Mauretania/Lusitania Comparisons with Titanic


Aug 29, 2000
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Didn't seem to be a thread so let's make our own
Humphrey Jordan's book on the Mauretania gives a wonderful insight into her conception and construction- "The subdivision of the ship's compartments was arranged to met the requirements pf an auxillary cruiser. Her bunkers were placed to give the maximum protection to the most vulnerable parts. She was provided with strengthened platforms where 6 inch guns could be mounted.." What is fascinating though is the amount of time spent in testing designs for Lusy/ Maury -7 years- with the plan changing for length, tonnage,engines, number of screws, -and the eternal threat of the great German liners like the Kaiser Wilhelm to compete with. Parsons was onboard to work with the engines. A wooden prototype launch which was raced up and down the dock for months, helping to formulate the calculations for hull form, rudder size, number and shape of screw-whether they should turn inward or outward- exhaustive studies. Turbines did not throb and pulsate as hard as reciprocating engines-vibration was a factor carefully explored as the enginerooms still had to be back aft. The Carmania was their guinea pig- a 20,000 ton vessel. It is very reassuring to read the chapters on the extensive research and testing which went into these two ships- no wonder Mauretania held the record for 22 years. She was magnificent to look at and built to last. Another good reference is An Unsinkable Titanic which I will go dig out now.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Shelley,

It says: ". . . vibration was a factor carefully explored as the enginerooms still had to be back aft." Well, I read where the Lusitania had a lot of problems with vibration, which required an extensive (and expensive) refitting. So it seems kind of strange that the builders would spend so much time with testing, and then be so off that they had to do an extensive refitting, and rebracing of crossmembers to eliminate the vibration.

Another thing to consider: if you read Edward Wilding's testimony at the post-Titanic disaster British Board of Inquiry hearings, he complains about "costs," and figures that the civilian steamers can't afford all the features of naval ships, such as double hull construction, etc. It would involve too much more expensive maintenance.

What this says to me is that despite all the "extensive research," these companies were guided by what looked good, and attracted people, such as speed, size or luxury.

Walter Lord, too, severely criticizes these ships as a step backward in safe engineering design.
 
Aug 29, 2000
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AM hoping the big braintrust will start addressing these hairy technical things but I will try to labor on here until it does! The great worry was the jump from the small Turbinia to the 68,000 hp needed for Mauretania- a lightyear jump for the times and one which had the execs losing sleep at night. From Jordan's book again: " They argued that the most powerful reciprocating engines then in existence, those of the 20,000 ton Kaiser Wilhelm II -were only 38,000hp but to obtain that power....half a century of evolution and GRADUAL development had been required. It was absurd to imagine that the turbine, still in its infancy, could be expected to develop without trouble. Amongst the arguments in favour of installing turbines was that of saving space; the engine rooms could be smaller and lower. The reduction in height was of great importance, it rendered increased watertight subdivisions possible and so enlarged the margin of safety in case of collision or other accident. Reciprocating engines would necessitate one of the engine rooms being well aft, which would increase the difficulty of balancing the heavy moving parts so as to lessen vibration. Turbines operating four screws would lower the power to be transmitted through each shaft and so lessen the chance of shaft failure, which had not been infrequent in high speed ships on the Atlantic." It was a consideration of passenger comfort being considered too- the small turbine -driven cross channel vessels were wildly popular due to low vibration. Lord Inverclyde - Cunard's venerable champion, died just at the crucial decision-making time. The Carmania got the turbines and shipping took a great leap forward. Am digging out more books till the posse comes over the hill! Fascinating stuff.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Befor we go on any further, let me caution that we risk doing quite a bit of Monday Morning Quarterbacking in this discussion. We dare not assume that the shipwrights of the day knew everything we know now.

Jan is quite right about the vibration problems with the Lusitania and the expensive refit needed to correct it. Eventually, new propellers had to be designed and fitted to these ships. The big bugaboo here is cavitation. We've come a long way since then, but it's still a major headach. Believe me, I know this from first hand experience. When I was onboard the USS George Washington for her post overhaul trials, we did a speed run and the cavitation produced vibration and noise so severe that we had to wear hearing protection in the after part of the ship.

Ship design is nothing if not an artform and there are a lot of variables that have to be considered. For a warship, maximum watertight sectioning is a must or she hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of surviving combat damage. No such requirment exists for a merchent ship. There's really no need.

Offhand, I would hardly say the the designers back then were indifferent to safety. The Olympic class liners were built way in excess of the legal requirments for safety back then, and included margin for adding extra lifeboats from the start. As Erik Wood will almost certainly be quick to point out, the current practice seems to be to meet the minimums with little room for growth.

I would be very cautious about calling the luxury frivilous too. We may be tempted to sneer at the elevators as pointless, but I'll wager that the elderly and infirm would be of the conterary opinion and justifiably so! To an eighty year old bloke, climbing up five flights of stairs is not something to look forward to. Also, a sea crossing can be frightfully dull, so the passangers really need diversions. Hence the librarys, gyms, smoking rooms, lounges and so on. You really need them and if you don't have them, you'll lose trade to somebody who offers them.

On Wilding's comments, I would suggest that one read the whole of his testimony to get the context. Some of the concerns he raises are valid. Maintainance for example, especially in regards to watertight fittings, requires time and a lot of training.

I recall Wilding mentioned the problems with watertight fittings on coal bunkers. Those problems being fouling by coal debris and dust which makes getting a good seal difficult if not impossible, and then there is the fact that the bunkers have to be open almost constantly to assure a steady supply of coal for the boilers. If the compartment is actually ripped (Or blown!) open, there will be no time to clean up the mess. You're not likely to get much advance warning of an accident about to happen and in wartime, the enemy isn't going to give you any warning at all! (Why should he?)

Wilding had strong reservations about the value of longitudinal sectioning as well, which seems to have been vindicated in actual practice. Flooding confined to one side, as happened on the Lusitania, caused an immidiate list which made launching the lifeboats on the portside impossible. With transverse sectioning, the flooding flows from one side to the other as it did on the Titanic, making it possible to launch boats on both sides. Bear in mind also that the Titanic took two hours and forty minutes to sink, while the Lucy went down in only eighteen minutes in spite of all the extra protection.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Aug 29, 2000
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All points well-considered. Am still reluctant to compare the sinking time of Titanic to Lusitania's- the type of damage and area affected at impact and circumstances bear no similarities. To draw any valid deductions, both ships would need to sustain identical damage under the same circumstances with all factors being identical- that is the #1 premise of any scientific experiment where comparison is the issue. It could be speculated (also a dangerous verb) that had the Lusitania's 5 compartments been pierced- and many experts agree Titanic's total cubic damaged area was about the size of a large refrigerator, the Lusitania's inner structure may have produced a different outcome. Nobody knows exactly the circumstances of either collision, extent of damage, etc. so speculation is all that is possible, and perhaps an educated guess. Wonder how Titanic might have sustained a Lusitania-type amidships explosion?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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It's hard to say, although I suspect she would have survived it. It would depend on how many compartments were damaged by the explosion. A torpedo makes a pretty large hole, but if the flooding can be confined to two or three compartments, then she would remain afloat.

The problem with the Lusitania's side protection was that these were coal bunkers, and that brings with it the problems I mentioned. The fouled doors, the fact that they have to be open most all of the time, and one has to wonder how quickly they could have been closed if at all if the compartment(s) were opened suddennly to the sea. And if the doors were closed, would they be strong enough to survive the pressure wave from the explosion from a torpedo.

Then there's the problem of a list caused by assymetric flooding and this one doesn't go away.

With the Titanic, I beleive one of the most signifigent problems would have been the boilers themselves being ruptured by the blast. I don't believe they would have ruptured the watertight bulkheads,(They were pretty well built.) but the live steam would have killed anybody in the boiler rooms.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Remco Hillen

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Dec 13, 1999
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Quote:

Wonder how Titanic might have sustained a Lusitania-type amidships explosion?





On a site note, Titanic's sister Britannic was sunken by a explosion from a mine or torpedo.
The explosion didn't occured in exactly the same position as it did on Lusitania, but more foreward.
Probably the bulkhead between holds #2 and #3 was damaged, and so the firemens tunnel was open to the sea.
This was crucial damage, as the tunnel reached in the holds 1,2 and 3 and boilerroom #6.
And as the bulkhead between #5 and #6 boilerroom was to low, water also reached #5 later.
Britannic could have survived the damage if all the portholes were closed.

Of course Britannic is totally different compared to Titanic in the case of safety features, think of the double hull, higher bulkheads etc, but I thought this would be interesting.

Regards,
Remco
 
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J. Bernard Walker wrote for Scientific American, and published in 1912, a book called An Unsinkable Titanic. His consultants were distinguished naval architects and engineers of the time. Some very fine line drawings illustrating the double hulls of Mauretania, Titanic and the TRULY well- built Great Eastern are contained in this volume. I will scan and post these next week. Most of the book is an examination of the transverse vs. longitudinal bulkheads and double hull and other structural elements. The Great Eastern, a ship well ahead of her time, 692 feet long, 83 foot beam was a model for all time.She had a hull within a hull tied together with a system of continuous longitudinal AND lateral web-plates or frames and was carried up to a continuous plate-iron lower deck which went 8 to 10 feet above the waterline )depending on her draft). The 2 skins were placed 2 feet 10 inches apart and tied together by 34 longitudinal web-members all along the hull thus making separate watertight compartments. These were FURTHER subdivided by a series of transverse webs which intersected the longitudinal ones! The double hull was closed by the watertight iron lower deck which entirely separated the boiler and engine rooms and the holds from the passenger quarters. She had nine transverse bulkheads which extended from the bottom to the upper deck or to a height of 30 feet above the water line. The merchant ships of 1912 carried only up to 10-18 feet-including Titanic. The Great Eastern added on an additional 6 transverse bulkheads which extended to that iron lower deck. What lay beneath that deck was then divided by 15 transverse bulkheads into 16 compartments (sound familiar?) Brunel- who was an engineering and design GENIUS ,further re-enforced the situation by adding 2 longitudinal bulkheads throughout the machinery and engine spaces which went from bottom to top deck, added a curved steel roof separating the boiler rooms from the coal bunkers and made for up to 50 watertight compartments. NO doors were cut through the bulkheads below the lower decks. Well- THIS was a ship! She easily survived damage far worse than Titanic and steamed blithely into port.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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You're right, Shelley. In "Night Lives On," Walter Lord delves into comparisons between Great Eastern and Titanic, at length. He states the obvious, that safety and engineering took steps backward after Great Eastern. Notably, Great Eastern was never a financial success. But as Lord points out, it survived a Titanic style collision with a shoal. The double hull saved it. As you point out, the bulkheads were capped, and truly watertight --so that to go from section to section with in the ship, one literally had to go to the upper deck, then go down again. Obviously, this type of extreme safety feature wouldn't work with a luxury ship like Titanic.

I acquired a carte de viste of Great Eastern which is posted on the San Francisco Titanica site.http://content.communities.msn.com/isapi/fetch.dll?action=show_photo&ID_Community=jshomispictures&ID_Topic=3&ID_Message=41

I really like that ship. If there were a choice between Great Eastern and Titanic, I would opt for Great Eastern. When she was scrapped in 1888 (?), the ship had been put together so well that the process went on for 18 months. Additionally, a body was found inside the double hull. There's a book on the Great Eastern . . . I think it's called the "Great Iron Ship" or something like that.
 

Paul Rogers

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Quote:

When (Great Eastern) was scrapped in 1888 (?), the ship had been put together so well that the process went on for 18 months. Additionally, a body was found inside the double hull.




I thought the body story was an urban (marine?) myth. It certainly got carried over to Titanic.

Regards,
Paul.
 
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The Great Iron ship is a MUST HAVE -and can still be easily found in the 5-10 $ range. Actually a body was found when she was scrapped. A most remarkable ship -laid the Atlantic Cable, then sadly ended as a floating sideshow. Brunel and Russell went on to other great things-including bridges- the span at Bristol, England on the way to Wales is a masterpiece- went to see it back in '94. There are about 60 copies of the Dugan book on Bibliofind right now.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Lusitania and Mauretania - admittedly in many respects through Admiralty specification - were far safer and better ships than most of their contemporaries (I exclude the 'practically unsinkable Britannic and Olympic' when they were refitted from that description). The German Imperator of 1913 only had 13 main watertight compartments (partly with an inner skin), three less than the slightly shorter Titanic, being designed to float with any two or three flooded.

Likewise the fact that Mauretania remained faster into her old age is quite amazing. Thirty-one knots for a period is fantastic (per Jordan's book I've just bought).

<FONT COLOR="119911">One interesting fact is Mauretania's hull integrity. According to the Board of Trade, she was 'still standing up well to her work' in 1931, after twenty-four years of service, her hull very sound.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
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Tom Pappas

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Dugan says two skeletons were found when Great Eastern was scrapped - those of a riveter and his "basher boy."

No record of any such deaths has been found in town archives.
 

Scott Reigel

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Patrick Beaver (The Big Ship) leans against the presence of skeletons and also points out the lack of their mention in the local press at the time the ship was broken.

George Emmerson (The greatest iron ship: SS Great Eastern) points out that many of the inspection hatches allowing access to the cellular double bottom were not even installed until the voyage where she tore her hull on “Great Eastern Rock”, making it unlikely that anyone could have been trapped.

I have never seen anything reputable to substantiate the skeleton story.

Great Eastern history:
http://www.russellwild.co.uk/greateastern/
 

Scott Reigel

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You might even say that the Great Eastern was the first large ship to be built WITHOUT a skeleton, being cellular and not having traditional frames.
happy.gif
 
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Tom Pappas

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I believe the myth held that the riveter and helper were trapped during construction, before the inspection hatches had been installed. Dugan states that as a result of the entrapment, shipyards cease work at noon to listen for anyone who might be trapped. I don't know of anyone who was ever in a shipyard that did.
 
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robert s hauser

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I must disagree on the skelleton issue. On one issue of the History Channel, one of the author experts they used, I don't have his name right now but I'll find it, actually read a contemporary newspaper report of the skeleton being discovered durring the Great Eastern's demolilition word for word. Apparently it created such consternation among the wrecking crew charged with demosishing the double hull, that many of them refuse to back to work. The result was a shipyard brawl in which one worker was hit over the head with an iron pipe and killed. Throughout the Eastern's entire career, passengers and crew made constant complaints of a mysterious banging noise that seemed to emanate from the hull. If ever their was a haunted ship, I think the Great Eastern takes the cake. Some of it is just creepy. Here are some interesting factoids I've run across, just incase anybody is interested.
1) When the ship was launched, some of the chains or some piece of metalic tackle broke and killed 2 workers. They attempted to launch it sideways, and it got stuck and could not be budged for months. Meanwhile, Isambard Brunel was so stressed out, that the birth of the ship literally killed him. Most of his personal fortune was sucked up in renting powerfull hydrauic jacks to get it unstuck. The company went bankrupt. Brunel had a seizur.
3) Durring the ship's trials, something exploded in the engine roon that launched the forward funnel like a rocket, scalded 3 men, and killed two. The last unfortunate burn victim ran across the deck on fire, jumped overboard, and was chewed into a gory mess by the ships paddle wheels. When Brunel heard this, he had another seizer and died.
4) When the hellish trials were finally over, the captain's boat overturned as he was being rowed ashore, and killed him!
5) When the Eastern docked at New york for the first time, her paddle wheel took out a 5 foot chunk of pier she was moored to. Two inspectors came to check the damage. One fell in and drowned. That night, a group of drunked sailer were returning to the ship, decided to check out the gash in the pier and died when it collapsed.
Brunel was a genius of an engineer, but he often pushed the envelope too far and was fell prey to some spectacular failures. Sure, the Great Eastern was built like a tank, but she was totally useless as a passenger liner and did not fullfill the function for which she was designed (the Australian run without refueling...it didn't work). Passengers on the Great Eastern also complained of horrendous vomit inducing rolling. Brunel thought he was going to power a 20,000 ton 700 foot ship with like 2,600 hp tottal? What was he thinking! The Great Eastern may have been unsinkable, but as a commercial vessel it was completely impractical. It killed 34 people, without even having a major wreck. Anyway, sorry for the ramble. I just think it's a rediculous comparison. The Great Eastern was an over ambitious experiment that attempted to completely trancesend the tech of the time without the means to do so. By that point in his life, I think Brunel's mind was a little crispy around the edges. He was in very poor heath, that's for sure. Thanks, sorry for the tirade, Rob H
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I must disagree on the skelleton issue. On one issue of the History Channel, one of the author experts they used, I don't have his name right now but I'll find it, actually read a contemporary newspaper report of the skeleton being discovered durring the Great Eastern's demolilition word for word<<

Okay, fair enough. Is there a primary source which can be checked to verify this? I'd be very carful about anything you hear on The History Channel. Some of their productions are pretty good, but most are made for the popular mass market and suffer from the usual problems of shallow, non-existant and/or slipshod research.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Expanding on what Mr. Standart has said, even if there IS a newspaper article about the skeleton(s) from which a present day expert quoted, I'd still be wary of it. Victorian papers, particulary the popular press, were full of stories, told quite convincingly, of pregnant women frightened by elephants giving birth to children with trunks (yes, really) images of the recently dead appearing in window glass (a running theme ca 1890 for some reason) and the omnipresent 'remote midwestern (US) Inn being demolished and a room full of skeletons of murdered guests left over from frontier days unearthed' tale which- come to think of it- kind of relates to the Great Eastern legend. Many of these articles are so well written that they contain addresses, names, references, but are still bogus (I've checked). Unless something more substantial than a clipping surfaces, the skeleton legend has to remain just that.

It might be interesting to see WHEN this Great Eastern Urban Legend got started, and how widespread it was.
 

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