Possible method to delay sinking


Peter Dufault

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Feb 26, 2006
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Years ago after I saw the movie I thought about how to prevent it from sinking on and off for a couple weeks. I then had an idea that I have not been able to find expressed anywhere else yet. Depending on the remaining structural integrity of the ship, would the following be possible, had the captain acted in time?

1) Having collided with the iceberg, recognize that the ship would indeed sink in a short time due to water pouring in.

2) Realize that the ship would continue to take on water because the bow would go in first.

3) If the ship took on the water in the middle, the ship as a whole would dip down, but possibly not sink.

4) With the above 3 points in mind, could saving the ship be as simple as pointing the bow into the iceberg and setting the engines on full speed ahead? This would use the iceberg as a support to take on enough load to prevent the bow from dipping in, which at the very least might delay the sinking for a couple hours. If everything held together, then they could even manage it until the coal ran out.

It would take someone with more skill than myself to model the ship and conditions with a good finite-element package, but it might yield interesting results.
 
May 3, 2005
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Peter-

I'm also strictly an amateur myself at this and I hope the experts, such as Michael, et. al will reply to your posting.

My thoughts:

(4)It seems as if this would be rather unlikely, considering that (?) the iceberg had already drifted considerably astern of Titanic and the loading of lifeboats would have been delayed in attempting to maneuver as you suggest ? (I think this may have been covered in previous posts.)
 

Ernie Luck

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quote "4) With the above 3 points in mind, could saving the ship be as simple as pointing the bow into the iceberg and setting the engines on full speed ahead? This would use the iceberg as a support to take on enough load to prevent the bow from dipping in, which at the very least might delay the sinking for a couple hours. If everything held together, then they could even manage it until the coal ran out."

Turn round and chase the iceberg? That's a good one. Ha Ha Ha
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Joking apart, there is a programme on BBC TV this evening, which according to a preview is going to peddle some of those what-if's. i.e. that the Titanic would have survived if it had hit the iceberg head on. It will be interesting to see if they have anything new to add.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>With the above 3 points in mind, could saving the ship be as simple as pointing the bow into the iceberg and setting the engines on full speed ahead?<<

No.

All else aside, they would have had to find it again in the dark, and by the time that could have been accomplished, the ship would already have been too far gone to save. You also need to bear in mind that icebergs are notoriously unstable. Assuming that Titanic could have somehow found an ice shelf sufficiently wide to ground herself on (Forget running back on at full speed as this would only serve to cause further catastrophic damage) and hold the weight of the ship. it's likely that the additional weight taken on would have been just enough to roll the berg over and right on top of them.
 
May 9, 2001
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I second Michael's post above. Icebergs are not stable objects. They roll and flip often and with little to no warning. Also its worth saying again that captains and officers usually follow their training when dealing with an emergency at sea. And they are not trained to do radical maneuvers such as beaching the bow on a berg. Instead they are trained to try to save the ship with the time tested practices of patching holes, pumping water out, sealing compartments, shifting ballast, etc. to try to maintain control and stability of the vessel. In the meantime they are also going to try to evacuate the passengers and crew to safety using the evacuation systems and procedures they have been trained to use, ie, lifeboats, lifevests, and keeping people calm and orderly.

So while its easy, and very tempting sometimes, to come up with multiple 'what ifs' ideas regarding things the captain or crew could have done to save more lives, or keep the ship from sinking, those radical ideas are usually far easier to imagine than they are to implement and the results are rarely a big improvement over the tried and true methods.

Besides, even if Captain Smith had decided to try to make for a berg to beach her, during the inquiries and law suits after the sinking, lawyers for the plaintiffs would be able to eat White Star alive for negligence on the part of the crew. Because then every life that was lost could have been arguably saved if only the crew had used the lifeboats. I'm serious, in an emergency you follow the written procedures and rules to the letter even if you know they are flawed because if you go out on a limb trying to do something heroic and out of the norm and the company gets sued, guess who just took full responsibility for any liability during that emergency. And your friendly neighborhood corporate attorney will be more than happy to see his client well paid at the expense of the transport company all because one maverick decided to ignore stated guidelines and act alone. Even if those actions did result in the eventual rescue of the plaintiff.

Same for then as for now.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I would also have to point out that having collided with the iceberg, they didn't get to choose the damage they had. You could not, for example, choose to let the midsection flood when the whole of the ship was already progressively flooding from bow to stern and also suffering the secondary damage that led to the break up.

Simply put, they had to play the cards they were dealt, no matter how bad the hand was. In this case, that would mean getting as many people off of the ship in the time they had.

Also, having already suffered damage from a collision with an iceberg, no officer in his right mind would willingly attempt to run up on it again. As Yuri pointed out, the lawyers would eat them alive, and in this instance, I suspect the mariners would be cheering them on.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Seems to me I've read that one shouldn't attempt to move a damaged ship if the nature and extent of the damage are unknown. With regard to the Titanic, it took them about half an hour to find this out. For whatever reason the Titanic started moving again before that, it was about that time that its pumps were overwhelmed (oops!). Years later, they tried to beach the Britannic (oops!). The Lusitania drove its bow into the water with its propellers still turning (oops!). No, chasing after phantom icebergs in the dark, with the sea being scooped up into your bottom, doesn't strike me as too good an idea. There's also the question of how much structural mischief the Titanic may have suffered from the initial collision and how *any* further movement might have affect it.

Roy
 
May 3, 2005
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>>I second Michael's post above. Icebergs are not stable objects. They roll and flip often and with little to no warning.<<

Also, even if an iceberg was found for the ship to ride up on (beached ?) would there be a possibility that the ship itself might turn over on its side ? (Re: Morgan Robertson's "Futility")
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I think it would depend on the size of the iceberg and the shape as well as the extent of the iceshelf below the waterline. It would certainly do a lot more damage. Personally, I don't think anyone would have even considered attempting it. Some ideas are just too outrageous to bear serious thought.
 
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I've had a little experience with Korean Conflict/W.W.II type surface search shipboard radars. I've seen some heavy "sea return" from the water during rough weather. Do icebergs show up on radar ? Considering an iceberg is composed of mainly frozen water ? Or would any things imbedded in the iceberg - dirt, fossils, etc. render it more reflective ?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Do icebergs show up on radar ?<<

Not very well they don't. The mass isn't all that dense in the first place and a berg can be as multifaceted as an F-117 stealth strike aircraft and just as difficult to spot on radar for just that reason. That's why a good pair of eyes looking out up forward is so important. No electronic sensor is 100% perfect in this regard and if you want to avoid close encounters of the worst kind, you use all the tools you have.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Didn't I read the IIP drop beacons on some of them for this reason? Couldn't get all of them though, surely, but you could sort of delineate an ice field maybe?
 
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David Haisman

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I do declare, we've all been here before.
Quite extraordinary posts here and more extraordinary are those that continue with their themes and theory's of Titanic continually making headway after colliding with the iceberg. Those claims are typical of many that wish to make such assumptions and clearly reveal the dangers of analysing half baked testimonies parrot fashion.
It further reveals their scanty nautical knowledge, that of British merchant ships and the psyche of the men who served on them.
Here we have a ship of some 46,000 (old) tons, making headway at 22 knots, bearing down on a rock solid lump of ice, possibly the same weight as the ship itself. According to those that were there in the Second Class( a considerable distance from impact) there was a shudder and several bumps before the ship finally came to a stop.(fact) This was enough to awaken some of those from their slumbers. (fact)
For this collision to be felt by those as far aft as the Second Class, this must have been one hell of a collision albeit, a glancing one.
The vessel continued to go full astern until it stopped(fact)
If there are any out there that has been on a large ship that has struck a dock wall or something similar at approx just 2 knots, they will know the sickening feeling of a shudder and could imagine how this must have felt on Titanic going at 22 knots.
We now enter into the dodgy testimony arena and the moreso dodgy analysis, if that's the case, of such testimony. I would think Captain Smith and many other navigating officers would have felt the collision and realised the seriousness of it. Without doubt no one would dare touch a telegraph system until it was known what damage had been reported. How about submerged lumps of ice still rumbling along the ship's bottom or around the screw area, which is another hazzard when in ice.
Captain Smith with almost a lifetime at sea, is now going to exacerbate the problem by going ahead without any knowledge of damage forward of the bridge or whether his screws are clear of any ice.!
In actual fact, he is going to ''scoop up'' more water than he needs to at this time and do we honestly think that he didn't know that? You wouldn't need to be a genious in physics to realise the outcome of such an action.
Let's get real!
This makes as much sense as Cameron stating that if the titanic continued going astern long enough, she would have remained afloat longer and gotten closer to the shore or shipping lanes. Yeah. Right! Mr Cameron, you should stick to making fictional movies!!
Perhaps, she could have gone on until her screws came out of the water and then could have developed wings and flown out of the whole situation!
This is all wonderful stuff for those wishing to discredit Captain Smith but none of it should be taken seriously at all!
There's far too much fanciful comment on what has always been regarded by professionals on this side of the pond, as a straight forward attempt to avoid colliding with an iceberg and then to ultimately founder.
 
May 3, 2005
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>>This makes as much sense as Cameron stating that if the titanic continued going astern long enough, she would have remained afloat longer and gotten closer to the shore or shipping lanes. Yeah. Right! Mr Cameron, you should stick to making fictional movies!! <<

I think one of the problems that we amateurs in this field have is that we are so "sucked in" to the technical details such as the sets and special effects...especially in "Titanic (1997)"
and to some extent " A Night To Remember (1958)"
that we tend to regard the "facts" as presented as "The Gospel Truth." If there's any redeeming factor to "Titanic (1953)" it is that the whole movie is more or less a soap opera and take the rest as more or less fiction also. For any who haven't seen the 1953 movie don't be too disappointed if you don't even see Andrews or Ismay ! :)
 
Sep 22, 2003
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~3) If the ship took on the water in the middle, the ship as a whole would dip down, but possibly not sink.~

this would not prevent the ship from sinking. Titanic was designed to float w/ any 2 compartments flooded, or 4 adjacent compartments forward of the boiler rooms. (Refer to Shipbuilder)

~4) With the above 3 points in mind, could saving the ship be as simple as pointing the bow into the iceberg and setting the engines on full speed ahead? This would use the iceberg as a support to take on enough load to prevent the bow from dipping in, which at the very least might delay the sinking for a couple hours. If everything held together, then they could even manage it until the coal ran out.~

Not a possibility. the engines wered started again after the ship struck the berg. the exact time they were on and the reason is unknown, estimates range from 10 to minutes, w/ various reasons for why, while moving forward though the flooding rate of the breached compartments increased. as pointed out earlier turning back and finding the berg or any berg for would be very difficult. using the berg as support to keep the bow from dipping in would be very dangerous and I don't think any captain or officer would try this as it would cause severe damage to the ship's double bottom causing further damage.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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While David and I respectfully disagree about the Titanic restarting the engines post collision, one point we don't differ on is that doing so is a really dumb stunt, especially if you know you have damage up forward.

Were Beesley, Gracie, Dillon, and Scott all full of it when they spoke to the ship moving again?

I doubt it but I can't say so with non-debatable certainty. Make of that what you will.

Could Captain Smith have had some compelling reasons to at least make a show of it that have been lost to history?

Maybe. I wasn't there, don't know, and in the context of this discussion, I can't say as it really matters a whole hell of a lot.

What I can say with certainty is that moving the ship with a busted nose, especially once her death sentence has been pronounced (She had an hour, perhaps two left to live that they *knew* of) in the dark of the night in the uncertain hope of finding a suitable berg to beach her on...and this would take one huge berg...and putting off passengers on same or trying to keep her afloat would have been a brain dead move of the grandest order. Smith and Company knew what they were up against and they weren't stupid.

The time spent doing so could be...and was...far more effectively used in getting as many people off the ship as they could in the time they had left, and that's how they played it.
 
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David Haisman

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I raised this topic of the Titanic restarting her engines after a serious collision with an iceberg mainly because we had discussed this some time ago. As a result of this, I will continue to uphold Captain Smith's good name as always and of course his seamanship qualities.
I never quote testimony although I have a house full of it and the kind of testimony that makes this captain look a fool has to be challenged. We should not analyse and totally rely on such testimony nearly always coming from those onboard his ship with lesser or virtually no knowledge of the actual situation, his qualifications or his dilemma.
If we can, we should in all fairness raise those good reasons and the more likely alternatives before condemning the man. I hasten to add that this line of thought is in no way an attack on any individual on this web site but moreso on the idea of why our good captain would make such foolish decisions.
I prefer to judge these seamen on their qualities and of how I'm fairly sure they would have reacted at sea and the resultant enquiries.
My experience tells me for example how ship's masters totally dislike putting to sea if the trim of their vessel shows bias in any way.
A ship's master on a vessel with an inclination of being down at the head when at sea or in collision mode, would definitely explore and examine all possibilities to correct the situation before movement. It's in their training. Being down at the head is worse than a list either to port or starboard and will compound ship handling problems.
One only has to serve on a tanker during ballast transfer or tank washing at sea to know just how unhappy the ''Old Man '' is. Naturally, there were no tankers around to speak of during Titanic's day but the pricipals remain the same.
Many Skippers could ''feel'' their ship wasn't right and wouldn't need bridge instrumentation to confirm it. They would do their utmost to find out about engine room bilge or bunker transfers before looking elsewhere.
This is specifically for the reasons of how the ship becomes vulnerable in bringing about certain limits to ship handling capabilities and emergency situations. They don't want it and usually raise hell until it's rectified.
So in the light of just a few examples above, are we to assume that our good captain knew none of this, meanwhile his forward sections continued to flood at several hundred tons in minutes.
Was Captain Smith so different to these other masters? I don't think so!

David
 
Mar 22, 2003
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quote:

If we can, we should in all fairness raise those good reasons and the more likely alternatives before condemning the man.

I could not agree more. But I also would not dismiss the statements of others with regard to what they saw in different places. Once the ship was injured and it was decided that they had to swing out the boats I would imaging that the safety of doing so would take priority. With this in mind could it be that Capt. Smith decided to move the ship ahead enough to clear some local ice or growlers that would otherwise have interfered with the operation of safely launching the lifeboats? I am not talking about 10 minutes of movement here, something more like 1 to 2 minutes at slow ahead. The down trim angle was not enough to be noticed until about the time they were uncovering the boats by some reports. If this was the reason for some additional forward movement I would think it was a calculated action to increase the chances of all boats getting into the water safely. Far from being a foolish action, it may have been necessary to insure that all boats had a chance of being launched and get away from the sinking ship. Non of us were there and we have no way of knowing with any degree of certainty what indeed had took place.​
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>With this in mind could it be that Capt. Smith decided to move the ship ahead enough to clear some local ice or growlers that would otherwise have interfered with the operation of safely launching the lifeboats?<<

That thought occured to me. In this sense, moving the ship however briefly, would have had the effect of getting out of the fire...even if they were still in the frying pan. It was a matter of choosing between the lesser of at least two evils that Captain Smith would have known about or sensed.
 
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David Haisman

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Your above observations are reasonable in some respects but quite unlikely with this turn of events.
Did the ship enter an icefield or did Titanic ''clout'' one solitary iceberg.? I'm fairly certain it was the latter.
It would have been far better if Titanic had entered an icefield as there are usually advanced visible warnings of the presence of areas of pack ice, even at night. It's normal to come up on pack ice and some growlers before you meet up with the ''big stuff'' (in my experience)
This would have been a good enough reason for Captain Smith to ''shut her down a bit'' and double up a lookout on the fo'cstle as well.
If a ship is sinking whilst in an icefield you have absolutely no choice other than to take to your boats and take your chances. (we're talking 1912)
There would be no point whatever in moving your vessel as the ice would most probably be all around as far as could be determined. (not Titanic's scenario)
Should Titanic have collided with one solitary iceberg (more likely) apart from a few chunks drifting about, there would be no reason whatever to move the ship until conclusive damage reports would have reached the bridge. By the size of Titanic's forward compartments, I wouldn't think it would take no more than 10 minutes or so to fully determine the gravity of the situation.
In the light of this, why move at all?

David
 

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