Titanic's Launch


david wilson

Member
Feb 17, 2004
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If I may,I would like to bring up the subject of titanic's launch.To your average layman,a launch is a non event,it only takes 60 seconds,all over,what's the big deal?
Take a moment at your nearest boat ramp next sunday morning about five am,five will get you ten that somebody tries to launch the 17 foot family runabout with the bungs out,outboard leg down or without a bow or stern painter.The classic is on the way home last weekend,he decided to have a few drinks on the way & disregarded the speed humps.Consequently the boat is off the rollers & it won't budge.Lucky for him there is always a few boaties around to fix the problem. Well,a launch of a boat the size of titanic,is like the birth of a child,except that we already know the sex,it's female!There is no OOPS! button. When a navel architect designs a boat it's referred to "his baby"& when the keel goes down that is the moment of conception (roots,when haley joined the us coastguard).From thence on,every thing is treated with great TLC.
When a woman conceives every thing is planned in great detail for the next nine months,to ensure a successful birth(launch).There is no second chance.I will skip the details as most of us both male & female have probably experienced it.
The designers now have to ensure that the boat will fit on the slip.Length,breadth,height,weight & declivity(the degree of slope all the way down to the sea}.H&W used three of these,3/8",7/16" & 1/2" to the foot.I believe the arolls were 3/8".
This then becomes the forte of the shipwright.To establish a centre line (cl),half breadth(hb},port(p) & starboard{s),midships & frames at convenient places.These are marked with paint & scribed.Keel blocks are then positioned every second frm stradling the cl,except the last twenty or so frms,o to ten fwd & o to ? aft where every frm was on blocks.Frm 0 was the stern frm.The btm of the keel blks was cut at the same bevel as the declivity,to make the ones on top plumb.These were about four feet high,made from dense wood,probably oak or aroka.On top of these was the cap,made from oak 12" sqr 8" high with two saw cuts running fore & aft 4" apart & half the way down.This was to help the shipwrights to "split out" on the morning of the launch.
I am still only making a point about the launch.When the keel is laid we start to build outward & upward,as well as going fwd & aft.At this point we introduce btm shores(like pit props,12" dia).Temporary ones at first untill the intersection of the frms & fore & aft girders are rivetted.We then introduce permanent shores(till launch date).These are placed at every fore & aft girder & three frm spaces apart.They are tailor made for their position.The top & btm are cut at an angle of 1" to the foot,parallel.There is a reason for this.When cut as above this creates a short diagonal.The back cut at the top faces aft & the back cut at the btm faces fwd.These shores are mounted on a 4" thick 12"wide 18"long piece of oak called a showl.3"wide ash wedges are placed between the shores & the showls & driven up hard.About one week before the launch the launch ways are positioned & the standing ways are fixed.At this point the sliding ways are about 6" below the boats btm.Wedges,3feet long,12"wide & at a rake of 3/4" to the foot are now rammed in between the boat's btm & the sliding ways,in line with the shores p&s.A battering ram made from ash,on rollers five feet above the ground is used for this job,four men ramming,two returning.Ramming till hard up.Both sides at the same time.This lifts the boat fractionally,easing the load on the shores & the caps.
The daggers,mech device between the standing ways & the sliding ways are engaged to hold the boat in place untill the lady "chucks the champers"
On the morning of the launch the cassoon is removed & the shipwrights start splitting out & knocking out shores in cinque.Starting aft the shores are knocked out by hitting the showls on the fwd side & knocking them aft to engage the short diagonal,the splitters are on the same frm.
They are using 11/2"dia x 2 foot long flattened wedges,very sharp.All the time the tide is making its way up the slip.Picture the scene,in the semi darkness,mauls swinging,splinters flying,wedges coming out,12"dia shores coming out like skittles.
It's no wonder there was an ambulance on each side of the boat.
Every piece of timber used to get the boat into the water is marked with a unique # & is accountable.If these are not found then a diver is called in.The boat does not go to drydock untill they are found.
This is just a summary of a typical launch.
regards.
dw.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,609
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Easley South Carolina
>>There is no OOPS! button.<<

Actually, I was thinking that for a messed up launch at least, there are two "OOPS" buttons. One called a letter of resignation which one uses to avoid the second OOPS button, that button being the indignity of the boss howling YOU'RE FIRED!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyone who thinks a launch can't get screwed up, just think of the Great Eastern where the thing moved part way and thereafter, couldn't be budged. That dog and pony show was the final straw that bankrupted the original owners. Wanna top that one? Try the Principessa Jolanda fiasco where the thing went in, rolled over onto her port side and sank on the spot.
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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"The btm of the keel blks was cut at the same bevel as the declivity,to make the ones on top plumb."

I'm puzzled. Surely this would make the upper plane of each stack horizontal and your ship would shear like a loaf of bread...

Noel
 

david wilson

Member
Feb 17, 2004
210
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Noel,maybe I didn't make myself clear.The btm of the btm blk was cut to the declivity & the top of the cap also.Making them parallel.All of the blks were spiked together.If you were to sight from the top of the fwd cap blk to the top of the aft cap blk you would have a line parallel to the concrete slipway.
regards.
dw.
 

david wilson

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Feb 17, 2004
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Regarding an OOPS,harlands did have a drama.HMS formidable,h&w # 1007 in 1940, an illustrious class carrier,launched herself a few minutes before time.Unfortunately there was a fatality.She served in the med during ww2.
regards.
dw.
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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David, I'm still puzzled. If top and bottom planes were parallel why the need to cut the top and bottom blocks at all; couldn't they just be stacked up on the slip as is?

(Of course I meant to say 'loaf of sliced bread'.)

Noel
 

david wilson

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Feb 17, 2004
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Noel,I asked exactly the same question ,once, & was told "THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE SON"!!!I believe there is the possibility of them falling over.Like a brick wall being built across a hill,the footings have to be level.I guess it's custom & practice,a severe case of "shut up & do as you're told".I left it there.
regards.
dw.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,609
645
483
Easley South Carolina
>>Noel,I asked exactly the same question ,once, & was told "THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE SON"!!!<<

Ahhhh...that old catch-all. One that's gauranteed to stop a conversation real quick. Especially when the one using that comeback has no idea why things are really done as they are.
wink.gif


>>Michael,I'm afraid that's all the info I've got,sorry.<<

No big deal. I'll bet the local press had some fun with it!
 

david wilson

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Feb 17, 2004
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The hydraulic riveter(hr) has been mentioned several times on this board.Not to be confused with the high bollock riveter,I never met him ,but I am told he was rather tall!!!.
Back to the subject.As one can imagine,all the squads had their own area in the platers (shipsfitters) shed.The frm squads area was just inside the shed from slips #2 & #3,olympics & titanics respectfully.It was in this area,back in 1958 that I seen one of these contraptions in use.They had a station set up to rivet reverse bars (3"x3"x1/2"angle) to all the frms.This practise allowed for a double row of rivets in way of the frms, instead of the usual single.Did titanic have this?The hr was well suited for this job.For anyone not familiar with the hr,it was similiar in shape to the old fashioned horseshoe red & silver magnet except that it was a solid casting, 4'long x 2'high x 6" thick.The top flange at the narrow end held a water driven piston & the btm flg held the dolly fashioned in the shape of the rivet head.By pulling a lever the piston squeezed the white hot end of the rivet to the riveters desire.The frm squad fitted all the angle chokes(3"x3"x1/2"angle)to all of the floors & the hr fixed them.Chokes were used throughout the double btm for joining the floors to btm shell,tank top,centre girder,fore & aft diaphragms & the margins.
I would say its use was limited.Because of its depth it could only cover a half plt,so we would have to fit every second strake,for access.This would involve fixing all the inboard first then turn 180 degrees & fix the outboard.I am refering to the btm shell & the tank top at this stage.I suppose all the plating could've been done in this fashion.Before my time!!!.This is how I would do it.We could then lift templates of all the big holes that are left & fill them in & rivet them manually.
I am looking at a photo in a magazine
"australian ships & ports".It shows men building,in 1918 at the cockatoo naval yard,a ship with a double btm.All the floors are fitted,along with the diaphragms & the margins.Some deep web frms are up with longitudinal stiffening at the shell.The author tells us they are using the "isherwood system" introduced about 1908.There are quite a few heater boy's fires in view but not one hr.
regards.
dw.
 

Paul Rogers

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Nov 30, 2000
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If I recall correctly, the "Isherwood" system provided massive longitudinal strength, useful in such craft as icebreakers. I seem to recall the Storstad was built this way, which was one reason why she punched so deep into Empress of Ireland when the former T-boned the latter; like a knife through ribs.

David: do you know why the "Isherwood" system was not widely used in ships? Or was it, and am I simply mistaken? (Won't be the first time!)
 

david wilson

Member
Feb 17, 2004
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Michael,regretably,no.At that period in time I was defending the "EMPIRE"& was more concerned with saving one's royal irish arse!!!
I did serve the early part of my time on two boats built on the arrols.The William wheelwright& the Edward stevinson,both tankers.Yard #'s 1574-75 resp.This was 1960-61.
Another famous boat by h&w was built on olympic's slip in 1955 & that was "southern cross".I was at the launch as a 13yr old school
boy.A very famous american world heavyweight champion boxer was there also & I had the privilage of shaking his hand,it was the size of a 6" vice.His name was Gene Tunney.He made the statement "that's the hand that shook the man (the manassa mauler)that shook the world).Well I shook that hand in belfast,of all places.
HMQE2 threw the bottle.
If you are really interested in the boats that h&w built then I suggest you email Charles McConnell at charles@carrick4.freeserve.co.uk.This gentleman has produced a magazine titled "THE SHIPS OF HARLAND & WOLFF"They are all there.
regards.
dw.
 

david wilson

Member
Feb 17, 2004
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Paul,the "isherwood system"was mostly used in the construction of oil tankers & obo's.I'm not qualified to comment on the strength thereof.
regards.
dw.
 

Noel F. Jones

Member
May 14, 2002
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The Isherwood system dates from 1908.

The destroyer HMS Ardent was built in 1913 with a modification of the Isherwood system. The builders, Denny of Dumbarton, recommended it for fine hulls which could be subjected to excessive pounding in service. The Denny modification had a potential for saving on scantlings but the Admiralty declined this element of benefit because the vessel was deemed experimental.

Although intended as the prototype of a 'class' no more such were ordered and the Admiralty eschewed Isherwood thereafter until the J and K class were ordered in 1939. Apparently they had then to persuade other shipbuilders to adopt the 'new' system!

Noel
 

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