Olympic stored oil in her inner skin


Jan 7, 2002
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One published Olympic historian I know insists up and down that the double skin added to Olympic after Titanic sank was filled with extra oil during the war- and had that torpedo that hit Olympic had not been a dud, she would have gone up like a Roman candle. Anyone else hear about this?

Tarn Stephanos
 

Brent Holt

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I doubt if she would have blown up. What was the extra oil for? Olympic was a coal burner at that time.
Brent
 
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Jul 9, 2000
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Considering that the Olympic was still fueled by coal during the war, this strikes me as a tad unlikely. Also, the fuel oil used at the time was pretty heavy stuff. It burned nice and hot once you could get it going. However, as heavy as this stuff was, it's not likely that it would have exploded.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Actually, I've seen sources that Olympic sometimes carried oil in her inner skin -- the 'Big Four' also helped carry supplies -- but it was for the war effort, not to fuel her boilers.

I won't comment on whether it would have blown up, but I did get the impression that it was less than the skin's capacity, for weight or whatever reasons. The inner skin when designed in 1913 was designed with consideration in mind to a later conversion to oil, so some war carrying would probably not have been a problem. You need valves and access to the skin for maintainence, though I don't remember the specific details.

I am surprised that Simon Mills did not mention it in his book, I think Flayhart & Shaum did. Is Shaum who you are speaking of Tarn?

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Erik Wood

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I am not sure what oil Olympic would have used. But I would assume it would be Bunker C. Bunker C has the consistancy of peanut butter and has to be warmed in order to be moved. Great Lakes Steamers and while ago some of the other steam passenger ships that used steam can verify that. It often takes up to a half of an hour to get things going.

Erik
 

Brent Holt

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But did Olympic's inner skin have oil tanks at that time? I doubt it. I expect that was installed at the time of the oil conversion.
Brent
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Regarding actual tanks -- the subidivision of the inner skin did, I understand, loosely follow the pattern of the tanks when fitted in 1920. I think that was what my source meant when they said that 'consideration' was given in the design. In wartime, I think improvisation could account for a lot. I guess without proper tanks, some oil could still have been carried.

That said, I did feel sceptical at the time -- but no one's saying masses of oil was carried. I haven't made a detailed enough study to disprove it, but at a glance it seems possible, even plausible. We'd need an 'oil expert' or the TRMA.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hello again —

Racking my brains, I remembered an old plan I had of Olympic. Checking my archive, I was lucky to find it almost straight away. This may explain something.

On this plan is indicated in colour code ‘buoyancy tanks’ which were ‘added to Olympic’s hull after Titanic’s sinking.’ These tanks follow exactly the layout of the inner skin — and so I assume that buoyancy tanks are just another name for the watertight inner skin, as they were called in the 1910 decade or whenever this plan was drafted. Furthermore, the source states that these tanks were later used during the war to carry oil from North America to England. Considering my (entirely separate) source stating that during the skin’s design consideration had been given to a possible future oil fuel conversion (involving the inner skin being used to store oil fuel), and the general subdivision layout of the skin, it seems entirely likely to me that oil could have been carried (certainly in small amounts) with little modifications. The spring 1917 refit springs to mind, just when America was entering the war, having been angry with Germany since late 1916, or certainly February 1917.

Thoughts?

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Erik Wood

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Great explanation Mark,

One question, so was the possible oil carried in 1917 used for Olympic's boilers or for the war effort??
 
Jan 5, 2001
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I am not sure about great, Erik, but it's all I could do last night.

If/when oil was carried in 1917, it would have been for the war effort. The oil conversion was not carried out until the 1919-20 refitting and the boilers of course burned coal until then. (Bitumous? Sp? -- Where's a coal merchant? :) )

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Bunker C? I don't know. Possibly, the Queen Mary used that I believe, among others. Bill Sauder I think worked on her for a while so could surely answer.

The papers I saw just mentioned 'new oil' and 'fuel.' While not considered unsafe, the Board placed the oil-converted ships on their confidential list to monitor their performance -- whilst sounding unlikely (one expert doubted my word on this) it is true. Oil was considered very flammable, but experience eventually saw its safety, and it is apparently hard to ignite it. If any was in the double skin when a torpedo hit, it would be diluted with water, etc. and I doubt would have 'gone up.'

Where's Tarn wandered off to? He started this thread and should have found it of interest.

Best,

Mark.
 

Erik Wood

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Bunker C is the most common oil used to burn in boilers. That is the oil that I have the most experience with when it comes to steam.

Bunker C is a very sticky substance that has to be warmed in order to be moved. If I recall correctly it isn't very flammable and isn't easily duluted in water. In fact it usually just sinks below the surface.

I would be most interested to see what Olmpic carried and what the QM carried as well. Hopefully Bill Sauder will pop in here.
 

Erik Wood

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Bunker C not used in Olympic or QM or in general?? I wish I could find a book I have on Bunker C. It is more like a pamphlet that explains what stage of refinement this is in.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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How many oils can you get? Sunflour oil? Olive oil!
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Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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P.S. weren't there two oils used in the Queen Mary? I.e. one main oil and then a 'bunker C' or whatever for some different boilers (i.e. watertube or not?)

I've not a clue!
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Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 7, 2002
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Thanks for the detailed response Mark! Im very sorry if I havnt addressed your response to my question in depth- A super busy work schedule gives me only a half hour or so of internet time at the library. A chum told me the oil Olympic carried may have been intended for other ships, or the war effort itself- so thank goodness it was never ignited. Fascinating about the doble skin- was it somthing that would have covered the whole length of her hull after the 1912 refit?
I wonder how oil, if indeed carried, would have been pumped on board? I didnt know that about the 'Big Four' carrying supplies too.

Thanks again Mark...

Tarn Stephanos
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Tarn!

I got your e-mail, thanks. I am not sure what the oil was used for; we know Olympic did not use it, so all I can assume is that it was used for some application in England.

The double skin covered some sixty percent of the ship's length, from boiler room #6 to the after turbine engine room. The electric machinery room aft of that had water tanks at the side and so I'd guess that it was not considered important to extend the double skin any further; also, the electric engine room had another watertight bulkhead fitted.

I know that there was access of a sort to the double skin to inspect it and maintain the space, although there were not any valves to inspect the integrity of the skin. I suppose that some valves could have been fitted and used to pump oil in, but I should think that this would probably only be improvised. I don't think that anyone can beat British wartime improvisation!
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It's a pity we've got no solid details on this.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 7, 2002
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Thanks for the information Mark! I wonder if the configuration of Britannic was the same, with her inner skin covering only 60 percent of her length as well....

That 1913 refit on Olympic must have literally gutted her- in increasing the height of the bulkeads, and doubling her skin thickness. Do any photos survive of this overhaul?

Thanks mark..

Tarn Stephanos
 

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