mitfrc

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While we're talking about flooding and bulkheads, what you you think about the new "evidence" of the coal bunker fire being more serious than we thought it was and actually caused the Titanic to sink much faster than it should have? I just watched the documentary last evening in YouTube:

Painful. Coal bunker fires were normative occurrences, with an established procedure for fighting them, and this one was out ... Well in advance of the sinking, thus, they also would have slowed down well in advance of the sinking even if the speed had been kept up while dealing with the fire. There are just so many holes in this, it's painful to even start thinking about it. The only hypothetical impact would be a bulkhead warping due to the fire later impacting the flooding, but the position of the fire, described damage, and nature of the progressive flooding, strongly indicate not even this was a factor...
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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HEADLINES
Iceberg absolved? Fire may have sunk Titanic.
Did a coal fire sink the Titanic?
Huge fire ripped through Titanic before it struck iceberg, fresh evidence suggests.
Titanic may not have been sunk by an iceberg after all.
New Titanic documentary claims ship sank due to fire.


First it was brittle steel. Then it was a weakly designed hull. Then it was bad rivets. And list goes on and on.

Despite this documentary giving the impression that something new has been discovered, the bunker fire theory is really old stuff that is now being regurgitated for consumption by those who refuse to believe the real cause of the sinking. Again we hear claims that the ship would have, or may have, survived many hours more so that most, if not all, could have been saved if it were not for some hidden defect or other event that was intentionally covered up by the owners and builders. Worse yet, no real evidence is offered to prove anything. The only new thing that came up is an apparent dark mark on the starboard side of the vessel's hull that appeared in a couple of photographs that somehow they managed to link to what was called a "raging fire" that was going on in one of the ship's coal bunkers. Yet simple observation by anyone vaguely familiar with the ship's design will note that the location of that mark, under the area of the well deck and certainly above the ship's waterline (around the level of those G deck portholes), was nowhere near where that bunker was located. That bunker where the fire was burning was about 100 feet aft and about 25 feet below the waterline from where that mark was. It would have been on the starboard side under the area of the ship's 1st funnel.

So the burning bunker is yet again being blamed for the ship's demise. They even got experts in material science to agree that the bulkhead could have been weakened enough by the fire to cause it to collapse under head of seawater. Of course, nobody bothered to explain how such a fire could have reached the temperature needed to actually become red hot without some forced draft of air becoming available, or bother to actually test a riveted model of the bulkhead made with mild steel to see what its state would become after the fire was put out the day before the iceberg collision. Something that had already been done by forensic experts some years ago. Furthermore, it was implied that the ship was not allowed to slow down despite receiving ice warnings because they needed get that bunker emptied fast and therefore needed to feed the furnaces as fast as they can with the burning coal that they were extracting from the burning bunker to quickly get that fire out. And again, we heard that falsehood come up about the ship being short of coal because of the coal strike, and somehow if they slowed down they may have run out of coal. Or did I heard that wrong?

Well another documentary to win the ratings game, exploiting the popularity of name "Titanic".

By the way, if anyone is interested, the story of this burning bunker was addressed in the multi-authored book, Report Into the Loss of the SS Titanic - A Centennial Reappraisal. The section dealing with the bunker fire was covered in Chapter 6 and is available for viewing, with referenced endnotes, here: http://www.titanicology.com/Titanica/FireDownBelow.pdf.
 

danny perry

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The discussion above talks about two photos with the same dark patches, and one with possibly even light patches on the same place. One dark patch picture in particular looked to me like the possible effects of someone taking some paint and re-painting a particular area, so one big blob, a narrower joining strip and then another big blob. I could also believe that differences in finish, ie how matt or glossy it looked, might allow mismatched paint to look darker from one angle but light from another. This all might suggest a problem with the paint finish repaired rather late, and then someone doing a last minute job to cover it up, which did not quite come off.

I might suggest that if the marks were as obvious when viewed from the side rather than obliquely, then someone might have done something more about them. Possibly they showed up because of the angle of the sun and of the ship to the camera: Looking at the three pictures above, the two pictures showing a dark patch seem to be on hull just curved out of the direct sunshine, whereas on the picture where they cannot be seen, the line of sunlight extends further around the curve of the hull, so perhaps they were fully illuminated this time and looked different.

I saw the documentary, but wasn't perfectly clear about what they thought would be behind this spot. There is significant parallax on the pictures, which makes it unclear to me at least where the patches would be if viewed directly side on. It might coincide with the coal bukers marked in blue on the diagram someone posted above. The black mark rising forward, could accord with the two blue bunkers marked, the more forward being generally higher.

I don't know how bunkers were ventilated, or maybe they werent ventilated but more accurately badly sealed which would allow some draft. Where would smoke from them end up? Perhaps vented through the funnell so that no one would notice? It occurs to me that no one would notice the smell of burning coal in a city and dockyard where burning coal was commonplace for all heating needs. I have been in a modern city still warmed significantly by coal, and the entire place reeked of smoke in the winter. Presumably it would be quite normal for passengers to experience this too when the ship was underway, and for any person to quite expect the smell of smoke every day.

I posted on a different thread, that coke ovens, which are designed to turn coal into coke, operate by burning some of the coal inside them but with an inadequate air supply, so it heats the remainder of the fuel driving off the oils and leaving the carbon. They can run at 1000C, hotter than a fire of burning coal with plentiful air supply. The flow of air cools a fire and takes away heat from it. To get high temperatures you need to enclose the heat, such as in the middle of a huge pile of coal in a bunker with limited ventilation. Unburnt coal strikes me it might be a reasonable insulator keeping in heat. The question is whether metal trapped between a fire one side and coal the other could reach such temperatures, or burning coal one side and air gaps below? Did I see one report that most damage to the bulkhead was at the base?
 
Mar 18, 2008
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I haven't watched the show yet but if this picture going around in the news is right, the spot is on the wrong place, far away from the coal bunker and much to high.

phillips-titanic-fire-0103-transfer2.jpg
 
A

Aaron_2016

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I haven't watched the show yet but if this picture going around in the news is right, the spot is on the wrong place, far away from the coal bunker and much to high.

Agreed. I don't know why the documentary tried to emphasise the photographs with the fire in the aft coal bunker in boiler room 6 because the marks in the photos do not align with that bunker at all. They do however come closer to the forward coal bunker in boiler room 6 and the room ahead which supplied the coal reserve but the documentary did not discuss that and focused on the aft coal bunker instead. If there was a large fire in one of the bunkers in boiler room 6 would that smoke exit the forward funnel in great amounts while the ship was still docked and does the smoke appear in any photographs?


.
 
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Alex Clark

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I'm watching it now. Garbage. Even if they had stoked the fires more than was desired, surely any excess steam in the relevant boilers would have been bled off rather than forcing more speed. We already know that the ship was at her normal operational speed. The narrator of the documentary asked why the ship should steam at top speed as she wasn't fast enough to set a record. While the ship certainly wasn't trying to beat Cunard's record for a crossing, a slower ship would be better off at top speed to make the best possible passage. The fire is irrelevant. They even got the number of passengers on board way out. 2500 is more than total persons on board.

On another point, they say if the bulkheads held no one would have died. This ignores the postal workers who would have been dead before CQD was sent.

Did the bulkhead collapse make a difference anyway? I would have thought the rate of flooding was dependant on the area open to the sea irrespective of the bulkheads' condition.
 

Mzink1

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Hello all, long time lurker (15 years+) but before I make my comments on this coal fire I just wanted to say thank you all for having been such an engaging, informative, and responsive community for all these years.

So in reviewing this topic, I came across the original photos that were used as evidence and were posted here earlier. My double query is this, when were these photos taken and when did the coal fire actually start?

I saw one site that had the photos with a 2 April 1912 caption, but I feel more confident in the information that this board can provide.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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On another point, they say if the bulkheads held no one would have died. This ignores the postal workers who would have been dead before CQD was sent.
That is another myth which is not true (if I remember right it was first mentioned about 1996). The postal workers gave it up after the water rose to quickly and watched then together with passengers from E Deck down into the flooding mail below. Later some of them were seen on the boat deck.

Did the bulkhead collapse make a difference anyway? I would have thought the rate of flooding was dependant on the area open to the sea irrespective of the bulkheads' condition.
The bulkhead did not collapsed. If it would have Barrett would had no chance to get out of BR 5. It was more likely the coal bunker door (which was not designed for water pressure) which collapsed and let water fill BR5.
 

Alex Clark

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This story is a minefield of myths :)

Had the collapse happened, just suppose, would that even effect the rate of flooding? Obviously water damage would have spread faster but I'd have thought the total volume of water would be increasing at the same rate regardless. That is until the bow went under etc.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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If that bulkhead had collapsed allowing the water that built up in BR6 to flow aft into BR5, then the center of gravity of the floodwater within the vessel would have shifted suddenly aft by a small amount. The effect would have been that the trim of the vessel would come back up slightly with the bow rising up a little bit. Think about it. How would a life boat with too many people seated up in the bow, and noticeably down by the head, look after a few people suddenly were allowed to move aft?
Had the collapse happened, just suppose, would that even effect the rate of flooding?
Not really.
 

PITAI

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I think the core ideas are covered, but my opinion on the documentary itself is left unsaid.

May I kindly invite the editors of that program to bite me?

They do the equivalent to jangling the keys in front of your eyes to hold your attention. I know it's not exclusive to this documentary. In fact, it's a very common production philosophy that I find enormously irritating.

Oh look at all these cheap fire effects imposed over still images of Titanic. Isn't that spooky?
Holy living hell! A piece of information that I as a researcher have likely known for decades? Incredible!
Oh wow! A leading question with an obvious answer? You don't say!
I'm unnaturally excited when talking about Titanic over a period of months and reshoots! Neato!
And just listen to all these dark violins and synthesizers!

Leave all that crap for the reality tv shows and out of what is supposed to be informed speculation and discussion.
 

PITAI

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If that bulkhead had collapsed allowing the water that built up in BR6 to flow aft into BR5, then the center of gravity of the floodwater within the vessel would have shifted suddenly aft by a small amount. The effect would have been that the trim of the vessel would come back up slightly with the bow rising up a little bit. Think about it. How would a life boat with too many people seated up in the bow, and noticeably down by the head, look after a few people suddenly were allowed to move aft?

Not really.
Oh cool. You're here. I just got your book for Christmas. No spoilers.
 

danny perry

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Surely, boiler room 5 is still in the forward half of the ship, so flooding it would bring the head down, not up? I think you mean that if half the water in 6 had moved to 5 without any additional water entering, then the effect would be to lift the bow. But I would envisage this all being new water entering 5 additional to that in 6. Through a new hole opening in the bulkhead, not a total collapse of the whole thing. Seams tearing open perhaps.

Someone above asked how the bulkhead would affect flooding if the ship already had big holes. The answer is that what mattered was how fast water was getting into new parts of the ship. The traditional explanation is that it was spilling over the top of bulkheads and the rate which this was happening governed how fast the ship sank. If big holes were made in some compartments by the berg, these would fill up very fast and then it depends how quickly this water can get into somewhere else. So if this last bulkhead was the one holding back most of the water, even if water was already spilling over the top, a new hole in it would cause the ship to flood faster.

I think somewhere in the documentary they raised the possibility of more than one bunker fire.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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The amount of water entering the vessel depends on the damage to the hull. The bulkheads simply determine how that water is distributed once it gets inside the vessel. The greatest rate of flooding happens when the initial damage is done just above the ship's keel. As floodwater rises internally, the rate that new water enters the vessel will start to go down because water will rise in those flooded compartments. If contained enough, the water inside will rise until it reaches the outside waterline and then stop. Unfortunately, with 5 compartments flooding, there was no way to contain the water to just those compartments, burst bulkhead or no burst bulkhead. The ship was bound to sink.

There have been some suggestions that said that if they would have opened some of the watertight doors leading aft, the ship may have stayed afloat a little longer because it would have raised the level of the bow. Analysis has shown that that would not have been the case because the vessel would have lost horizontal stability first thereby causing it to capsize early on.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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About 40 minutes after the ship collided, Thomas Andrews was able to estimated that the ship would founder in about an hour and a half. How would he know that? Did he think her bulkheads would not hold because they were weakened by a bunker fire? That there was a bunker fire is something he would have known about, having been seen several times dressed in an engineering suite used for inspecting the machinery and boiler spaces down below?

What is known about the rate flooding, based on observations of the level of flooding inside the vessel, was that the ship had taken in about 16,000 tons of seawater in her forward compartments in the first 40 minutes. That is an initial flooding rate of about 24,000 tons per hour. At 35,000 tons, the ship would become longitudinally unstable and simply tip over and sink. It is easy to see that 35,000 tons would be reached in about one and half hours from the time of collision if that initial flooding rate continued as such. However, after making allowance for the fact the flooding rate would decrease somewhat as the water rose higher within the vessel, Andrews estimated that she had about one to one and a half hours remaining after taking in those initial 16,000 tons. As it turned out, the ship lasted a total of 2 hours more.

For some strange reason, there are those who simply cannot get over the fact that the ship sank because it collided with a iceberg that compromised too many of her watertight compartments. There are no hidden secrets.
 
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Mar 22, 2003
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The link posted above by Mark Baber is to an in-depth look at the undocumented claims and falsehoods that were made in this latest attempt to convince viewers that something new has been discovered to explain why Titanic sank. It's very comprehensive and thorough treatment, and written by a number of experts.
 

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