Quality of steel in Titanic's hull

Mar 3, 1998
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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.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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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!
 

Jim Currie

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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.
 

robert warren

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One of the most ironic things about the Titanic is the fact that her sister Britannic, all but forgotten, is much more intact and preserved than her famous sister. That being said, if the Titanic had sank in several hundred feet of water she wouldnt have had time to break up. Her bow would have hit bottom,while her stern was up, settled back,probably roll on her side and sank the way the other ships did. Parks Stephenson summed it up well--the Titanic broke because she was subjected to stresses that no ship could withstand. The ocean floor was 2 miles down, and as she sank, the bow had nowhere to go but down and down. Plowing through 2 miles of ocean, with currents,depth pressures, etc. tearing away at the superstructure didn't help either. As far as the Olympic goes, yes she was refitted post Titanic, but the last time I checked her outer steel skin was not stripped away and replaced with new steel. The Olympics' outer shell was the same steel from those pre Titanic days.So the same rivets and everything from 1910 were still there.Of course I may be wrong on this but I have yet to see drydock photos of the Olympic looking like a building whose facade has collapsed in an earthquake.This is in response to the gentleman who said the refit was why Olympic ran into a U boat and didn't break apart.
 

rotter

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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.
 

jake92

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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
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Robert.

Park was correct.

If the other ships you mention had had their sterns unsupported aft of a huge vertical void space as well as a reduction in double bottom height at the same place... WT bulkhead "K", I have no doubt they would have broken their backs ...even in shallow water. have a look at the plans you can access on this site.
 
A

Aaron_2016

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The Orama listed heavily to port like the Titanic, rose up and sank, but most importantly she did not break.



orama1-png.png


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As her funnels went under a large volume of smoke was pushed out. Perhaps this explains the smoke cloud that was seen as the Titanic went down?

As the Titanic flooded over time she settled lower and lower. She was incredibly long and her bow was slowly twisting / listing / rolling over to port, while her stern tagged behind with perhaps a lagging delay which I think eventually buckled her middle open in several places and the ship split into two or three sections on the surface and sank which several survivors had witnessed.

These ships ran aground, or went over a reef, or simply had unequal ballast which fractured the ship. I believe the weight of water shifting inside the Titanic and the twisting motion to port would have buckled her open.


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I noticed this ship appears to have buckled into three sections like the Titanic with her bottom plates separating like the Titanic's double bottom.


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I think the above ships have much more in common with the Titanic than we realize.


.
 

Jim Currie

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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.

Riveting.jpg

Jim C.

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Jul 26, 2017
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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!!!
 
Mar 18, 2008
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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.
 
Mar 9, 2018
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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.
I think you are giving the internal framing at the Titanic too much credit. I looked at the design of the Keel and correct me if I'm wrong but the whole garters were attached to the top of the double bottom. If the ship ran aground then the Keel would ask for like a foundation of a building and would be structurally compromised like the foundation of a building or a house would be compromised if the ground underneath it shifted.

I have read a lot of your post David and I will take your opinion highly so I'm going to pose this question to you as a forensic expert. Is it possible that the condition of the Bow wreck it's in actuality how it would have appeared on the surface or near the surface? Is it possible that I have deeper into the ocean that the underwater pressure would have slowed the shift down to a point so that she would gently touch the bottom? If that were so then a reevaluation of the wreck is in order because I firmly believe that's erect as it lies tell the entire story of The Break-Up.

Also if you look at the Olympic's 1913 refit I am under the impression that Harland and Wolff realized that their ships were not strengthened enough and that is why the bulkheads were raised in certain locations, such as between Boiler Room 6 and hold 3, at an angle between boiler rooms 3 + 4 and the first expansion joint, the bulkhead between Boiler Room one and the reciprocating engine room and another one that split the electrical rooms. The four ball cats that I indicated all went straight to the strength deck.

Another reason why I theorize that the wreck on the seafloor is how the Titanic broke up is because when you look at the Britannic and how she hit the ocean floor and her bow wrinkled right up into herself and also happen to break off in front of Bulkhead D in a clean up and down line.

As I asked before please look over my post and see if any of it could make any sense. I do not believe in any impact damage because if there was then the Titanic would be unrecognizable for she would have broken up on impact to the sea floor because her ceiling framing had been weakened from The Break-Up would have been caused the outer skin to completely Blow Away much like the stern.

I read an article by Joe Combs where he theorize with the ship partially broke on the surface but that the stern was dragged Down By The Bell until the pressure got so great that the stern imploded and finally separated which also blew away the forward sections of the reciprocating engine and the third funnel tower up take.

It would all work within the Survivor testimony especially when Lightoller said that the Crow's Nest was even with the bridge while still being relatively flat on the surface as related to the testimony of other survivors. The only way those two testimonies could work together is if the bow hogged then broke as indicated on the wreck by the separation of the plates and the downward turn of the bow as we see it on the bottom.

If that is the case then that would lead to a catastrophic keel failure and it would all happen so fast that what people thought was a stable sinking ship with a 10 degree list to port to turn into a dramatic breaking up sequence and final death that was over in less than 20 minutes.

I based my theory on the idea that the center of the ship is like a rectangular box with two tapered and attached to each end of said box.

Olympic was later known as a strong ship and that has everything to do with her bulkheads being raised and the addition of her double bottom up to the waterline. It further strengthen the ship so that when she ran and sank a submarine and then later cut through the Nantucket Lightship that she suffered relatively minor damage. If you look at the length and width of the keel compared to the upper works of the bow section it is plainly obvious that the keyless affording more weight in that section forward of boil or 6 then it could hope to ever support through Keel and girders alone.

These are my thoughts and maybe someone will understand where I am coming from and explain to me where I am wrong and show proof to me. Many have asked what Harland and Wolff knew about the design of the Titanic and her supposed weaknesses and I think you will find out what Harland and Wolff knew has been in front of us the entire time.

Travis
 
Dec 2, 2000
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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.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Also if you look at the Olympic's 1913 refit I am under the impression that Harland and Wolff realized that their ships were not strengthened enough.
There's no evidence that was the case, Travis, despite all sorts of misinformation and sensationalised claims on the subject that many of us will have seen.

It further strengthen the ship so that when she ran and sank a submarine and then later cut through the Nantucket Lightship that she suffered relatively minor damage.
Olympic's bow was the same in all relevant respects to her 1911 configuration.

Best wishes

Mark.
 
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robert warren

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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.
 
Mar 9, 2018
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I haven't read anything in regards to what I hypothesized. I came up with that on my own and maybe I wasn't clear but I never said that the Olympic's bow was ever rebuilt. I hypothesized that the raising of D bulkhead to the strength deck was an attempt to shore up the entire hull along with the other three bulkheads that I referenced as well. If you compare where those bulkheads were raised in relation to the Titanic wreck and The Break-Up it is oddly that all the bulkheads that were lifted to the strength has deck in areas of weakness that you can see on the bow and at the break up site.

I know there are many naval Architects and Engineers that have looked at the design of the Olympic class liners and said that they are very strong ships in the Olympic in particular was known to be a very strong ship right before she was sent to The Breakers in 1935. Is it that far out of the realm of possibility that the Olympic was able to garner that reputation after her 1913 refit and not before?

Taking bulkheads that were originally only to E deck and raising them all the way to the strength deck has to have a stiffening effect on the hull along with the addition of the double bottom all the way up to the waterline.

By raising those bulkheads to the strength deck it takes a lot of structural stress off of the ribs and plates by dividing the ship into four strengthened parts.

For Titanic to survive and suffer what she suffered does show that she was a well-built ship but that does not excuse the fact that the design itself could have been a contributing factor to the Titanic sinking/breakup and I'm not talking bulkhead heights I'm talking about actual strength of the hull and the stresses she was put under. Those kind of stresses we're never envisioned at the time of her designing but came to light after her loss.

I have not read my view from any source except for what I have read here especially in relation to her building and her breakup and it seems to me that if we evaluate the wreck on the seafloor as a picture Frozen in time of the Titanic right on the surface before she hit bottom then I think there is some credence to what I have observed versus what happened. I know it is easy to dismiss what my opinion is and in your dismissal Mark you kind of waved to hand at it and stuck your nose up without actually offering any form of proof yourself to show where I could be wrong. I know I have recognized your name before and you have written many books on the Titanic and the Olympic so what you have to say does have a great impression on me but is it really that hard to Fathom cir that there might be something to what I am mentioning if you treat the wreck site as a forensic study on the design of the ship itself? It might be a radical new idea of but I am not putting the blame on bad steel or bad rivets, I am simply postulating that the designers didn't realize at the Olympic class liners we're not quite strong enough until after the results of how the Titanic sank came in. I am not a naval architect or an engineer but I have done enough reading on this subject to understand that no matter what you do to change a hall certain things will not keep it afloat and raising bulkhead Heights won't do anything because it is a mathematical principle that it's a ship takes on more water then it can handle it will sink regardless. I am asking you to take a second look at my thought and if you would like to talk about it further I would love to and I'll even show you the line drawings of the differences Olympics refit. If the information that I am looking at is flawed then I would hope you would tell me so and others who have been studying the Titanic and have been writing books their entire lives.

When I made the claim that Harland and Wolff knew their ships were structurally not as sound as they should have been I hadn't read that anywhere but it seems to me that when you see a builder radically redesign their ship it is not always just about safety because if you actually look at where those bulkheads came up and the double skin was added amidships it was like a strengthening maneuver more than a safety maneuver. Raising the bulkheads to the strength deck does not make the ship be able to take on more water before foundering because that doesn't change buoyancy mathematics at all. No company would ever do that much refit to a ship just so they can say the ship is safer, that is a heck of a lot of money to blow on a PR campaign.

Edward Wilding had to have known something when he was sitting at the inquiries and testifying. I think what he and the other engineers at Harland and Wolff figured out was how the ship sank and broke up. Unfortunately the archival notes on what the builder's knew of the Olympic class liners were destroyed when Harland and Wolff was nationalized in the 70s but we have the results of their study on the Titanic disaster in the Olympic and in the Britannic. If the hull was strong enough to weather the vibrating effects as designed and didn't have an effect on the ship itself then no strengthening maneuvers of raising the bulkheads and adding a double skin along the side would have been necessary. I think based upon the flooding table that Edward Wilding was hearing at the inquiry he knew something had to have gone.

In no way am I claiming that the Olympic class liners were pieces of junk waiting to die but I am only postulating that maybe the builders were playing with math a little too much and they were allowing the ships to flex and bend too much and maybe put too much emphasis on the rib cage of the Olympic class liners to act as structural supports. This ship's remind me of buildings more than anything else and the way they were built the Keel acts more like a soundation with the ribs of the ship being the walls. Why else would you raise those bulkheads and then a double skin to the side of the hull?

I have made a coherent argument and if someone wants to detract from my argument please post facts that back up your claims against mine. Everything that I am citing for evidence is right in front of you guys. Look at the Britannic wreck, plans regarding the refit of the Olympic and finally the Titanic wreck itself. The idea of impact damage causing the decks after funnel to to collapse in the wrinkle and forward bend in the bow is unsubstantiated. Impact damage on the Britannic is evident because the bow is wrinkled up like it's been crushed like a soda can. The Titanic's bow did No Such Thing upon impact with the seafloor as evidenced by the underwater sonar scan that was done to penetrate through the mud to see if they could find the iceberg damage.

I believe Parks Stevenson and another author penned a paper that suggested the Titanic grounded herself on the iceberg and didn't actually side swipe it. Their theory works very well with survivor testimony of what they felt of the collision and that is where my hypothesis derived from about how the Titanic broke up and took on water. If the seams that were found to have been broken through that radar scanner true then it is quite possible that those plates are bulging out words not in words from Impact damage which would be evidence of a grounding which means the teal was compromised and the vibrating effects ran all the way down the ship which would then compromised the Titanic sides and put added stress on the strength deck which led to the collapse of the middle and finally The Break-Up. Also the bulging of the hall plates in the twisting and bending of them shows that the riveted design of the Titanic skin and the overlapping of plates was what kept her together. Sure there is evidence of plate in Rivet failure but that was already at the point where the structural Integrity of the hall was far beyond its limits.

I was kind of wondering if an actual Naval architect would read my theory and put it to the test someday utilizing the flooding that was observed by the survivors and also Survivor accounts of the ship sinking nearly on a level keel safe for the 10 degree list to port.

Travis
 
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Kyle Naber

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Oct 5, 2016
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Theories and accusations of faulty steel and materials used for the rivets have long been disproven.
 

robert warren

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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.
 
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Jan 5, 2001
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Travis,

I never said that the Olympic's bow was ever rebuilt.
Nor did I state that you had.

You attributed the relatively minor damage to Olympic’s stem and bow plates in both collisions to broader modifications made in the 1912-13 refit. The problem with that is that there were no changes to the area identified.

I know it is easy to dismiss what my opinion is and in your dismissal Mark you kind of waved to hand at it and stuck your nose up without actually offering any form of proof yourself to show where I could be wrong
You’re mistaken.

I didn’t stick my ‘nose up’ or wave it away in the manner you implied, at all. What I did was highlight a fundamental issue.

Any historical discussion needs to be fact-based. You’re not alone in speculating. The basic issue is that for such theories to be considered seriously then there needs to be some supporting documentation or evidence. Nobody has been able to produce any which would support what you have suggested. Ultimately, if someone is making a claim or putting forward a theory then the obligation is upon them to support it. It is not incumbent upon others to disprove them, even if some may chose to do so.

I’ve covered the issues you raised previously – in regard to the watertight bulkheads and inner skin, in particular – in postings on various forums, public discussions and research papers. If I have time later, I’ll put it together in a single posting and address some of the additional inaccuracies in your earlier posting.

Best wishes


Mark.
 
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