Quality of steel in Titanic's hull

robert warren

Feb 19, 2016
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.

Jim Currie

Apr 16, 2008
Funchal. Madeira
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.


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



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.





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.


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

May 3, 2005
Please realize that I am one of the more landlubberly of landlubbers on this forum .
There are many experts who can answer your question better than I can.
But one explanation I have read is that the iceberg did not open a hole but popped the rivets holding the plates together which opened a seam to open which allowed the seawater to pour into the hold.
Also just a case of a moving object (Titanic) striking an immovable object (iceberg).
There are all sorts of opinions on what and how the damage was caused by the iceberg.
Also an opinion expressed in a dialogue in the movie "Titanic" (1953 Version)
"Did we hit it ? "
"No Sir.......It hit us."

A. Gabriel

Jun 13, 2018
Question, what are we to make of the results of the Charpy impact/V-notch tests that show Titanic's steel had an obscenely high ductile-brittle transition temperature of 32 deg.C (90 deg.F), which implied the ship's steel was brittle even at the usual temperatures of the North Atlantic?

There is also the matter of the article here, which pins the blame on bad rivets rather than weak hull steel. Quite a lot of conflicting and contradictory information out there on the quality of Titanic's materials!

Doug Criner

Dec 2, 2009
I believe that some of the failures in Titanic's hull were brittle rather than ductile. This can be verified by examining the recovered failure surfaces themselves - no need to perform modern Charpy impact tests on surviving steel from Titanic or other steel samples from that era. If the steel failures had been ductile, certainly the failures would have been less. Elementary.

Now, that doesn't show that the steel or rivets were defective by standards at the time. Although a very early, experimental Charpy test was first developed around 1900, it was a long time after that, in the 1930s, before the test became standardized and began to become incorporated in steel standards, such as by ASTM.

President George Washington, toward his death, was treated by deliberately bleeding, which was an accepted medical practice at the time and based on certain theories of disease. His treatment has been declared "correct" by modern medical historians and ethicists, although it didn't help and probably hastened his death.
Nov 14, 2005
In another thread it was mentioned that a ping test on rivets would be performed. If they didn't sound right they would be replaced. My question is...was there a quality assurance team that actually inspected all the rivets or just ones that didn't look right? From all I've read and seen I think its pretty much accepted that the hull plates buckled and came apart at the seems from rivets popping. I've also read the initial damage open to the sea was about the size of standard household door. Of course as time went by and she sank deeper more openings were exposed to the water. Know this has been covered before but its still interesting.

Tim Aldrich

Jan 26, 2018
My question is...was there a quality assurance team that actually inspected all the rivets or just ones that didn't look right?
The rivet counters would, I'll assume, would be responsible for the quality control.

As for the constant discussion of Titanic's steel I put this scenario to you for a bit of perspective. When the driver of a little car doesn't look both ways before crossing the road, pulls out in front of a semi and the little car gets crushed and torn apart, does anyone bother to question why the car was torn apart? Was the little car made with inferior steel? Were the spot welds inferior? Poor design perhaps? No. A car, used normally and cared for can last decades.

The little car was torn apart because it was subjected to forces far outside of what it was designed to withstand. I don't think the situation with Titanic is any different. We also have to remember that the people who made the steel were the same people still using lots of asbestos, lead and mercury. Given the technology of that period I would expect the quality of their steel to be anywhere near its modern equivalent.
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Nov 14, 2005
"The little car was torn apart because it was subjected to forces far outside of what it was designed to withstand."
Exactly. I've stated it before and will again. Titanic sank because of the way she was operated not the way she was built.
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