Titanic & Lusitania in each others' situation

Arun Vajpey

Jul 8, 1999
I cannot recall if this scenario has been discussed before in this forum though I remember such a discussion years ago.......perhaps in another forum.

Let us imagine outcomes in hypothetical situations where the Titanic and Lusitania had remained exactly as they were at the time of each ship's disaster - right down to design, build, layout, passengers, crew, other ships and most importantly the number of lifeboats remaining as they were but switched only times, places and cargo. In other words:

Situation A: If it was the Lusitania under Captain Turner et al and more than enough lifeboats for everyone on board that had struck the iceberg on Sunday 14th April 1912 in the same manner in mid-Atlantic, would it have survived? Or at least remained afloat long enough for everyone to board lifeboats? Or would it have gone down sooner with more fatalities?

Situation B: Similarly, if the Titanic under Captain Smith et al with whatever cargo the Lusitania had carried on board been struck by the German torpedo off the Irish coast, how would it have fared? The limited lifeboats (I did say that it was hypothetical) would probably have not mattered given of the timescales involved but could the Titanic have lasted longer than 18 minutes without that longitudinal bulkhead that the other ship had? Or would it have sunk even sooner?

Stephen Carey

Apr 25, 2016
My take on your question!
I am not a fan of double sided designs - as opposed to double-bottomed, as most ships had a double bottom even in those days, and Titanic was no exception. I have discussed in some of the lectures I give on marine systems the fact that the Titanic being transversely framed, sank more or less upright in 2 hours and 20 minutes and got all her lifeboats away.
The Lusitania was hit in around the same place as the Titanic, though probably not as extensively damaged along the length of the ship. However, the water poured in on one side, and she capsized and sank in 18 minutes. She couldn't launch her lifeboats on the high side as they wouldn't go down the side of the ship, and it was difficult to get her passengers to jump an 11 foot gap on the low side, 77 feet above the water. Also there wasn't time of course.
The Olympic and Britannic were both retroactively double-sided after the Titanic disaster as it was thought it would give them a better chance of survival in a damaged condition. Well, the Britannic hit a mine in around the same place as Titanic hit the berg and Lusitania was hit by the torpedo. She capsized and sank in around 30 minutes.
HMS Coventry in the Falklands War also flooded on one side due to action damage (longitudinal and transverse framing), capsized and sank in 20 minutes. Empress of Ireland was hit on the starboard side and also capsized and sank within about 14 minutes. For the same reason as Lusitania, she couldn't launch her boats on either side. I don't know if she was double-sided, but it certainly seems like it, otherwise she would have flooded transversely and stayed upright like the Titanic.
Andrea Doria was also struck on the starboard side and went to a heavy list in that direction. The damage stability of the vessel seems to have limited the list to a certain extent (damage stability of at least 2 compartments flooded is a design condition), and she stayed afloat for some 11 hours, allowing the passengers to be taken off.
Costa Concordia is a different case as she was not double-sided; what was originally thought to be flooding of the engineroom and subsequent capsize would not have been the case, as the ship would have at least two compartment damage stability, so one compartment would not sink her or cause her to capsize. It turns out that around 5 or 6 compartments were open to the sea (like Titanic) and the Captain then realised that she had no hope of surviving and therefore used the way on the ship to turn her hard to port and try and beach her. The hard turn to port heeled her over to starboard, and the water would therefore have gone across to that side and caused the capsize (my theory here as I am still waiting to read the final accident report).

A note on Captain Schettino here: Whilst it was his fault that the ship was damaged, I think he acted quickly once he found the extent of the damage in turning the ship to beach her whilst she still had way on. I have been on a ship that heeled to an angle of loll of some 11 degrees, and I can tell you that it is almost impossible to move about or indeed stand at even that small angle. Costa Concordia had 4000 passengers, of which only 400 (10%) were still on board when the Captain left the ship, at a list of more than the 11 degrees I have experienced. From a lifeboat he stayed with the ship, directing the remaining evacuation as best he could, as in the boat he was at least mobile, which he would not have been had he stayed on board. In the aftermath only 32 of the passengers lost their lives, which whilst not good for them, was only 0.8% of the complement - not a bad result under the circumstances. I therefore think he was unfairly pilloried for leaving the ship when he did.