The last 10 minutes


TitanicLove

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I returned to a favorite Titanic book recently - Titanic at Two, by Paul Quinn. One thing he went into was the idea that the Titanic started to sink rapidly because Boiler Room 4 suddenly gave way and filled with water, and that the forward hatch on the bow caved in causing a large amount of water to enter the bow. He suggests that they both occured at the same time like a domino effect. I'm just wondering - is this commonly accepted among Titanic experts to be the reason why the ship took that lurch forward, creating the wave? How could anyone know when the hatch caved in, and even if it did, there could've been flooding up to the hatch already. Do people think the cargo shaft at the bow was devoid of water during the sinking? And boiler room 4, how would anyone know what happened and still be able to get to the top and survive? Who was the last person to leave boiler room 4?
 

Jay Roches

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The last person to leave Boiler Room 4 was probably trimmer George Cavell, who testified at the British inquiry. He described working to put out the fires in Boiler Room 4 (which was his usual post). Water gradually entered the room from below until it got to about a foot in depth, at which point Cavell and the others working there left. Upon reaching Scotland Road, Cavell, for some reason, thought everything was all right (in the words of the examiner) and went back down into the boiler room briefly. He did not reach the bottom because of the water, and he did not see any other crewmen there. He left and went to the boat deck. The scene he describes, with two boats left on the starboard side, places his arrival on the boat deck at something like 1:35 to 1:40 AM.

There are only a very few people who survived to describe conditions below decks as late as 1:30 AM. That is almost fifty minutes before Titanic was completely submerged, and it is even a long way off from 2 AM. But by 1:40 there were only four wooden lifeboats left, plus the collapsibles, and as you know all the boats were gone at 2 AM and the collapsibles were the only hope of survival.

As for the 'cargo shaft', there were two cargo hatches plus a coal hatch in the forward part of the ship. These wouldn't have been a 'shaft' like an elevator shaft. They're actually just a series of holes in the deck, with a raised border around the opening (a coaming). At the top deck there was a hatch cover, a heavy one, and I've just learned that there is evidence from the wreck that it blew off when the bow hit the seabed.

It is not really Boiler Room 4 (BR 4) but Boiler Room 5, the one forward of BR 4, that represents the change from relatively slow to rapid flooding. Taking a step back from that, BR 6 represents the death-blow; flooding the three holds forward of the boiler rooms plus BR 6 places the ship's waterline above the tops of the watertight compartments. Once BR 5 started filling with water the ship was already doomed, and with BR 5 full the bow would be well underwater.

Try this - float an ice cube tray in a sink and gradually fill it with water from one end. You'll see how it's 'waterline' gradually lowers until, at some point, it starts to sink of its own accord. Of interest is that it doesn't matter how fast you fill the 'watertight compartments', but how much water is in the tray. The amount of water in a ship, not the amount of damage, determines how fast it sinks. All this is theoretical though, and it assumes there is no further damage to the ship...

Now, as for the lurch, which is attested to by many survivors and happened around 2:10 -- that was most likely the ship beginning to break up. The first funnel collapse occurred shortly after that. The break was further aft than BR 4 (more like BR 1). After that, survivors describe more signs of the ship breaking up. The accounts vary widely -- but remember that the scene was in almost total darkness and that anyone still alive outside of a lifeboat was in a struggle for their life that they would almost certainly lose.

Well -- that's rather long, yes, though I think I can say I did give you one clear answer -- Cavell, if his testimony is accurate, was not only the last person to leave BR 4, but one of the last survivors to have been below decks.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Just taking-up from this "last 10 minutes" thread, I want to ask a few specific questions. I know that the issues involved have been discussed elsewhere but I want to clarify the collective impact of the following on the very rapid increase in the Titanic's rate of sinking in the last 10 to 12 minutes.

How much, if any, did the following factors play a part in the rapid final plunge and break-up?
  • The open gangway door on D-deck on the port side.
  • The open forward hatch as the bow went under.
  • The weight of water now pressing directly on the bow area after 02:05 am
  • The opening left by the forward funnel when its stays gave way and it collapsed.
 
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Jim Currie

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Interesting questions, Arun. I would guess at the following answers:

1: in the last 10 minutes or so, it is quite possible that the gangway door in question was already under water.

2: Was the forward hatch open before the bow went under? If so. who opened it and why did they do so?

3: 20 minutes before she sank, the forward well deck was under water. The ship was tilting by the head but she was also pivoting longitudinally like a see-saw around a point. This meant that the weight of the unsupported stern section was acting downward and attempting to bring the bow section back to the surface. However, the surface of forward well deck would have had to overcome the weight of water above it as well as the apparent weight of the bow due to lost buoyancy. The resulting pressure on the hatch covers #1 and #2 would cause them to fail and the pressure would equalize throughout the submerged section of the bow. Air trapped under decks would also be pressurised. This in turn would result in the failure of any weak deck-head areas. Perhaps this is why the forepeak hatch cover blew?

4: I doubt that when funnel #1 broke away, there would have been a sudden inundation of water. Water finds its own level, I suspect that by the time the water pressure dislodged the forward funnel, it had already completely filled the internal parts of the ship below it.
 
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Jim Currie

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Athlen and T Love.

As with all ships, the watertight bulkheads dividing the boiler room were specifically designed and strengthened to withstand enormous pressure against them. Much more than the pressure that would have been against them as each compartment flooded.
Many researchers ignore the fact that there were very few completely watertight compartments on Titanic. The boiler rooms were simply 'open topped boxes as far as water tightness was concerned. Consequently, as the ship sank deeper by the head, the internal waterline would reach the tops of successive WT bulkheads. At first it would be prevented from moving aft by minor bulkheads. However as the depth of water in compartments above the tops of the main WT bulkheads got deeper and deeper, there would come a point when the internal water pressure would cause these light bulkheads to fail spectacularly. After that, the water would be free to pour aft, overt and downward through the aft faces of successive boiler room bulkheads and fill the bunker spaces. The doors of these would also quickly fail.
I'm afraid that Paul Quinn's theory, unlike the spaces between the WT bulkheads does not hold water.

Actually, to be correct, it is the loss of buoyancy that causes a ship (or container) to sink.
 

Arun Vajpey

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The ship was tilting by the head but she was also pivoting longitudinally like a see-saw around a point. This meant that the weight of the unsupported stern section was acting downward and attempting to bring the bow section back to the surface. However, the surface of forward well deck would have had to overcome the weight of water above it as well as the apparent weight of the bow due to lost buoyancy.
Thanks for that Jim. Taking the quoted and highlighted part a bit further, I want to ask about the likely angle the stern rose before the resultant stresses broke the ship in two.

Earlier accounts suggested that the stern rose to an angle of around 35 degrees before the ship broke; later research indicated that the break-up occurred at a much shallower angle, around 11 degrees. Am I right in thinking that the "see-saw effect" that you have mentioned above would have had maximum impact at around 11 degrees when the stern was closer to the horizontal and so the lines of force due to gravity on the keel would be far greater than if the stern was at 35 degrees?
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Arun.

There are some very good papers on the subject, the best, in my opinion, being the one written by Sam Halpern.
I agree with him that that the hull fracture took place at a shallow angle.

We can only guess at what point, there was a sufficient bending moment cause by gravity acting downward at the ever elevating stern which resulted in hull failure. However, in my opinion, things might have been different and Titanic might just have been afloat for a little longer but for what, to me, was a far more fundamental reason for the hull failure.
There were two vast void spaces at the forward and aft ends of the main engine room. These rose from the top of the double bottoms to the boat deck. To me, these were a significant weakness in the hull 'girder' which contributed to the hull failure. In my opinion, had these areas been stronger, the ship would probably have stayed afloat longer and eventually gone down intact; bow first with her stern vertical at the end. Indeed, the evidence of Lookout George Symonds suggests that might just have been the outcome but for hull failure.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Thanks again Jim. I went back to Halpern's Reappraisal book and re-read pages 118-119 where the final plunge is discussed. I think I understand how it happened now. Figure 6-27 shows how the Titanic must have looked at 02:15am, at which time the stern was at around 10 degrees up or more precisely, the Angle of Trim was 10 degrees. Sam Halpern reckons that between 1 and 2 minutes after that she ship lost its longitudinal stability and started to 'tip over'. It was at this time, when the stern was between 11 and 15 degrees that the stresses on the hull due to bending movement (or your "see saw effect") was at its maximum and so the break-up occurred at 02:18 hours. Figure 6-28 is a graph illustrating the relationship between the angle of trim and stress induced by the bending movement. As I understand from that graph (please correct me if I am wrong), that stress would have been much less if the Titanic had managed to reach 35 degrees while still intact and then would sharply drop afterwards to reach near zero if it had become vertical.
 

Arun Vajpey

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There were two vast void spaces at the forward and aft ends of the main engine room. These rose from the top of the double bottoms to the boat deck. To me, these were a significant weakness in the hull 'girder' which contributed to the hull failure. In my opinion, had these areas been stronger, the ship would probably have stayed afloat longer and eventually gone down intact; bow first with her stern vertical at the end. Indeed, the evidence of Lookout George Symonds suggests that might just have been the outcome but for hull failure.
That is an interesting conjecture because I have also visualised a scenario where the overall structure of the ship was stronger than what it really was, just enough to withstand the stress due to maximum bending movement when the stern lost its buoyancy. In other words, a theoretical scenario where every event occurred exactly as it did till 02:18 hours but the Titanic did not break-up.

Samuel Halpern makes it clear that the Titanic did NOT sink because it broke-up but due to loss of its longitudinal stability. This occurred when the stern rose to an angle of around 11 degrees, which coincided with the point where the hull was at maximum stress due to the bending movement. According to Halpern, the ship was starting to tip over by 02:17 am, which I take to mean that it would have sunk a few minutes later anyway even if it had not broken-up.
 

Jim Currie

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Don't know your background but if you are familiar with basic ship stability, you will know that the sinking process was anything but straight forward.

A ship tips around her center of floatation. This is normally on the longitudinal centerline at about midship when the ship is upright. When holed forward, she will tip by the bow and the stern will rise. At the same time, she will sink vertically. The amount of 'tip' is governed by the distance forward of the hull breach (s) from the center of flotation. When the keel clears the water, the center of floatation moves forward. She will continue to tip forward and sink while the C. of F. will move forward until she is standing vertically with her stern in the air. Finally, she plunges. There are many WW2 pictures illustrating this.
If only one compartment...say hold# 1 was breached then the tip would immediately become be very obvious.
In the case of Titanic, she was holed in the Forepeak Tank, holds #1 and #2 and boiler rooms #6 and #5. However. there was cargo in both the holds and the boiler rooms contained coal and boilers, so a thing called permeability (The relation of content volume to total compartment volume)would slow the sinking process.

There was also the problems of lost buoyancy AND added weight.
The first was loss of buoyancy due to sea water entering the ship through holes. The second was due to sea water over-topping WT bulkheads and filling adjacent compartments.
The second is important because it was weight added closer to the Center of Flotation. Consequently it would reduce the tipping moment and increase the mean draft.

The foregoing means that if the the hull had not been breached, the water would have continued to enter intact compartments until the weight of the volume of water in these compartments combined with the loss of bouyancy due to hull breaches exceeded the total displacement of the ship and her contents and she would then have sunk.
To me, the crucial factor was the rate at which flood water was entering boiler rooms #5 and the spaces aft of there. Had the rate been constant, then I believe the ship would have stayed afloat a little longer. However, the moment the Shear Strake and Garboard Strakes plates on the hull failed, sea water engulfed the main engine room. The sudden addition of such a massive amount of water literally broke the ship's back. There is evidence as to when this happened. It was given by Baker Joughlin on Day of the UK Inquiry:

6040. Tell us what happened? A: - I went to the deck pantry, and while I was in there I thought I would take a drink of water, and while I was getting the drink of water I heard a kind of a crash as if something had buckled, as if part of the ship had buckled, and then I heard a rush overhead.

At that time, Titanic had a slight list to port. Joughlin then goes on to describe how the ship took a sudden lurch to port. and sank shortly thereafter.

JIm C.
 
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It seems odd that Joughin described how the ship took a sudden lurch to port, throwing everyone but him in a heap but him. It's already odd that nobody else ever mentioned such a lurch, but also the statement that the drunk man was the only one who did not lose balance at that moment.

I think that there was no lurch at all, but Joughin actually tripped at some point and tumbled to the starboard side. He was drunk, so he didn't realize that. From his POV, his fall to starboard looked like the ship taking a lurch to port, which could make sense because the ship already had a port list.

Joughin's booze caused some other false statements. Foe example, he also said the lights stayed on until the ship went down. Hundreds of survivors said the lights went out before the stern section sank.

On another point, I'd like to know something for my book. I have my villain tied to a floating deck chair with a lifejacket underneath for buoyancy, his arms and legs in the water to paddle. The following image shows his location with the ship in the state of sinking at the moment:
Villain%20tied%20to%20door_zpsded2vmbj.jpg

Now my question is: what would he have experienced? Would he be surrounded by people trying to climb his door? Would he be able to swim away in time? Would he have had a chance?
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I think that events in the last 10 minutes of Titanic's life can never be very accurately determined, especially when it came to statements by survivors. In the first place, even the hardiest individual among them would have been in some degree of shock and one can hardly expect them to check the time every time something happened around them in those frantic minutes as the ship sank. The scene as is now accepted seems to be based on educated deductions based on an "average" of various statements and probably closest that we can ever get to the truth.
 
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That's about the size of it. Eyewitness statements are notoriously unreliable, and often contradictory even under the best of circumstances, and having a ship sink beneath you into freezing water is hardly an ideal situation. This is why forensic science is so important. The problem is that sometimes, the eyewitnesses are all you have to go by.
 
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Jim Currie

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Disregarding the drunk bit...the sounds Joghlin heard or said he heard...fit very nicely with the sequence of events. They also fit with what must have happened... the catastrophic failure of the shear strake...the line of heavier than normal shell plating that ran along the outside edge of C deck from bow to stern on both sides.
The baker was obviously on the starboard side, aft end of B deck and was behind the rush of those coming down from the boat deck and heading aft across the aft well deck. If so, then it is quite possible he was on the starboard side companionway and had a rail to hang on to.

Joughlin's story also closely matches that of First Class Steward, Edward Brown.
British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry...Day 9...Testimony of Edward Brown...Examined by Mr. ASPINALL.
Brown was washed off the bridge while trying to launch the collapsible which was stored on the top of the captain's quarters on the starboard side. He too talked of a loud report and a heavy port list. He also described seeing lights on the after part.

As for your book character, Christophe: Since most of those left on board were in the aft well deck and on the poop deck, I suspect he would have found himself between the aft funnle and the mob of drowning people at the stern. I suggest that if you want a little extra 'atmosphere', you should read the evidence of Trimmer Dillon at the UK Inquiry.


I
 
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This literally came to my mind seconds ago... What Joughin described as a lurch of the ship may have been an event what is known among us as the 'Big Wave', when the ship took a sudden dip, floating off the last collapsibles.
Even if Joughin was sober when Titanic went down, it's still odd that nobody else ever mentioned that everyone was thrown in a heap when Titanic suddenly lurched to port.
I believe this theory that Joughin was sober at the time, I really do. But I can't believe he managed to stay in the icy water for 2.5 hours without showing any signs of hypothermia... until he was picked up. Only fair quantities of alcohol could explain that in the conventional story. How on earth did Joughin manage to swim in the ocean for 2.5 hours while many others died within 10 minutes?
 

Arun Vajpey

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How on earth did Joughin manage to swim in the ocean for 2.5 hours while many others died within 10 minutes?
As a doctor (and you do not need to be one to know this), it would be humanly impossible for Joughin or anyone else to survive that long on the freezing water. I do not know about the "2.5 hours" part but other sources mention that Joughin claimed to have survived and swum for about an hour and even that would be impossible under such conditions. IF Joughin really said he had survived so long (and I do not know of he did), we must consider it as extreme embellishment by a man who wanted to be seen as a hero. People do such things often, as we all know.

Irrespective of whether Joughin was drunk at the time, I am sure that all of you know that alcohol does not prolong hypothermia....quite the opposite in fact. When someone is exposed to extreme cold, the body's defence mechanism diverts the warm blood away from the peripheries (like the limbs) to protect the vital organs. By causing cutaneous vasodilatation and a feeling of warmth, alcohol diverts that warm blood away from the vital organs and so accelerates the possibility of a heart attack.
 
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I do not know about the "2.5 hours" part but other sources mention that Joughin claimed to have survived and swum for about an hour and even that would be impossible under such conditions.
I also heard the "2.5 hours" first from a not very reliable book, but it's coming from Joughin himself.
6108. You have said you thought it was about two hours before you saw this collapsible, and then you spent some time with the collapsible. How long do you suppose it was after you got to the collapsible that you were taken into the lifeboat?
- I should say we were on the collapsible about half-an-hour.
6109. That means that for some two and a half hours you were in the water?
- Practically, yes.
I know that alcohol has a cooling effect on the body. Regardless of the quantity, Joughin undoubtedly did consume some alcohol. This makes his survival even more incredible.
 

PRR5406

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Christophe, your character would likely have been caught up in cranes, cables, falling chairs, and people. A rush of seawater invading the superstructure would likely pull him into the ship or against it, releasing him only when he was deep below the surface and some pressure equalized. I'd say, a dead man in this case.
 

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