Shipbuilders


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Dec 29, 2006
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Hello James,

That is the point I was trying to make - there may have been large numbers of unskilled navvies working in the yard in 1911-12, but that does not mean that they were ship-builders. The "poor skills" argument is totally spurious.
 
Sep 28, 2002
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Harland & Wolff had unskilled workers, but they were not doing skilled work. I wrote earlier about the trades and different jobs.

The tradesmen all had served their apprenticeships, the ones that H&W referred to as not the same standard are those who served their time (apprenticeship) in a non Harland & Wolff company.

At present, I'm at work in the North Sea, but have started to read the book again, this time reading it as an accident report and I have read many of those after 32 years working here.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I don't think that either Tim Foecke or Jennifer McCarty were argueing that the workers at Harland & Wolff were poorly skilled. There were differences between the craftsmen and the strongbacks supporting the craftsmen which they both understood and accounted for.

As to substandard...substandard in what regard? They nuked the inferior/brittle steel myth by putting the forensics analysis of same in it's proper context. The real issue here is the question of the wrought iron rivets, the material for which (Roll 3 Best, instead of Roll 4 Best-Best) is a matter of documented record. So are the problems associated with same.
 
Sep 28, 2002
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Michael,

I am not alone in perceiving that the authors (whether intentionally or not) gave the impression that some of the H&W workers were not qualified in their work. This belief has also appeared in several newspapers about this book.

One concern is that most heater boys were about 15 years old and would not know hot to obtain the right heat for a steel or iron rivet. The fact is that a heater boy could be over 60 years old, this was quite common right up until the 1960's.
The runners were usually young as they would learn from the heater boys on how to obtain the right temperatures for the different types of rivets.

Just now, I'm at work so I can't ask as many questions as I would and believe me I will be asking questions. The company I have worked for the past 32 years has always told me that there are no stupid question, but they are stupid answers.

A lot of my work involves the words shall, ought to and can when it comes to procedures.

Did it say anywhere that Roll 4 Best-Best shall be used or did it say can be used.

Sorry , I don't have time to write more. I have to order 3000 lb spec fittings!!
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Did it say anywhere that Roll 4 Best-Best shall be used or did it say can be used.<<

What the book indicated is that this is the material which was ordered. It also indicated that forensic analysis demonstrated that this material was not without it's problems.

While I can't do anything about perceptions, I can't ignore what the actual testing revealed. Love it or lump it, the issues are there and don't go away. I don't think that any part of this was an indictment of Harland & Wolff per se but it did showcase the limitations of shipbuilding technology at the time.

But that's just my take.

Your milage may vary...
 
Sep 28, 2002
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It's all very well saying that the material was not without it's problems 90 years after it was used. If this material was acceptable in 1909 or was in H&W's standards at the time and could be installed, then H&W have done nothing wrong.

Knowing H&W, they would never used sub standard material or personnel.

It was never imagined that the ship would grind along side an iceberg, otherwise H&W would have used a higher specification of material for building.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>otherwise H&W would have used a higher specification of material for building.<<

I don't think this would have made that much of a difference except perhaps to prolong the ship's life by a small margin. A point that Foecke and McCarty were very careful to make. When you get down to it, it's much like I've been saying for years: When you collide with an iceberg at 22+ knots, things break and you sink.

The rest is just quibbling over the details.
 

david wilson

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Mar 17, 2003
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If titanic had missed the berg she would have been around for about another 30-40 yrs & we would not be having this discussion.She was not designed with the iceberg in mind.
I haven't read the book but I did watch the laboratory testing of a mock destruction of a look-a-like shell butt.I still don't know what that proved.Can you imagine H&W's purchasing officer ordering the rivets over the phone."No I don't want the iceberg resistant ones,just the buy one get one free variety will do nicely thank you".
I am quoting from my apprenticeship exercise book dated 24-11-1958,there is a paragraph on holes & rivets.
TESTS.
steel rivets are to have a breaking strength of between 26-30 tons per sqr inch.
rivet shank to be bent double,cold,no fracture to be seen on the outside of the bend.
rivet head when hot to be flattened to 2 1/4 times the dia of the shank,no cracks to show on the edge.
There is no mention of having a test run into an iceberg at 30 mph.
regards.
seven degrees west.
dw.
 
Sep 28, 2002
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Hello David,

As you can imagine this book has caused a stink up back home.

The impression I have of the book is no doubt they have done their tests perfectly, but for me and like a lot of others back home, there is cast some doubts on Harland & Wolffs' standards and skills in 1909 to 1912.

You know better than 99.99% here of the standards that Harland & Wolff had and have.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Just a thought, but if Harland & Wolff were indeed building ships with "sub standard" materials, it is perhaps surprising that vessels such as RMS Olympic should have had such long and successful careers. I have always thought that H&W vessels were "the best of the best", and any limitations apparent in the design and construction of the 'Olympic' class ocean liners were a reflection of the technology available at the time, and no reflection on the famous Irish ship-builders.
 
Sep 28, 2002
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Stanley,

Exactly, the Olympic class ships were excellent like all H&W ships. No one has tested the rivets on Nomadic, she was built at the same time in fact not many yards from Olympic and Titanic, so the same rivets were used on Nomadic.

To me it is not right to say sub standard, lower specification is correct and this type of iron rivet was allowed to be used at this time.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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If I may, perhaps we need to take a breath instead of over-reacting like this. The authors didn't argue that the materials and methods were substandard. In fact, as a reminder, they specifically refuted the brittle/inferior steel myth and put the results of that testing in their proper context.

There was and remains an issue with the rivets which doesn't stop existing just because we don't like it but, that much is tracable to the distribution of slag in some of the samples which just wasn't as homogenous as it would have been with the next higher grade. My own criticism of the book is that in this sense, it might have over-estimated the impact of this matter since the vast majority of the rivets are right where the builders left them, icebergs notwithstanding.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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As I said on another thread, what really sank the Titanic was a collision with an iceberg, not the quality of the rivets or any other such factor. I have yet to see an analysis that would prove the ship would have stayed afloat long enough for everyone to be rescued had higher quality rivets been used. My major criticism of the conclusions reached in that book was the suggestion, without proof, that more lives may have been saved if higher quality iron or steel rivets had been installed. I thought that was a bit of a stretch.

It seems a natural thing to do is to look for something to blame the disaster on other than the obvious. Before the JMS results came out, the THC was looking for a design defect to explain why the ship broke in two because certain individuals were claiming that that ship would have stayed afloat long enough for the Carpathia to come to the rescue if it hadn't broke apart and sunk. Others were looking at bad or brittle materials to blame. Others were blaming a bunker fire. Some were saying that the breakup process started soon after the collision, and as the ship was flooding, progressive secondary damage started to propagate. Some claimed in was the restart of the ship's engines for a short time that did her in. And even today, they are some who claim that the initial damage was not enough to sink the ship, but are looking to put the blame on poor damage control. Even as far back as when Walter Lord wrote ANTR, blame was put on the original design for not having the WTBs carried high enough because they would interfere with passenger convenience, or some such nonsense.
 

david wilson

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Mar 17, 2003
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I've news for messers Foecke & Mccarty regarding steel becoming brittle with the cold.I personally witnessed a near disaster in the 70's at H&W.A bilge section,60t was being lifted into position at the ship using two 40t cranes shackled onto two 50t lifting lugs.The section had been outside all night.It was feb & just below freezing.A piece of 40mm plt app 1 1/2" thk,app 16" dia in way of one of the lugs pulled out & the section fell to the ground,taking out 12 welding pots.No injuries.That incident affected me for the rest of my life.I applied for a job in the planning office & was successful.
Then again we have our old friend "lamination".This happens when sand finds it's way into the product at the mill & turns the steel into a type of "lasagne",sort of speak!!!.when you are working on a vlcc 350,000t at 100' up & you are depending on a welded lug 3"x3",you don't want to know about lamination.
What happened 96yrs ago is irrelevant to today.I would treat the book with utter contempt.
God gave us GUINNESS,cause he loves us & wants us to be happy & if he had wanted us to build grp boats he wouldh've given us grp trees!!!
seven degrees west.
regards.
dw.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>What happened 96yrs ago is irrelevant to today.<<

However, it's not irrelevant with Titanic, which is the matter under investigation.

In any event, Foecke and McCarty did not advocate the brittle steel theory. As I pointed out before, they specifically refuted it. While it was something of a potential problem, it really didn't become an issue of any major concern until riveting was replaced by welding.

The reason for this is that with a riveted hull, any cracks tend to be confined to individual plates whereas with a welded hull, it could propagate all the way around, with nothing to stop it, practically in an instant.

While this is germane to the losses of some of the mass produced tankers and frighters of the Second World War, it had nothing to do with Titanic.
 
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