Questions From A Newbie


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Cheryl Adair

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Hi. This is my first post, and I must warn you, I am not scientific or technical - I am just curious! I have been fascinated by the story of the Titanic all my life, not sure why, I just am.

I have a few things I am wondering about. Sorry if these have been asked before.

Why are the lifeboats called *collapsible* ? They appear in photos to be made of wood - and wood isn't collapsible! I'm a wee bit confused by that.

I have seen pictures of shoes and boots lying on the sea floor, and I always thought thats where they landed after sinking. However, someone on tv said it shows "where the bodies landed".

Is that true?

People say the water pressure is such and such per square inch down there, and that no one could survive it. Bearing that in mind, what *happened* to the bodies?

Naturally they would be dead long before they got that far down, but once the body does get that far down, what does the water pressure do to it?

I know it's a morbid question, but I have always wondered.....did the bodies actually survive intact, and then they just lay there on the ocean floor to be eaten away at by fish?

Or did they disintegrate before getting to the bottom due to the pressure?!

(I warned you I am not scientific - I just want to know what that pressure will do to a human body?)

Thanks.
 

Dave Gittins

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Welcome to our merry band! I'm sure somebody will tell you all about the bodies. Sticking to my field, the collapsible boats were indeed partly collapsible. They consisted of what was essentially the bottom half of a clinker-built lifeboat to which collapsible canvas sides were fitted. They had a double bottom, with many compartments, which were filled with cork. Talk about unsinkable! Unlike the other boats, they were steered with a steering oar over the stern.

The idea was that collapsible boats could be stowed underneath normal boats. Titanic had only four of them. There's a good photo of one in action on page 162 of the illustrated A Night to Remember.

They were not as good as is sometimes made out. When Lusitania sank, some of her collapsibles failed to open out, because their steel parts had rusted. One of Titanic's boat could not be opened, though this was probably only due to lack of time and training.
 
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Alicia Coors

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Water pressure per se does not harm the body. In fact, there is a sport called "free diving" wherein the contestants hold their breath for 2-3 minutes while a weighted sled takes them down to 500 feet or so, at which point they swim back up none the worse for the compression.

As for the shoes: many pairs of identical footwear have been found lying in positions suggesting that someone was wearing them when they reached the bottom. Their owners' bodies and clothing were eaten by sea creatures, and their bones dissolved. The organisms leave the leather alone, because they don't like the acid used in the tanning process. Some have suggested that the pairs of shoes simply fell out of the ship and landed next to each other.
 
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Cheryl Adair

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Thanks for those replies, Dave, Alicia, and Michael.

As I said, I have been enthralled with the story of the TITANIC all my life.

What do you suppose it is about this ship (and what happened) that cause people to be so fascinated by it (even now, almost 100 years after she sank?)

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Jul 9, 2000
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>>What do you suppose it is about this ship (and what happened) that cause people to be so fascinated by it (even now, almost 100 years after she sank?)<<

I don't think there's an easy answer to that. I was hooked when I read ANTR and it's been an interest of mine ever since. I suppose for me, it's wanting to understand the very real history behind the mythmaking that's been built up around this ship.
 
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I don't know just what turned the light on: if it was the first episode of "The Time Tunnel" on TV or the end of "A Night to Remember" when I saw the rocking horse. I was eight years old when both programs were on TV (finally saw the entire movie of "A Night to Remember" when it came out on video cassette) Anyway, the local librarian put the book "A Night to Remember" in my hands and I was hooked - especially when I read about Major Peuchen. It never before occurred to my eight-year old mind that people who lived near me, albeit 60 years before and 60 miles away, had 'lived through history'.
 
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Cheryl Adair

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I can't recall when I first became hooked on the story of the Titanic, or why really, other than the fact that I have always been into *history*, it was my favorite subject at school. WW2 has a hold on me just as the Titanic does. I don't know if there really is such a thing as reincarnation, but if it does exist, I honestly feel that I lived during WW2, and most likely in Germany! I can't explain the intense interest I have in that era (and the camps, etc) except to say if I was alive during those war years -- I was a part of it somehow. What about my interest in the great Titanic? If reincarnation is a reality, could I have been on that ship? Would that explain my endless fascination with it? (possibly) That's probably just a cock-eyed theory on my part, however! I can't honestly say that I have ever felt that I was *there*, or that I was a part of that experience, the way I have felt like I *might* have been in Germany in the 30's or 40's. The story of the Titanic leaves me full of so many unanswered questions, and I just feel a tremendous sadness when I think of the unfulfilled potential, not only hers, but all those people who died as well. It is a truly amazing story, and it just continually tugs at my heartstrings! When I see pictures of what used to be this HUGE ocean liner lying there on the floor of the sea, unmoved, for the most part untouched since she went down, I feel sad for her - yes I know she's a ship - metal has no "feelings", but I feel sorry for her, I can't help it. It is a horrible tragedy, and a miserable ending for such a proud, grand lady of the sea, to spend all these years surrounded by darkness - to end up as nothing more than a hotel for strange little sea critters! No matter how much we know about her (or think we know) ...we'll never know enough, and she will remain a great mystery forever. I think it is the *mystery* around her that pulls me in.

"Mystery is a thing not easily captured - and once deceased, not easily exhumed"
(from a Dan Fogelberg song)
 
Jul 9, 2002
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I have just a small interjection here, persuant to water pressure "not harming" the body. I feel that I must add something. Free divers do indeed travel to deapths of up to 500 feet. As anyone will tell you, that is a long way down. However, it is a far cry from 2 1/2 miles deep. As we know, the water pressure at Titanic's grave site is something like 6,000 lbs per square inch. Imagine having that amount of pressure and strain on your body. Every inch of your body individually having 6,000 lbs of pressure on it. Free diver or not you are going to implode. IF, and that is a huge IF, any bodies did decend to the bottom, then it is most certain that they did not stay intact long. Once they imploded, then the fish and whatnot had a veriable feast on their hands. (Or fins.)
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Free diver or not you are going to implode.<<

Uh....no...they really wouldn't. The human body is mostly water anyway and water is incompressible. What would happen is that any air filled cavities would soon find themselves filled up or crushed, but by and large, the body remains intact. Still a feast for the fish though.
 
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Free diving is horrible...I think. Followed the career of the Frenchman who died, the American woman who died...the American woman record-holder whose manager-husband (!) urges her to ever greater depths. Ugh. What a stupid business. Why do it?
 

Inger Sheil

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Are you thinking of Tanya Streeter, Monica? Here's the list of the current records in free diving...there are several categories in the competitive aspect of the sport:
http://www.aida-international.org/current_world_records.htm

I can understand why people don't like the sport - and yes, it can certainly be highly dangerous. I think I've posted elsewhere about the nasty physiological side to it (I don't think I want to know how small my lungs can shrink...), even aside from hazards such as shallow-water blackout.

That being said, there is a wonderous aspect to it as well - the depth/time competitions are only one facet of free diving. I sometimes free dive on dive trips or locally. I love scuba, but there's a certain freedom and simplicity to wearing just a wetsuit or even just a swimsuit, mask, fins and some weights, waiting calmly on the surface, and then duck diving down. Without the bubbles of an open-circuit system rushing past your ears, you become more aware of the reef sounds around you...the crunching of parrotfish, the whistles of dolphins, the popping sound of pistol shrimp. You feel hyper-aware of your surroundings, but also calm, relaxed, and more in tune with the sea round you. I once went freediving with white tip reef sharks in the Solomons, and have also been out with dolphins and the stingless jellyfish in the marine lakes of Palau's Rock Islands. One of my favourite underwater shots was taken by a bloke snorkling on the surface as I ascended from a free dive, surrounded by luminescent jellies. Around here locally, we do a lot of free diving - I know a lot of free diving spearfishermen who are always willing to pass on tips (I'm dying to get back in the water, as I've just been told where there's a whole slew of bronze whaler sharks to be found near a reef close to our headland).

I don't share the need to push the human body to its limits through depth diving, but I do understand it. And one of these days I will free dive on a shipwreck - just not one on the bottom of the Atlantic!
 
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Yes, that's her. Watched aghast a program about her (successful) record attempt not so long ago. What was worst was her husband whispering at her when she was unsure whether she was ready - from what one could hear it was mostly stuff about the cost, the media, everybody waiting etc. All very well for him! The other girl died, either shortly after or before, I forget which - anyway, whichever, she was trying to beat Tanya.
You make it sound quite heavenly, but I'm afraid it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Bit like these people who lurch up Everest without any oxygen!
 
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Just been to your site, Inger, and pottered round a couple of links. Found something even more inexplicable (to me at any rate) - cave diving. Aaaaargh! Well, I suppose someone has to do it....
 

Inger Sheil

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Ahhh yes...that fatality would be Audrey Mestre, who was also married to famous free diver Pipin. She died in 2002. There's a lot of rumour and controversy about her and her husband in the free-diving community, but I don't know enough about it to comment with any knowledge.Her website is still maintained on-line:

http://www.audreymestre.com/

I know some cave divers who are hugely enthusiastic about cave diving, and they have certainly advanced technical knowledge in the dive community, but I don't really understand deep cave diving either. I've done some cave and cavern diving (only when there was an air pocket or egress above - an overhead environment is certainly not for those without specific training!) and found the Chandelier Caves and the Blue Holes in Palau very lovely, but even though I'm not claustrophobic I've never been at all tempted to go for kms underground. Some of them explore passages so narrow that they have to unstrap and push their tanks through ahead of their torsos...not really my thing! Not when there's a lack of the marine biodiversity we see on reefs.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Yes, I saw that Tanya had a few trenchant remarks to make about Audrey's death and safety. Also saw that Tanya's husband says free diving scares him stiff, and he won't do it. Hmph! Also saw that a type of free diving is done in pools - you lie on the bottom and hold your breath?? Why bother - you could just as well hold it on land. Nobody would call that a sport! Or have I missed something here?
 

Inger Sheil

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Good old static apnea! I used to do it as a kid in the pool with mates, except gave it the much more descriptive title 'who can hold their breath the longest on the bottom'. If you want to start a blue on a Scuba board or list, just ask for opinions on Mestre's death...you'll hear the gamult. Unfortunately, it's similar to cave diving - if something goes wrong, it can be hard to get support to the unconscious diver. Mestre had a team of support divers and still drowned. Sadly that's true even of non-competitive underwater events. I had a sensational dive at Blue Corner once - current turned on, pelagics all around - but was chilled to read later of a diver drowned at the same spot. She too was hooked into the reef, but the current ripped a fin off and she must have turned her face side on, because the current then tore off her face mask. Even with a reg in her mouth, she still drowned. I had the shivers for a long time afterwards, because I remember thinking when I dived the spot that I didn't want to turn my head sideways for fear of losing my mask.

And back on the original point - I found it a matter of interest that, while human bones from shipwrecks of a similar era (e.g. the Yongala) are still in vessels in comparatively shallow water, the bones on the Titanic are apparently gone. The level of calcium in the water has been suggested as a factor in this - the Yongala lies in coral seas, the Titanic in the calcium deficient bottom of the Atlantic. Diffusion would do the rest - or so it has been suggested.
 
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That's interesting. I thought the bottom of the oceans was littered with calcium sources - millenia of teeth, earbones, and the shells of calcelarias (spelling?) drifting down and so forth. But I'm sure the scientists would know, so it can't be right. I always stare at the Cliffs of Dover when approaching by ferry, trying to imagine the aeons needed for such huge deposits to build up, tiny creature by tiny creature.... makes you feel sort of temporary!
 
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