The Bow Porthole thing


Cody Gentry

Member
Feb 6, 2008
59
0
86
Alright, alright. I could name, identify, and specify near to everything about Titanic and it's ill fated voyage, but there is one thing in all my years I have never been enlightened about and I have been WONDERING for years. I feared I would sound stupid for such a question, but here it is. What EXACTLY is the purpose of that bulbous hole just located at the top of the very front bow, at the VERY front of the ship?
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
5,015
248
333
It's a hole for the cable of the big central anchor, which can still be seen stowed on the foredeck. This anchor used a wire cable rather than chain and getting it ready for use involved threading the cable through the hole and hoisting the anchor out with the little crane on the foredeck. This would only be done in dire emergency and I wouldn't like to have to do it. The anchor weighed about 15 tons. I think the arrangement was unseamanlike.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
457
453
Easley South Carolina
>>I think the arrangement was unseamanlike.<<

To say nothing of clumsy in the extreme. In a real emergency, I wouldn't bet any money that they would have had time to rig and deploy the thing.

One of my ships...the USS Comstock...was very nearly driven onto the rocks by high winds while at anchorage off the southern side of Grand Cayman Island. The only reason it didn't happen was because we had a second anchor which could be dropped as quickly as the deck gang could get out to the forecastle and release it.

No rigging needed.
 
A

Alexander John Cooley

Guest
You can see a picture of the cable before it was reeled in sticking out of that very spot in Titanic The ship magnificent Vol 1. Which that book is really heavy so watch out my friend.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
5,015
248
333
I can't find a specific reference to it being tested, though the side anchors were tested during sea trials. Given the lack of time and the complications of using the gear, I suspect it was never tested or used.

As usual, I'm open to correction.
 

Adam Baxter

Member
Jun 24, 2008
9
0
31
Dave, Michael, Steve, et al.

I've been away from this forum for some time but upon returning and reading your post with regards to the 'central' anchor reminded me why I enjoy this place so much - the fountain of knowledge and attention to detail never ceases to amaze me.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
5,403
710
323
Funchal. Madeira
The 'Central Anchor' was deployed through that hole which is called a 'hawspipe'. It was possibly part of the ship's emergency ocean towing system. There would have been an extremely large (50mm dia.?) wire stowed on a giant reel under Titanic's forecastle head.
In an emergency, the wire would be deployed at first exactly the way Dave Gittings described. The towing vessel (usually another ship)would then pass his emergency towing wire or similar to Titanic.
Titanic's crew would attach the towing ship's tow-line to Titanic's anchor.
Titanic's bow crane would then lift the anchor over the side. The towing vessel would position herself ahead of Titanic and start winding in her tow line.
At the same time; Titanic would pay-out her wire with the anchor attached.

When the anchor was suspended approximately half-way between the two ships, all would be made fast ready for the tow. The anchor would act as a counter spring weight to the towing wire and prevent it becoming taught and breaking during bad weather when Titanic was under tow and the both vessels were pitching, rolling and heaving in a seaway.
The distance between the vessels would be upward of quarter of a mile.

In years to come, every British merchant ship carried one of these wires for that very purpose. They became known as 'Insurance Wires'.

Perhaps this shows what I mean:

 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
5,403
710
323
Funchal. Madeira
Colin,

You wrote:

"Was that anchor tested in the sea trials, or used at any other time?".

I understand Titanic anchored in Belfast Lough and also off the south of Ireland. At first to disembark non-essential personnel and the second time to embark passengers.

Such a test as actually deploying the anchors would not be carried out. It would have to have been a practical test and due to the varying quality of holding ground would not be realistic.

Anchors were normally subjected to a 'hammer test' by BoT inspectors at periodic intervals throughout the age of a ship. This consisted of suspending each anchor from a crane ashore or in drydock and hitting it all over with a heavy hammer. If the sound of the blows 'rang true' then the anchor was sound. A dull sound usually indicated a fracture in the metal casting.

Normally such tests would be carried out by the anchor manufacturer as would tests on the anchor chain manufacturer. Possibly, appropriate test certificates would have been issued.
 

Colin Renner

Member
Mar 12, 2009
57
0
46
It's an interesting mental image! Almost comical! Lots of irish men banging away at the anchors with hammers. But anyway, Jim, you said that "A dull sound usually indicated a fracture in the metal casting". If that's the case would the people pull a liberty bell and try to fix it or send it back to the manufacturer to be melted back down and recycled?
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
5,403
710
323
Funchal. Madeira
" If that's the case would the people pull a liberty bell and try to fix it or send it back to the manufacturer to be melted back down and recycled?"

Has a certain 'ring of truth' to it!
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
5,403
710
323
Funchal. Madeira
They would not repair a faulty or un-sound anchor Michael. Titanic's anchors were of the Patent Stockless (Admiralty) type made possibly from forged wrought iron, forged open hearth ingot steel or cast steel. As such, they were subject to flaws in the casting process.
As you know, repair of forged or cast metal (steel or iron) objects of any size was a hit-or miss affair until fairly recently.

The anchor on the forecastle of Titanic (apart from it's use in towing as I earlier described) would be a spare one in case a service anchor became foul and had to be abandoned. Hence the location of the 'spare' in relation to the anchor cable and haws pipes.

It was also normal for a merchant ship to carry a stock or kedge anchor somewhere aft on the poop deck. This would be used to anchor the ship in a tidal stream where they did not want here to swing about. It would also be used to pull her clear of a sad bank. Since Titanic was designed for the N. Atlantic run I doubt she would have had one on board.

Colin, I will feed to your obvious sense of humour (long may you have one!).

I forgot to mention that the initial test for a new anchor was to drop it onto a steel or iron slab - first side then head on to it. Each time from a height of 12 feet.
It occurred to me that your vision of a multitude of Irish men wielding 7 pound hammers while clinging to the falling anchor might be 'meat' for a comedy sketch? Even more so if one of them was named Paddy Quasimodo - now that surname surely rings a bell?
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
457
453
Easley South Carolina
>>They would not repair a faulty or un-sound anchor Michael.<<

Which is why I expect it would be replaced.

I suppose some fly-by-night operator (There are always some around) might be willing to accept a "repaired" hook, but I sure as hell wouldn't want the bloody thing on my ship!
 

Colin Renner

Member
Mar 12, 2009
57
0
46
Hmmm...gee I don't know...Quasimodo sounds so...hunchback.

"It occurred to me that your vision of a multitude of Irish men wielding 7 pound hammers while clinging to the falling anchor might be 'meat' for a comedy sketch?"

Come to think of it, that sounds like a good idea to me. Now all we need is some Irish actors willing to to the job! LOL!

Anyways, it occured to me that, after seeing the scene from Cameron's Titanic with the ship passing by a tiny sailboat, just how suckish it would be to have one of the three anchors be released and crush whoever was under it. God forbid that ever happened.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
457
453
Easley South Carolina
>>God forbid that ever happened.<<

It has, and with my first ship. When I was on the USS Ranger, we were pulling into Vancouver and we were greeted by the usual medley of glassy eyed flea bitten protestors who always try to stop the arrival of visiting warships. One guy kept circling his inflatable boat under our anchor and that was where he was when the thing let go.

This moron learned the hard way that the only thing a plummeting 30 ton anchor stops for once it's let go is the bottom.

He got lucky in that only one of his aircells got nicked and he ended up swimming instead of being crunched into fish food. The Canadian Coast Gaurd pulled him and his companions out but they didn't rush into it. I guess they figured that a nice dip in the chilly waters of the harbour in November would make the lesson stick.
 

Similar threads