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Quality of steel in Titanic's hull

Discussion in 'Hull & Construction Issues' started by Parks Stephenson, Jan 17, 2001.

  1. The current myth of "inferior steel" evolved from pure hindsight. It is true that the steel provided to Harland & Wolff by Dalzell and D. Colvilles & Co. was produced in acid-lined open-hearth furnaces, which allowed for impurities (such as sulfur and phosphorous) in the steel. These impurities led to low fracture resistance, especially in cold water conditions that reduced ductility (ability of the steel to deform without yielding), by reducing the amount of manganese present to bind to the residual sulfur. With insufficient manganese, the sulfur combined with the iron to form the ferrous sulfide, which created paths of weakness (especially along grain boundaries) along which fractures could propagate. The manganese-sulfur ratio of Titanic's steel recovered from the wreck site has been determined to be 6.8:1, low in comparison to steels produced today that have ratios as high as 200:1. The presence of phosphorous, even in minute quantities, also played a significant role in the initiation of fractures.

    However, most of steel used by British shipyards during this period was produced using the open-hearth method; in fact, the metallurgy of the steel did not change significantly until after 1947, when wartime experiences prompted closer examination of the elemental properties of steel. At the time of her construction, Titanic's builders used top-quality steel that would remain the industry standard for years to come. The steel used in the R.M.S. Queen Mary, which survives to this day, was produced by the same mill that provided steel for Titanic and is essentially the same in composition. To accuse Titanic's builders of using "inferior steel" is unfair, as it would be decades before the minor elements of steel would be more fully understood.
  2. Jake

    Jake Member

    My Recent Findings

    In my recent findings researching what exactly happened to the other part of Titanic's Reciprocating Engines. In the 1996 Expedition to the Titanic by the French, navel architect David Livingstone came to the conclusion of that Titanic's Engines snapped in half. Now in the 2012 Expedition they finally found the missing pieces of the Engines. Which was not mentioned in the documentary. Also in the 1996 Expedition they tested Titanic's steel plates for weaknesses which they did find weaknesses. Also the steel plates I believe were what was weak not the rivets. In the collision with the iceberg I believe that the buckling of steel plates is what made the Titanic founder. There had to be weaknesses in the steel for them to buckle. From the reports of the only survivor that was able to see it plates buckled when the iceberg hit. Titanic's steel was proven to be weak under very cold temperatures. What I am saying I do believe Titanic did have some flaws but did in some cases do a lot better than other ships that foundered.
  3. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    navel architect David Livingstone came to the conclusion of that Titanic's Engines snapped in half.

    Some conclusion! Dos he suggest how this miracle might just have happened?
    Also in the 1996 Expedition they tested Titanic's steel plates for weaknesses which they did find weaknesses. Also the steel plates I believe were what was weak not the rivets.

    Steel for ship building had reached an art form by 1910. They use a process called the Bessemer Process which produce very fine steel. They could also add ingredients like chrome to enhance the steel. At that time Sheffield was the world center for steel making. The rivets were not weak. The bar used to make them was tested to destruction during the manufacturing process. Sure the rivets and the steel would be 'weak' when compared with the products of today but the latter are over-designed as far as every day use is concerned.
    As for cold water brittleness... that's a joke. Just think what would have happened to every steel ship that sailed up and down the St Lawrence river in springtime.
    Titanic sank simply because the sea water was coming in faster than they could pump it out. The water got in because the edges (seams) of the steel plates were distorted due to heavy impact and the distortion caused the rivet-heads to shear. When the heads sheared, the plate edges were no longer held together and the seams sprung open. The same thing happened on a regular bases well after WW2.

    Jim C.
  4. jake92

    jake92 Member

    from what i know was that the Titanic steel has been tested and that was was strong don't forget that is wasn't the steel that sank the Titanic is was the rivets in the bow they where weak so when Titanic bow came in contact with the iceberg the rivets heads popped like bullets then the plates shifted the steel was keeping the ship afloat even Thomas Andrews only gave the ship an hour to float that ship was built to the standard of the time even a modern battle ship wouldn't of even took the strain of what the Titanic took that night
  5. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    don't forget that is wasn't the steel that sank the Titanic is was the rivets in the bow they where weak so when Titanic bow came in contact with the iceberg the rivets heads popped like bullets

    You are describing a phenomenon called "shearing". it happend when the side of a ship grinds against a solid object like a rock or quay wall or another ship. The rivet heads on Titanic or any other ship would have cut into the ice, much the same as do ice skate blades.
    Ship's plating is joine at 'butts' and 'seams'. During construction, Titanic's seams and butts were multi-riveted. I do not have any data specific to Titanic, but I know that protruding rivet heads on the outside of ship's hull plates beneath the surface cause drag. Consequently, it was usually the practice to fashion low profile or flush rivet heads to reduce such drag. Here is a copy of pages from one of my old text books you may find of interest.

    Rivets 1088.jpg

    Rivets 2089.jpg

    Jim C.

    Rivets 1088.jpg

    Rivets 2089.jpg
  6. The “weak rivet” theory is based upon examination of broken rivets picked up off the bottom in the vicinity of the bow. Without doubt, many of those rivets were found to contain “inclusions” which most likely reduced their strength. Even so, it is dangerous to jump to over-arching conclusions based upon a single bit of evidence. In this case the rivets inspected could not have been damaged or dislodged by the iceberg because of evidence the ship moved some distance under its own power after impact. Then, we have to take into account the drift of the sinking ship over the next two hours or so as it filled and sank. Finally, the force of impact on the bottom was enough to drive the bow deep into the mud. We have no way of knowing what that impact did to the structure and rivets.

    As Jim points out, the rivets under water were set flush with the outer surface of the shell plating. Sliding past ice would not have sheared them. At best, some few might have been pushed back into the hull. This would have resulted in minor water penetration through the resulting one-inch diameter holes. Just such an event overtook the 1912-vintage steamer SS Willis B. Boyer departing Duluth harbor in the late 1960s. Despite the missing rivets, the ship was able to complete the season before repairs were made (wooden plugs stemmed the incoming water). The source of this story was a member of the crew who found the leaks.

    I've examined the sides of that same ship. They are made of steel of exactly the same quality of Titanic's plates. Impacts against the hard stone walls of the Soo locks have left their marks. Dents up to about 1.5 times the thickness of the plate can be found. The original rivets are in place and the seams still watertight. It is obvious that the doubling of the overlapped seams provides considerable extra strength. And, the dents don't extend beyond the internal vertical frames which provide even more support to the seams. Ice being considerably softer than stone, this evidence on a hull of similar construction causes me to doubt that a water-lubricated sliding impact against the iceberg would have accounted for any serious damage and certainly not anything close to the damage reported on Titanic's hull.

    We know that steel plating rolled in 1909 (build year of Titanic) was less ductile than modern materials. I've done an anecdotal study of ship losses involving apparent ductility issues. Longitudinal cracking of plates simply doesn't appear in these stories. Over and over, however, are tales of ships which cracked at right angles to the keel and then broke into two separate pieces. Titanic certainly suffered this fate. It broke in way of boiler room #1. However, the breakup of the ship did not cause it to sink. Rather, Titanic broke as a consequence of unfair loading of the hull girder caused by the sinking. Just as with the rivets, brittle steel has been given far too much credit for the loss of the ship.

    -- David G. Brown
  7. If the steel and rivets had been so bad the bow and stern wreck would have not survived the impact with the ocean floor. At the bow wreck there are parts were the steel is bent 180° and it is unbroken and the rivets are still in place. The rivets recovered were found single and from unknown locations. So what did they say about the rivets at the area of the iceberg contact? Nothing!
  8. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    We should ask ourselves "How did the rivets found near the wreck become detached from their original locations?"
    They were most certainly nothing to do with the original impact which took place at least half to three quarters of a mile north and east of the wreck site.

    Ship's rivets do not 'pop out'. Nor do they fall out. In all the years I have sailed, worked in ship-building and repair yards and as a Marine Accident Investigator, I have never come across a case where rivets were either pushed out or popped out.
    Rivet holes were not parallel sided but slightly conical in shape. This happened during the 'punching' process. Likewise, rivets were slightly conical under the head to fill the wide end of the punch hole. The only way a rivet could 'pop' or drop out would be if it sheared mid-shank as when the faces of the plated to be joined slid in relation to each other. I could imagine such an event when one of two plates riveted together was suddenly stopped moving by a solid resistance and the other plate was free to continue moving. i.e., falling from a height onto a ledge. However, such a situation could never have happened on the sided of Titanic. The internal framing gave massive rigidity.

    Jim C.
  9. jake92

    jake92 Member

    it's because that some of the rivets where put in by a riveting machine but the riveting machine could not get round the curve of the bow and stern the rivets in the bow and stern had be put in by hand the rivets where weaker but also most of the rivets had a lot slag in the steel rivets and the quality in the rivets where called best and not best best but the Titanic was built to the standard of 1912
  10. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    It's because that some of the rivets where put in by a riveting machine but the riveting machine could not get round the curve of the bow and stern the rivets in the bow and stern had be put in by hand the rivets where weaker but also most of the rivets had a lot slag in the steel rivets and the quality in the rivets where called best and not best best but the Titanic was built to the standard of 1912.

    You're missing the point Jake.

    If the rivet holes were cone-shaped then the rivet could not fall out of the rivet hole, even if the head was missing. During the riveting process, the cold rivet is heated to almost white-hot temperature, It is too long at first. However, when it is hammered into place, hydraulically or by hand, it shortens and expands into the space made by the holes. When it cools, it retains its new shape. I try to give you an idea with a very bad sketch.


    Jim C.

  11. The recovered rivets were mainly from the break area and many most likely from the upper decks. They tested only a few from 3 million which is more to none saying anything. Olympic had the same rivets and the same steel (as had Nomadic) and no problems even she had several collisions.
  12. Guys, not to put to fine a point on it, but when you hit something with something like 14 MILLION foot pounds of energy, you WILL have failed rivets as well as mangled, torn and cracked steel hull plating.

    Harping on flaws in the materials used in the ships constructions assumes at the very least that we can make something which is iceberg proof.

    Sorry, but there ain't no such animal.

    In any contest between man and nature, nature wins.
  13. rotter

    rotter Member

    Isn't the iceberg damage on the side of the ship though, where they used steel rivets? So, weak rivets shouldn't have played a part even if it is true that they imperfect.
  14. Hey guys. This is something I have heard from researchers for a long time now: the rivets and plates of the Titanic were made of contaminated steel; tragedy could have been avoided if these were of higher qualities and if welding was used instead of riveting.

    I'm sure there are strong reasons why the people who have looked at the microstructure of these metallic components are making these arguments. I'm just curious if this theory also accounts for the things I am going to talked about below.

    You guys know about the Costa Concordia, right? According to the sources I have read, the cause of the sinking was similar to the Titanic: the cruiseliner sank due to a 'glancing/side scraping' blow. I forgot what documentary this was - perhaps NOVA: Sunken Ship Rescue- but there was a part where the divers dived to an area close to the Concordia. What they found was a large roll/chunk of metal that was removed from the Concordia by the suspected rock. Yes, these steels were strongly welded together using the modern technique, not rivetted.

    I'm sure that some of you would say that rocks are stronger than ice. However, I'm not sure this matters in the grand scale when it comes to physics. At enough speed/weight/mass, even foamy substances/debris can cause severe damages to metallic structures. There was a case in NASA - and I think NOVA covered this as well- where engineers were trying to find out the cause of a shuttle tragedy. One side uses fundamental, high school physics and found out that foam was the culprit. They were right, but there were some engineers at NASA who disagreed simply because it was so counter-intuitive!!!!

    So - for those who still argue for better rivets, welding, and metal plates - are you still sure? I would like to hear your thoughts!!!
    Addiction Is A Choice likes this.
  15. robert warren

    robert warren Member

    The iceberg which the Titanic hit was rock hard as well. Some experts have calculated the thing as weighing as much as 500,000 tons. I've been saying this for a long time- if a 46,000 ton ship made of rivets and steel hits a 500,000 ton iceberg at full speed, which do you think is gonna come out the winner here?? If the said ship then sinks and has nowhere to go but down and down since the ocean floor is two miles away--what kind of damage do you suppose is going to happen???It slays me that with the scientific data and experiments that have been done (some using actual steel from the ship) that people STILL continue to buy into this hokum about rivet and steel quality.Look folks there are two documentaries,one is Titanic Mystery From The Abyss, the other Titanic 100 Mystery solved, that have soundly debunked these myths.These people did the aforementioned tests and all concluded the steel was very good quality,and the rivets didn't massively pop away upon impact like a zipper being opened. The Titanic broke and suffered the damage she did because she was put under stresses that no ship could withstand.Other things to consider, Titanic's sister ship Olympic was built with same materials and she had a 25 year long career.She even plowed into a German u boat, guess what the Olympic didn't break apart and sink.Also every shipwreck afterward involved liners that were supposedly safer and better built--they all ended on their sides and three of them were on the bottom 15 to 50 minutes after being opened up to the sea.The Titanic sank for 2 hours 40 minutes on a practically even keel.So she actually outperformed the other ships. Faulty steel and rivets do not allow a ship to slowly sink for about three hours.
  16. Kyle Naber

    Kyle Naber Member

    Theories and accusations of faulty steel and materials used for the rivets have long been disproven.
  17. robert warren

    robert warren Member

    THANK YOU!!!! This nonsense has been shot down for about what-- 12 years now?? That's when the Titanic Mystery From The Abyss documentary came out.
    Kyle Naber likes this.
  18. Thanks!! I see that this case is rather clear cut. So I take it that there aren't that many 'faulty rivet' theorists currently activge on this forum?:D
  19. robert warren

    robert warren Member

    It's actually been my experience that most people who buy into the faulty workmanship theory either( A) have never read anything on the Titanic, but listen to talking points put out by people who don't know what they themselves are saying..or( B) watch JC's movie and 3 hours later are total experts on all things Titanic!!!
    Martin Tyne likes this.
  20. Martin Tyne

    Martin Tyne Member

    I had experiences with people who look up Titanic on Google search on their Mobile phones and immediately proclaim themselves ''Experts" while my word and experience would automatically mean nothing!

    Them: "Titanic was powered by a car engine!"
    Me: No it wasn't...it was powered by 29 triple scott boi....
    Them: (Insert explicit crude language) ...Martin!, my phone says so (holds up Google Images photo of Mauritania as prove).
    Me: :mad: (Internal Screaming).

    Thank goodness those days are over!