Lusitania's Sinking


Jun 6, 2005
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Can anyone tell me exactly how the Lusitania sank? What events developed in those 18 minutes? Give me as much as an exact chronology as you can...I would really appreciate it

Gustavo
 
Jun 6, 2005
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Can anyone tell me exactly how the Lusitania sank? What events developed in those 18 minutes? Give me as much as an exact chronology as you can...I would really appreciate it. Did the ship first tilt (because of torpedo explosion) and then (when second explosion happened), started to sink by the bow? When it reached a certain point, did it slide in an angle beneath the ocean? Because I just saw a 1910's film called "The Sinking Of The Lusitania" and the way they portrayed the sinking was sort of what I thought it had happened. Is the video reliable or not? Did anything else happen in those 18 minutes?
 

Jim Kalafus

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First explosion, followed almsot immediately by a stronger second explosion.

Heavy list to port, early on, followed by a recovery, a second list to port, recovery, and sinking.



Crew almost uniformly testified that portholes were closed as per regulations. Passengers almost uniformly testified that portholes were open. Details in passenger accounts mesh better than details in crew accounts.

Boats on port side loaded and then unloaded by crew order. Stories of boats crashing down the deck killing and maiming are to be avoided. Good accounts written immediately after the disaster by more than a dozen port side survivors, as well as believable testimony from the Limitation of Liability hearings cover every aspect of the disaster on the port side, and no one saw boats sliding down the deck. At the last minute, many people climbed back into the boats hoping that as the ship sank under them, they would float free. Boat 14 successfully lowered but swamped as the ship sank next to it.

Sank at an angle, but not a heavy one.

Email me if you want more specifics,.
~Jim
 
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Sep 22, 2003
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Gustavo

While Jim has given you the basics, the whole in detail would be nearly impossible to go through. I do however recomend these 2 books

The Lusitania's Last Voyage, by Hoehling & Hoehling

The Lusitania Disaster, by Bailey & Ryan
 
Jun 6, 2005
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Well thanks for the info...Jim, can you please respond the e-mails i've sent you...I need the info (not to sound angry or anything, no hard feelings)

YOU'VE BEEN A GREAT HELP...BOTH OF YOU!!!
 

Mike Poirier

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Dec 12, 1999
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It means the ship was listing heavily, and then straightened out and then, began listing again.
Out of curiosity, why do you need this immediately versus reading one of the books to get a better idea?
 
Jun 6, 2005
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Well because I can't buy books right now. I'm living in Buenos Aires and I haven't opened my P.O Box yet. Once I open it, i'll buy tons of Lusitania books. Which ones are the best? Give me a Top 5, please? What can you say about Eric Sauder's "R.M.S Lusitania: The Ship And Her History"? And Robert Ballard's "Exploring The Lusitania"? I also had my eye on "Lusitania: Cunard Yurbine-Driven Quadruple Screw Atlantic Liner"?
 

Mike Poirier

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Ahhh... Well in terms instant Lusitania info, there are two articles on the ET website- Lest We Forget and Lest We Forget 2. Also you may want to visit www.rmslusitania.info

In terms of buying books- Your must haves are-
Mark Warren's Lusitania
AA Hoehling's Last Voyage of the Lusitania
Bailey and Ryan's The Lusitania Disaster

The rest, for the most part with one or two exceptions, either concentrate on the War, contain erroneous info, are re-treads of the other books or have similar pictures as found in Warren's book and Glasgow University.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Gustavo: Mark Warren's Lusitania is all you will need for the 'geographical' part of your project. Use Hoehling for a general outline, but use him carefully since the book is filled with minor, but nevertheless present, mistakes (along the lines of his placing the Waldorf-Astoria hotel on Park Avenue when he introduces the Plamondons: at the time it was still at 5th Ave and W 34th street, and a photo of the Mauretania's lounge captioned as being that of the Lusitania. Not an "Alice Cleaver" faux pas, but still...) For lengthy direct quotes from passengers check out Mike and my articles here on ET. But this is one wreck where you are really better off amassing as much research material as possible on your own (particularly given the nature of your project) and avoiding the majority of the books since they tend to be both subjective and error strewn.
 

ash briers

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the lusitania as we all know was hit by a torpedo 8 miles off the old head of kinsale. apparently the torpedo hit under the bridge and i also read somewhere that it went into the side of a bulkhead. within the 1st six minutes she was on about a 7 degree list. only 6/48 lifeboats were launched because; on the port side if the boats were lowered they would have buckled on the rivets and on the starboard side the boats hung too far out for anyone to get in.meanwhile captain billy turner was still in the bridge until water smashed the sliding door of the bridge and miraculously he was found floating unconsious. somewhere around this point of the sinking a second explosion broke out. i have a dvd about the lusitania and it says that she was carrying aluminium powder and its highly explosive. she was listing at 15 degrees but towards the end she slightly righted herself and went to the bottom with about a 6 degree list.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>i have a dvd about the lusitania and it says that she was carrying aluminium powder and its highly explosive. <<

Don't believe everything you see in the popular media. While it's a given...and hardly any sort of sinister secret...that the Lusitania was carrying some munitions, it wasn't in signifigent quantities and the artillary shells didn't even have explosive fillers inside.

It's also irrelevant since ammunition, like any other cargo would have been in the hold, not the boiler room where the torpedo actually hit.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Regarding the explosions. Something I've pondered, occasionally, was the order in which the explosions occurred. Slight blast, followed almost immediately by second massive blast. Might the FIRST explosion- which survivors writing on the 8th described with trivial terms like 'door slamming' and 'glass breaking'- have been something along the lines of a steam pipe rupturing, and the SECOND explosion have been the torpedo?

That random thought came as I was analyzing accounts from May 8th- aka "The Honest Day" when people wrote from their hearts and not for effect- and almost uniformly one finds people attempting to describe the first explosion as a fair 'bump' and the immediate second explosion as a bone jarring crash. Later, as dramatic coloring sets in, both explosions are frequently described as severe but during the Golden 48 (first two days~ 48 hours) such was not the case. Even in the First Class dining room, which was slightly aft of, and of course above, the point of impact, people were initially in agreement that the initial concussion was a 'bump' a 'slight jar'.

Would it be possible, then, for there have been a small coal dust explosion as the torpedo penetrated the bunker, followed almost immediately by the detonation of the torpedo?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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While I would be skeptical of a coal dust explosion, it wouldn't really surprise me if the torpedo came 'a callin' at just about the same time some sort of really bad accident happened in the machinary spaces, say a failure in the steam piping of some kind or even a boiler with a hitherto unknown weakness finally deciding to burst.

While the Lusitania was built to the highest standards and carefully inspected from start to finish, they didn't have X-ray devices...or even X-ray vision...to look for such faults in metal. Something like that could lurk for years and you wouldn't ever know the flaw existed until it blew up in your face.

Of course, all this speculation presupposes that the witnesses recalled the sequence of events properly in the first place.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>Of course, all this speculation presupposes that the witnesses recalled the sequence of events properly in the first place.

Rule of thumb- data collected in days #1 and 2 is the best to work with. Accounts from May 8 and May 9 uniformly agree that there was a relatively small initial concussion, followed immediately by a massive- but separate- blast. The general concensus is that explosion #1 was the torpedo and #2 was was the 'mystery' blast...coal dust; boiler; aluminum powder; munitions.....but I find myself wondering if the initial small explosion was something caused by the dynamics of the torpedo penetrating the hull, and the second explosion actually the torpedo.

Because, the Lusitania was NOT tne only 4 funneler torpedoed- the Mount Vernon, ex Kronprinzessin Cecilie was, too- but she survived, although with her lowest passenger deck awash. In that case, the torpedoing was NOT described as 'a bump' a 'jar' 'breaking of glass', and the damage done WAS enough to have sunk her, quickly, had it not been for her well trained crew. The second explosion on the Lusitania 'sounds' (on paper) very close to the ONLY explosion on the Mount Vernon...and the 'massive' damage that a single torpedo 'would not be capable of causing' sounds VERY similar in either case.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>but I find myself wondering if the initial small explosion was something caused by the dynamics of the torpedo penetrating the hull, and the second explosion actually the torpedo.<<

That's not entirely outside the realm of possibility. My understanding is that the weapons of that period had contact detonators, but if there was a delay built into the ignition train, say to give the weapon a chance to more deeply penetrate the hull plating, you might just have that momentary delay you're talking about.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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As some of you may know, in addition to problems with a magnetic exploder, the contact exploder on US mark 14 torpedoes in the early days of WW-II were highly defective. If the torpedo struck the ship close to perpendicular with the ship's hull, the impact would tend to bend the exploder pin out of shape causing the contact exploder not to explode. Many times, however, these "duds" managed to penetrate the hull plate or cause seams to open up allowing tons of water to flow into the vessel. In addition, the torpedo's compressed air flask tended to literally explode when the torpedo made contact with the vessel's hull, something that could be heard and seen by those in the attacking sub.

Just something to think about.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Pondering further. Dozens of witnesses- both on the ship and on the submarine- described the second blast as travelling upward along the side of the ship. It threw up a mammoth geyser that destroyed lifeboats and sent splintered wood and shrapnel crashing down as far aft as the second class deckhouse. It was powerful enough to cause ventilators to spew steam, smoke and debris. A pair of marginally acceptible accounts mention tht damage to the side was briefly visible above water. Yet, Rita Jolivet, in her inside cabin almost directly over the affected area, but in the center of the ship, was neither killed as the boilers below her exploded nor trapped in her cabin as the impact jammed doors; buckled floors, etc. So, whatever blew up was VERY close to the side of the ship. Because, if a boiler exploded with enough outward force to inflict a fatal wound, I suspect that it would generate massively damaging upward force as well. But, people in the inside cabins in the affected area escaped- Miss Jolivet opened her cabin door in time to watch her neighbor evacuate her cabin.

First explosion? Who knows. Maybe it WAS coal dust. Or a steam line.
 

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