort of an ammuntion explosion of any kind.

Seeing that the torpedo which hit the Lusitania did so in the region of the boiler rooms and not the cargo holds, it really wouldn't have mattered much if she had been.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
>>>>> Seeing that the torpedo which hit the Lusitania did so in the region of the boiler rooms and not the cargo holds, it really wouldn't have mattered much if she had been.<<<<<

That makes any consideration of a hypothetical 'switch' scenario between the Titanic & Lusitania more straightforward. Thanks.
 
The Lusitania could have survived depending on how far her water-tight system went. In the iceberg collision a lot of compartments were involved and there is no chance that the ship could have remained afloat if her compartments only reached the E deck. However I can't be positive since I am not an expert on that topic and, besides, I don't know if Lusitania's compartments were sealed on the top.

If the Titanic had been struck by torpedo in May, 1915 between her first and second funnel (Boiler rooms nº5 and 4º) The damage would be considerable but she wouldn't be mortally wounded. Why?

First of all, her coal supply would be almost depleted after the transatlantic voyage. Secondly, there were no cargo holds near the impact area, so munitions woudln't have exploded. Finally, the liner could stay afloat with two compartments filled of water. Besides, the double bottom would somewhat weaken the force of the explosion.

However, is a little bit silly to expect that two different ships with different sizes, speeds and designs would react to limit situations in the same way and suffer the same sort of damage.
 
Your second set of assumptions regarding Titanic taking a torpedo hit between boiler rooms 4 and 5 is very optimistic. It would be extraordinary if the explosive damage would be confined to just those two compartments.
 
>>Besides, the double bottom would somewhat weaken the force of the explosion.<<

Oh no it wouldn't. The warhead doesn't care what's in the way to absorb the shockwave from the explosion. The explosive filler itself is still going to behave in exactly the same fashion. (And the Lusitania had a double bottom as well. Fat lot of good it did her.)

>>so munitions woudln't have exploded.<<

There's really nothing about the secondary explosion which is consistant with ammunition cooking off either. Even if it was in the cargo holds, the impact point on the Lusitania, was back in the boiler room.
 
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