The Breakup and the Stern Section Why did it even founder


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walter hojka

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Thank you Sam and David for your very interesting comments. I would be very interested in seeing those photographs provided there is some legal means of acquiring the images. Please explain "washboarding", I am not familiar with this term.

As for the possibility of a slight misalignment in the keel, I believe that Titanic was hogging along the keel with the exception of the engine room which was of a much more rigid construction.
The floor of the engine room rode up over BR1 knocking off the boilers from their beds and then buckled out the two pieces of double bottom.

The key to substantiating or rejecting this theory is in the condition of the edges of the two pieces.

Yours,
Walter Hojka
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Looking back over this thread one thing is certain -- that nobody knows for certain what did happen. Oh, there are lots of theories with most based on one or another aspect of the evidence. However, looked at from a distance it is obvious there is no certainty.

Let's apply a horse race analogy. Everyone bets on the race before hand because there is no certainty. Once the race is over, betting is meaningless because the facts (the winners) are known and there is certainty.

Similarly in research, when there is a lot of betting (arguments) all of the facts are simply not known. My horse in this race says everyone is wrong.

Let me suggest that the problem here is not in understanding metal failure or strains on the hull girder. The problem is looking at the wrong drawing of the ship. Everyone looks at the elevation and comes to conclusions. Some look at the plan view and confirm those conclusions. Wonderful, but a ship is a 3-D object. There is one other view needed to get a full 3-D picture.

A ship is not weak along its decks or along its double bottom. Yet, those are the elements that are always examined because of the myopic study of the elevation view. A hull is weakest in the vertical direction -- the sides. That takes a section view to analyze correct.

Stow the gab about "top down" or "bottom up." As the ship hogged, the top got longer (tension) and the bottom got shorter (compression). For that to happen...and happen it must or the ship could not have hogged...the vertical distance between top and bottom had to get shorter. This meant the sides (vertical between tank top and B deck) were too tall. Until something failed and the tension was released, the sides had to reduce their height. The only way they could have done this was to either bow outward or bow inward.

There were multiple decks to add a plywood-like strength to the top; and the bottom was a cellular design intended to be strong against grounding. But, the sides were one plate thick stiffened only as necessary to resist a seaway.

Now, what failed? The top? Baker Joughin's testimony says, "No." In fact, his testimony says the sounds of failure were below him, meaning the breakup started below A deck.

The bottom? The physical evidence of the pieces of double bottom says, "No." There is no washboarding of the pieces which is diagnostic of compression failure of a ship's hull.

Or, the weakest part, the sides? I think I'll throw my saddle on the horse represented by the weakest element--the sides.

What was that failure? The evidence suggests a vertical cracking perpendicular to the crack that separated the two pieces of double bottom. Once that happened, the sides began to come away from the tank top (their removal was clean) and water would have flooded both boiler room #1 and the reciprocating engine room.

Suddenly, Titanic would have gone from only flooding by the bow to also having catastrophic flooding aft of amidships. That changed everything. The newly-flooded area would have cause the hull to go from a hogged condition to a sagged condition. This would have changed the center of gravity/center of buoyancy relationship.

Once this sort of thing started, it followed its own destructive path...a path no man lived to walk down. However, the initial failure should not be confused with the final tear apart of the hull. Ships of Titanic's era often suffered girdling hull cracks, but not all either sank or broke apart. The idea that the initial hull failure and the final tear apart are the same event is simply wrong. The hull failure was not the breakup anymore than the hogging was the hull failure.

Confusing cause with effect is always misleading.

My look at the physical wreck tells me the two pieces eventually did fold in a "V" in way of the original crack. I think of it as a "green stick fracture" in which things were still connected together even though there was no longer any strength of the hull girder across the break. This is when the two pieces of double bottom came out in tension and the upper decks began to crunch themselves into damned near confetti.

Actually, the whole hull did not bend in a "V" shape. It looks to me that the bend took place at about the level of F deck and concerned only the decks above. The area below F deck seems to have been pulled apart in tension -- as indicated by the two pieces of double bottom.

When water began pouring into the butt of the bow, things changed rapidly with regard to trim. Sam is wrong about the bow being flooded solid. There would have been lots of air inside -- air that could quickly move as the ship began to come apart. There is no reason to think that the butt end would momentarily get heavier than the prow, and that the prow might rise as a result. No, it did not stick up as in the Thayer/Skidmore drawing, but the prow might have resurfaced. Stranger things have happened in sinking ships.

Sam quotes the History Channel study he and I participated in as "proof" that hogging strains were too great for the ship to have bent in "V" shape. That was true during the period of time which the study considered -- before the hull failure. The computer study said nothing about what happened next. The number crunching stopped at hull failure, so the computer only explained why the break started, when started, and where it occurred.

The initial failure, however, was not the breakup.

It is wrong to assume the situation vis-a-vis buoyancy, center of gravity, etc. remained static after the initial hull failure. That would have been impossible. Everything changed once water began pouring into the butt end of the bow. It was the sudden and catastrophic flooding of boiler room #1 and the engine room that was the direct cause of the final tear apart of the hull.

Flooding begat hogging.
Hogging begat initial failure.
Initial failure begat additional flooding.
Additional flooding begat midship sagging.
Midship sagging begat tear apart.
Tear apart begat 100 years of arguments.

Anyway, in my view Titanic was neither a "bottom up" nor a "top down" event. It was a side failure followed by additional flooding. That changed the dynamics and the final tear apart was an event quite separate from the initial hull failure.

OK, saddle up. Let's get racing!

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>Looking back over this thread one thing is certain -- that nobody knows for certain what did happen.<<

Very true, indeed.

>>Everything changed once water began pouring into the butt end of the bow. It was the sudden and catastrophic flooding of boiler room #1 and the engine room that was the direct cause of the final tear apart of the hull. <<

Assuming your scenario of the sides coming away first, that would immediately change the various stress and compression loads on the rest of the hull. Catastrophic flooding of boiler room #1 and the engine room would be a consequence, but don't assume that the hull had go into a sag condition for the double bottom pieces to rip away from each other in tension. Those pieces could have been the last connection between bow and stern before breaking away. To produce a sag condition to develop, the sum of all moments ahead of the sag point has to be negative, the type of situation you get if the ship were supported on wave crests near bow and stern with a trough in the middle. In other words, the bow needed to have more buoyancy at its forward half and less at its rear half to go into sag. With about 70% of her intact displacement weight already added as floodwater to the forward part of the bow, there is no possible way for a sag condition to develop even with sudden catastrophic flooding at the butt end at that time. Let's stop the arm waiving, and start working with floodable volumes and add up the moments.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Mellors was forward near Collapsible A, and Daly was also forward when then described this.<<

Thanks Tad. At least that puts them in a position to see and/or feel what was going on. Unfortunately, it doesn't follow that they understood what was happening or why.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Jeremy, To answer your question,
hoggingsagging.gif
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Sam's comments about floodable lengths, etc. are quite correct for an intact ship. However, that intact condition vis-a-vis the hull girder of Titanic ended over time. Slowly, tortured hull transformed from a single hull to two "hulls" tied together like river barges; and finally two separate hulls with no connection. Once that transition began, the floodable length curves and other data describing the intact ship became increasingly irrelevant.

Looking at Sam's drawings reminded me that my use of the term "sag" for what happened after the initial failure is incorrect. To "sag," the hull would necessarily have been intact as a "girder." Quite obviously, if the steel had already failed somewhere in that girder, the ship was no longer structurally intact. If the area of the break did sink lower than the bow or stern after initial failure, by definition this would not have been "sagging" which refers to an intact hull.

While Sam may disagree about buoyancy -- and he has good reason simply because neither of us has absolute proof of what happened -- I do see a possibility where the front of the bow section could, indeed, have had more buoyancy than the butt end. Not only do I see the possibility of trapped air (proven by Lightoller's experience), but also because I think the bow eventually provided the buoyancy necessary to hold the stern above water while the taffrail upended.

Again, we are not talking about a single event. Nor are we talking about a single "hull." This was a long-term transition that for most of its duration resembled those two barges at first tightly connected together by cables that loosened over time. (The cables in this case were steel beams, but the effect was the same.)

The mistake in most discussions is to consider the breakup as an instantaneous failure occurring to a single hull. It was not. Things which were impossible at one moment during the breaking process could have been possible or even mandated by later conditions.

When did those pieces of double bottom pull away? Nobody knows. I've always favored the idea the pieces came away later than earlier during the breakup process. They may well have been the last physical connection between bow and stern. There's no way to tell.

Looking at the photos, there is bent metal indicating the two pieces bumped and jostled each other as well as the bow and stern sections before everything broke free. However, that sort of damage is far from compression failure. If the double bottom had been compressed to failure, it would show a diagnostic "washboard" appearance. The floors would have been pushed together, causing the skin plates to show wrinkles. In reality, the skin is still as tight and fair as when launched at H&W.

Another mistake is to assume that because the pieces came out in tension -- were pulled out of the wreck -- they also failed in tension. That is not necessarily true. In fact, my study of other hull failures circa 1913 indicates that what happened was probably quite different.

Anecdotally, other ships suffered what are called "girdling cracks" before hull failure (and, not all girdled hulls failed). My suggestion is that one side of Titanic's hull failed in a perpendicular crack in way of the rising floors of boiler room #1. That crack migrated around the bottom and up the other side. The resulting weakness allowed the sides to begin pulling away from the double bottom. It is significant that that eventually the pieces of double bottom broke away at or near the point where the sides quit coming loose from the tank top.

What happened next? In my opinion, Titanic was now two separate hulls, each with a gaping wound equal in size to their cross section. Water poured into the engine room of the stern "hull" and boiler room #1 of the bow "hull." The upper decks were about to be crushed, but during their final moments they held out long enough for ship's baker Joughin to escape aft across the broken hull.

How long did the breakup take? I think it could have been up to 20 minutes after the lights finally blinked out for the last time.

As I wrote Sam privately last night, I've had the opportunity to pull nine want-to-be drowning people out of the water. Something I noticed was how quiet they were in terms of vocalizations. Most could not speak above a hoarse whisper while still in the water. Their gasps for breath were actually louder than their voices. The one victim who was clinically hypothermic did not speak at all.

While my experiences are anecdotal, they seem to be supported by data on hypothermia. Also, rescue experts know that a person in the water has great difficulty getting enough air in their lings to shout loudly. That's why it is recommended to attach whistles to lifevests these days.

If the silence of victims in the water is generally true...and the quick effects of hypothermia from sub-freezing water are true...then I think it is pretty safe to assume that Titanic's victims did not shout for many minutes after the ship foundered. Yet, that's not quite the way survivors in lifeboats remembered the scene.

"...there was no sound for what seemed like hours, and then began the cries for help of people drowning all around us, which seemed to go on forever." -- Emily B. Ryerson

"...the dreadful calls and cries. Frightful...it went on for some time, gradually getting fainter." -- Maj. Peuchen

It appears to me, and this is just a hypothesis, the ship did not sink at 2:20 a.m. Instead, that was only when it disappeared because the lights went out. Until that moment hope lived and the decks of the sinking ship were relatively quiet. In the sudden darkness, fear of impending death reigned and people began to scream. It was all they could do.

The darkened hulk grotesquely upended and the screaming grew louder. As the stern slowly descended, the shouting grew less apace with the voices lost in the cold water. Finally, only the strongest were left to shout until even their voices were silenced.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>It appears to me, and this is just a hypothesis, the ship did not sink at 2:20 a.m. Instead, that was only when it disappeared because the lights went out. <<

Sorry, but those in a good position to see what was going on would strongly disagree with your hypothesis. Look at Symons and Buley as two examples. Not only did they describe the lights going out but also they saw the poop come back to a near horizontal position without the bow, which gave them the impression that the poop was going to stay afloat. The outline of what remained of the ship was clearly visible against the background sky despite all the lights being gone. Then after what was described as a couple of minutes (anywhere from 2 to 5), what remained of the stern section up ended and took on a steep angle before it slowly slid under. The time that happened was noted on several watches by those in different lifeboats. Also on most of stopped pocket watches that were recovered. It was after that that all those cries were heard.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Sam!

Lot of discussion since I was last here.

I'm allowing that the way folks were scattered around and about the scene, there were many different viewpoints (and interpretations) as to what they thought they were seeing - not made any easier by the absence of motion picture illumination. What I noticed here ...

http://www.paullee.com/titanic/bwatt.html

... was in the way Paul reproduced Watt's sketch in his Notes section, in that it seems to show the bow section at the point of the break rearing up before vanishing underwater. It caught my attention since, otherwise, I don't have a clue as to what that Thayer/Skidmore sketch is attempting to show. Some have suggested it was the Grand Staircase popping to the surface. In any event, this seems to be getting further and further away from any primary reference source.

Roy
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Roy.

Funny thing, when I read her description I missed the drawing in the notes at the bottom the page. I see what you mean. The rear of the bow section rearing up at the point of the break is quite possible considering the rear of the bow would have been more buoyant than the heavily flooded front end as I've been saying all along. Also, consider Jack Thayer's actual words in describing the break: "Suddenly the whole superstructure of the ship appeared to split, well forward to midships, and bow or buckle upwards [my emphasis]."
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Sam's comments on the ship disappearing at 2:20 a.m. could have come from my writings up until a few weeks ago. I'm not sure of my hypothesis. However, I am convinced that the extended period of shouting would not have been possible for people in the water.

The stopped timepieces are good indicators only of when their owners got wet, not when the ship disappeared. From what I recall, the majority of those timepieces came from people who can be placed forward on the bow section when they went into the drink. That was certainly true of Gracie, Weikman, and Thayer. The stopped timepieces are significant, but we cannot be sure they aren't telling us more about the vagaries of chance than when the ship disappeared.

And, the descriptions of what the ship looked like are subject to both the muddling of human memories as well as the interpretation of the researcher.

So, I don't think the case of a 2:20 disappearance is as open and shut as Sam indicates. But, I can't blame anyone for going with conventional wisdom on this aspect of the tragedy. For me, I'm not sure -- but I am skeptical.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I'll put my money on those who there and saw it disappear.

Mrs. Marian Longstreth Thayer (First Class Passenger) — “The after part of the ship then reared in the air, with the stern upwards, until it assumed an almost vertical position. It seemed to remain stationary in this position for many seconds (perhaps twenty), then suddenly dove straight down out of sight. It was 2.20 a.m. when the Titanic disappeared, according to a wrist watch worn by one of the passengers in my boat.” [Marian Thayer was in boat No. 4.]

Miss Daisy Minahan (First Class Passenger) — “The Titanic was fast sinking. After she went down the cries were horrible. This was at 2:20 a.m. by a man's watch who stood next to me.” [Daisy Minahan was in boat No. 15.]

Mr. Hugh Woolner (First Class Passenger) — “She sank finally at 2.22 am.” [Woolner made it into Collapsible boat No. D.]

Mr. Lawrence Beesley (Second Class Passenger) — “A watch in our boat gave the time as 2:30 A.M.” [Lawrence Beesley was in boat No. 13.]

Reginald Lee (Lookout) — “There was a lady there had a watch, and after the ship went down she told me that her watch said half-past two.” [Reginald Lee was in boat No. 13 with Lawrence Beesley.]

Annie Robinson (Stewardess) — “Well, I looked at my watch when the ship went down and it was twenty minutes to two. That was by altered time when we were in the boat, and I do not think we were in the boat more than three-quarters of an hour.” [Annie Robinson was in boat No. 11.]

Herbert Pitman (Third Officer) — “2.20 exactly, ship's time. I took my watch out at the time she disappeared, and I said, It is 2.20, and the passengers around me heard it…2.20 a. m., the 15th of April.” [Pitman was in boat No. 5.]
 
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SAM spoke..."I'll put my money on those who (were) there and saw it disappear".

I can only agree with your opinion. As you become a participant/eyewitness of a traumatic event, such an event becomes embedded in your mind...possibly for the remainder of your life.
IMHO, I feel that Jack Thayer's drawing rendered aboard Carpathia bears more credence than we allow him today...hell, who knows maybe the downward pressure of a bottom-up break actually revealed the flooded forepeak *point* for a brief moment. And Joughlin, your the last individual to depart the doomed stern section in mid-NA ocean, and your confused about the final moment? Albeit he may have been intoxicated, the adrenaline rush would have supersceded his state of mind.

(SAM, you skipped the word were...;-)

Michael Cundiff
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Jul 9, 2000
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>>such an event becomes embedded in your mind...possibly for the remainder of your life.<<

But not necesserily accurately. That's not to say that any of these people were lying as in this instance, I don't think they were. I think they were brutally honest, but we have to allow for the possibility of confusion, vantage points and stark terror.

>>I feel that Jack Thayer's drawing rendered aboard Carpathia bears more credence than we allow him today...<<

Mmmmm...let's put this to bed once and for all: These are not Jack Theyer's drawings. This is Mr. Skidmore's interpretation of what he said Jack Theyer told him, all of which went through the usual mental filters and possible embellishments. Any misunderstandings on Jack's part over what he saw would have Mr. Skidmore's misunderstandings and added interpretations as well.

On some level, it may not be entirely possible to dismiss them, but they needed to be treated with extreme caution. One question we need to ask ourselves is if it's even possible that something like this could have happened and if so, we need to be able to establish what happened based on what the science can demonstrate is possible.

David mooted one possibility earlier when he suggested that what may have "Popped up" was not the prow of the vessel but the broken after end of the bow section.

In the dark of the night, how would anybody even know the difference?
 

Will C. White

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I still have a problem with the bow boyency question. How can it be assumed that the bow was solidly flooded out in the tops of the forward holds? During the breakup, if the ship was indeed now in two parts, the air may very well act as a levelling agent and the bow may very well have come awash for a few moments prior to foundering. WILL
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Will.

When I referred to the bow being solidly flooded, I should have said 'almost' solidly flooded. There will always be places with some trapped air in it, some of which will bubble out as the angle of trim and heel changed. But the question is how much would have remained, and how would that affect the overall buoyancy of the submerged compartments of the bow?

We know from eyewitness descriptions that the entire forecastle was already underwater from about 2:05 AM when boat D was launched. Close to 2:15 AM, or thereabouts, the ship had assumed a down angle of about 10 degrees, and everything forward of the bridge was completely underwater. There were no sealed decks in any of the forward compartments to prevent air from escaping. Any air that was trapped would be in small isolated pockets. We are not talking about any significant volume here.

But for sake of argument, suppose there was enough air remaining in the forward holds to allow that part of the bow to resurface after the break. Then how was it possible for the bow to have been submerged underwater in the first place? What pulled the bow down so much that it caused the stern to come up far enough to expose the propellers of the ship before the break occurred?

The answer is the added weight of water that entered the forward compartments of the ship, or as Dave Brown likes to view it, the loss of buoyancy of the forward compartments of the ship.

At the time of the break, the rear end of the bow would have had more buoyancy than the flooded front end. What they call the center of buoyancy of the bow section would be more towards its aft end. The result would be a tendency of the aft end to rise a bit while the forward end submerged even deeper once the weight of the stern was longer supported. And that may explain what some eye witnesses tried to describe, including Jack Thayer in his written work.

Meanwhile, with the weight of the bow no longer pulling on the stern, the stern section would settle back giving the impression that it might stay afloat as several people described. But its forward end started to flood rapidly because of the loss of watertight integrity in the engine room compartments when the hull fractured. It would fill at its forward end which eventually caused the stern section to up end with its forward end submerged. See Marian Thayer's description in my post above.
 
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SAM said-"What pulled the bow down so much that it caused the stern to come up far enough to expose the propellors of the ship before the break occured?".

Very well said, I was implying that perhaps the downward pressure of the break/pinch, sort of like a scientist describing (surmizing) that by closing the void of space, may in effect create a wormhole. My idea of a downward force (gravity) exerting enough pressure to expose the forepeak...but I surmize that would be a mathematical uncertainty, given the weight differentials. Yes Michael, I am aware the drawing of Thayer was dictated to Skidmore, and as we all know, an eyewitness testimony of the stern making an about face was revealed in '85-'86. Perhaps the young Thayer's vision was so
affixed with the stern section, it was unknown what fore section he actually saw, and as you said may have therefore been assumed by the artist Skidmore.

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 

Will C. White

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Sam-The thing that would hold the bow under prior to breakup would be the keel and the other parts of the ship. The buoyancy of the stern is greater than that of the bow, but that does not mean that the bow is devoid of buoyancy. When the ship breaks up, the equation changes, and for a very short period you have two sections, one in essence not flooded, and one proximately equally flooded. Obviously, this condition does not long endure. I'd also like to inquire why you consider the tops of the holds non water tight, since the function of a hatch cover is to prevent seawater intrusion-I'd think they would be as close to airtight as they could get in 1912-just curious on that. WILL
 
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>>I'd also like to inquire why you consider the tops of the holds non water tight<<

Take a closer look at those things. They were weathertight and adaquate for keeping out rain and incidental spray but that was about it. Go down to the lower decks and you'll see that the hatch covers were little more then tarpaulins which may have been stretched over wooden frames. They were not designed for or even intended to act as watertight barriers for the purpose of containment or damage control.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>The thing that would hold the bow under prior to breakup would be the keel and the other parts of the ship. <<

I'm afraid not Will unless you mean the thing that would prevent the bow from sinking further. The bow wanted to go down, not up. Everything has buoyancy, even a given volume of water itself. The question is whether the volume has positive, negative or neutral buoyancy. The bow had negative buoyancy after it flooded, meaning the sum of all buoyant forces acting upward on it was less that the sum of all downward forces acting on it. It weighed more than the volume of water it tried to displace. It wanted to sink, that is why it went under water to begin with. It was the combined positive buoyant forces of the rest of the hull and the unsupported weight of the raised part of the stern section that counterbalanced the tendency of the bow to sink until the hull fractured.

Good answer Michael about the hatches. It should also be mentioned that several eyewitnesses, including 3/O Pitman, saw water coming up through the hatch covers about 20 minutes after the collision. They were far from being what you would call watertight, let alone airtight.
 
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