New Safety Innovations


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mike disch

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It was my understanding that much of the fuss about Titanic's (& Olympic's) unsinkability was because of all the safety innovations never-before-seen (double-hull, multiple compartments, watertight doors, et al.) which were so overwhelming it seemed that every possible hazard had been covered.
I was told recently that some of these things were NOT brand new. So, what was new, what wasn't, and what was the fuss about.
 
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About the only things I can think of that were new were the Welin davits and the Marconi apperatus, and even those had been around for awhile. Very little ever happens in a vaccuum, especially in shipbuilding. Double hulls in concept go back to the 1700's that I'm aware of, (I believe it was Ben Franklin who offered a proposal for such) though in practice seem to start in the 1800's. The Great Eastern had vastly superior watertight protection to anything extant in commercial shipping in 1912, and this included a double bottom and a system of transverse and longitudinal bulkheads.

It's often said in the Titanic mythos that the Olympics were revolutionary, but they really weren't. Evolutionary would be a lot more truthful. No real surprise there as shipbuilders and owners tend to be very conservative about such things, and for good reason. Breaking new ground with an innovation can be and often is an expensive proposition, and that's quite a pile of change flushed down the loo if it doesn't work or is so poorly tested that there are a lot of bugs in it. Ask Erik Wood about the Azipod system if you're brave enough...and get ready for an earful.
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These things have been nothing but trouble.
 
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Scott R. Andrews

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Mike,

None of this stuff was really new.

The cellular double bottom is a fairly common structural feature of large ocean-going iron and steel hulled steamers, and had been in use for decades prior to the Olympic-class liners. It provided a rigid structural base to which the rest of the structure was attached, as well a solid platform for the machinery and boilers. Additionally, it provides a compartmentalized system of tankage for the stowage ballast, boiler feedwater, etc. The watertight protection it afforded against damage sustained by grounding or other similar accidents was in actuality perceived by naval architects as a secondary benefit. BTW, a double bottom is not the same as a double hull, which incorporates a full watertight skin for some portion of the length within the hull. Neither ship was built with this feature, though it was included in the Britannic's design and was retrofitted into the Olympic along with raising certain of the bulkheads.

Watertight bulkheads in one form or another had been in use for many years, though the systems that were being employed in the largest steamers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were of a far more complete and elaborate nature than what was typical prior. And while it can convincingly argued that the subdivision achieved in many of the large steamers of the period was even in excess of what's considered acceptable by today's standards for passenger ships, the idea in and of itself was not new or revolutionary.

The same was true of watertight doors. Even the remote operation of watertight doors was not all that new in 1912, with various systems for remote operation of watertight doors having been around for more than a decade by that time.

Now, as to the fuss about the supposed unsinkability of the Olympic and Titanic, this is another idea that was neither unique to these ships or new. The very same comments were made about the Kaiser Wilhelm back in 1898 relating to her extensive subdivision and hydraulically operated WT doors. Both "The Shipbuilder" and "Engineering" made similar statements about numerous ships being "practically unsinkable" by virtue of having extensive arrangements of subdivision. Many of these statements appeared years before the Titanic's loss - while some appeared even after the disaster! Stone's, who supplied the WT door system used in the Lusitania and Mauretania, even had a ca. 1907 ad that trumpeted in large print that their system of WT doors made these ships "Practically Unsinkable".

In my opinion, the real "fuss" concerning Titanic's "unsinkability" began after her loss, and not before. Prior to her spectacular loss, the Titanic didn't receive any more press regarding her safety features than did the Olympic before her, or any of White Star's "Big Four", or either of the big Cunarders for that matter. The only difference, it would seem to me, was that none of these other ships was lost on its maiden voyage while all of the hype from the press and the various trade publications was still fresh in everyone's minds.

Regards,

Scott Andrews
 

Dave Gittins

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"In my opinion, the real "fuss" concerning Titanic's "unsinkability" began after her loss."

This has been argued quite a bit on another thread. I'm with Scott on this, in that I consider that the general public gave no thought the the supposed unsinkability until after the disaster. It's possible to find individuals that did and some are documented on this forum. Personally, I put most of the blame for the legend on Phillip Franklin and his extravagant remarks on the morning of April 15th 1912. The press took these up for the usual reasons. It's a fact that much of the Titanic legend was created before Carpathia arrived at New York.

Now we need to get rid of the idea that the disaster led to great improvements in shipping design. That's just another part of the pap for the masses.
 
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>>This has been argued quite a bit on another thread. I'm with Scott on this,...<<

As am I. Dittos on the notion of great improvements made ex post facto to the Titanic. Other then the usual knee-jerk "fixes", and shifting the shipping lanes a bit further south, things went back to business as usual befor the dust had even settled.
 
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