Titanic's stern did not implode.

Arun Vajpey

Member
The one thing I want to ask about Pitman's testimony quoted above is - how far was his Lifeboat #5, launched at about 12:47 am, from the Titanic during the latter's final plunge? If it was fairly far away, could the Third Officer have heard "explosions" from below the surface?

Also, by statements of several survivors, the loudest sound soon after the Titanic sank was the collective screams of a thousand or so life-jacketed people struggling in the water. I know that several survivors reported loud explosions during the final plunge of the Titanic but how many of them reported hearing them after the stern disappeared below the surface? Most lifeboats at the time were probably closer to the spot than Lifeboat #5.
 
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Also, by statements of several survivors, the loudest sound soon after the Titanic sank was the collective screams of a thousand or so life-jacketed people struggling in the water. I know that several survivors reported loud explosions during the final plunge of the Titanic but how many of them reported hearing them after the stern disappeared below the surface? Most lifeboats at the time were probably closer to the spot than Lifeboat #5.
Pitman was close enough to know the exact time she went under, as he checked his watch and saw it was 2:20am.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Pitman was close enough to know the exact time she went under, as he checked his watch and saw it was 2:20am.
Perhaps. But we must take into consideration that Lifeboat #5 could have been some distance away from the Titanic during the final plunge. Also, the lights failed, plunging the ship into darkness at around 02:17 am, after which the break-up occurred and the bow and then the stern sank, perhaps over the next 3 to 4 minutes. I wonder how well Pitman could see all that from his vantage point; please note that I am not disputing his claim but just wondering.
 
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Senator FLETCHER.
After the bow of the Titanic went down, you heard these explosions?

Mr. PITMAN.
No; I did not hear them until the ship had disappeared altogether.

Senator FLETCHER.
After the bow of the Titanic went down, she assumed an almost upright position?

Mr. PITMAN.
Yes, sir.

Senator FLETCHER.
How long after getting into that position was it before she disappeared entirely?

Mr. PITMAN.
I think it must have been a question of seconds.

Senator FLETCHER.
And then came the explosions?

Mr. PITMAN.
Then came the explosions.
Thanks!
 

Jim Currie

Member
Perhaps. But we must take into consideration that Lifeboat #5 could have been some distance away from the Titanic during the final plunge. Also, the lights failed, plunging the ship into darkness at around 02:17 am, after which the break-up occurred and the bow and then the stern sank, perhaps over the next 3 to 4 minutes. I wonder how well Pitman could see all that from his vantage point; please note that I am not disputing his claim but just wondering.
Stewardess Annie Roberston also checked the time and it wa 1-40 am on her watch which would have been 2-27 on an unaltered one.
 
Pitman was close enough to know the exact time she went under, as he checked his watch and saw it was 2:20am.
The problem I find is that most people take what somebody said to be the absolute truth. But eyewitness accounts have proven to be not very reliable, especially when it comes to the sequencing of events or subject estimates of distances and time intervals. In the case of Pitman:

Senator SMITH. Describe, if you can, how she sank?
Mr. PITMAN. Judging by what I could see from a distance, she gradually disappeared until the forecastle head was submerged to the bridge. Then she turned right on end and went down perpendicularly.
Senator SMITH. At about what angle?
Mr. PITMAN. She went straight.
Senator SMITH. Right straight down?
Mr. PITMAN. Absolutely. That was the last I saw of her.
Senator SMITH. Did she seem to be broken in two.
Mr. PITMAN. Oh, no.

Senator SMITH. Or was she entirely intact? Did you hear any explosions?
Mr. PITMAN. Yes; four reports.
Senator SMITH. What kind of reports?
Mr. PITMAN. They sounded like the reports of a big gun in the distance.
Senator SMITH. What did you assume they were?
Mr. PITMAN. I assumed it was bulkheads going, myself.
Senator SMITH. Did you hear anything like boiler explosions?
Mr. PITMAN. Yes; I heard a lot of people say that; but I have my doubts about that. I do not see why the boilers should burst because there was no steam there. They should have been stopped about two hours and a half. The fires had not been fed, so there was very little steam there.
Senator SMITH. Are we to understand that you do not believe that boilers exploded?
Mr. PITMAN. I do not believe it.
Senator SMITH. And from the distance you were from the ship, you would have known it if that had occurred?
Mr. PITMAN. I think so.

Others reported hearing sharp explosions before going under.

L/O Symons: "I stood and watched it till I heard two sharp explosions in the ship. What they were I could not say. Then she suddenly took a top cant, her stern came well out of the water then...You know what I mean to say, she took a heavy cant and her bow went down clear...Head down, and that is the time when I saw her lights go out, all her lights. The next thing I saw was her poop. As she went down like that so her poop righted itself and I thought to myself, 'The poop is going to float.' It could not have been more than two or three minutes after that that her poop went up as straight as anything; there was a sound like steady thunder as you hear on an ordinary night at a distance, and soon she disappeared from view."
 
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Incony

Member
the prop tubes in the stern were encased in at least a semi watertight casing with an access escape hatch into the the generator room... a lower and an upper escape hatch on the bulkhead.. with the stern going upright and that part of the stern still relatively undamaged it is one of the few places left that air could be trapped,. however no one mentions that explosive sounds came after the stern disappeared, but it is possible that water pressure would cause some part of that casing to give way, and the trapped air would make low frequency booming noise if it escaped suddenly through prop shaft frame failure.. its unlikely because the prop shafts had already been pulled apart in the stern fracture, and so seals designed to keep water out of the prop shaft encasing frame, are likely to have already been able to let air out, and it is possible the whole frame was no longer air tight, and so there was no air in there very soon after the stern disappeared... it is conjecture as to what caused any loud noises after the break up.. but low frequency noises in water travel a long way... whales rely on such methods of transmission over great distance in water.. Even if folks heard, or did not hear any loud booms it is quite likely there were many, as metal fractures occurred and moved the water around them suddenly - and caused sound waves in the water,,it is a very good transmitter of sound.. we know much more about sound transmission now technology gives us that knowledge not available or uncertain in 1912.. my premise is that there were such booms.. but just because those who survived, did not hear them.. does not mean there were not any.. science is never certain nor final.. how many times does one hear a sound, and say " did you hear that?" and the person standing next to you says " no i heard nothing... what did you hear ? " :) as a lifting engineer, ive tested all kinds of lifting chains, and lifting rope and bolt joined metal parts to destruction by pulling force, and noise at the point of failure is very very loud, and sudden... and often explosive in consequence, with fragments flying everywhere... broken cables recoil like springs with enough force to cut a person in half,. when one considers all the things that could snap, fracture and be pulled apart and vent air suddenly, it was a noisy time when the titanic sank.
 
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Jim Currie

Member
the prop tubes in the stern were encased in at least a semi watertight casing with an access escape hatch into the the generator room... a lower and an upper escape hatch on the bulkhead.. with the stern going upright and that part of the stern still relatively undamaged it is one of the few places left that air could be trapped,. however no one mentions that explosive sounds came after the stern disappeared, but it is possible that water pressure would cause some part of that casing to give way, and the trapped air would make low frequency booming noise if it escaped suddenly through prop shaft frame failure.. its unlikely because the prop shafts had already been pulled apart in the stern fracture, and so seals designed to keep water out of the prop shaft encasing frame, are likely to have already been able to let air out, and it is possible the whole frame was no longer air tight, and so there was no air in there very soon after the stern disappeared... it is conjecture as to what caused any loud noises after the break up.. but low frequency noises in water travel a long way... whales rely on such methods of transmission over great distance in water.. Even if folks heard, or did not hear any loud booms it is quite likely there were many, as metal fractures occurred and moved the water around them suddenly - and caused sound waves in the water,,it is a very good transmitter of sound.. we know much more about sound transmission now technology gives us that knowledge not available or uncertain in 1912.. my premise is that there were such booms.. but just because those who survived, did not hear them.. does not mean there were not any.. science is never certain nor final.. how many times does one hear a sound, and say " did you hear that?" and the person standing next to you says " no i heard nothing... what did you hear ? " :) as a lifting engineer, ive tested all kinds of lifting chains, and lifting rope and bolt joined metal parts to destruction by pulling force, and noise at the point of failure is very very loud, and sudden... and often explosive in consequence, with fragments flying everywhere... broken cables recoil like springs with enough force to cut a person in half,. when one considers all the things that could snap, fracture and be pulled apart and vent air suddenly, it was a noisy time when the titanic sank.
The tail shafts were the only parts enclosed. They ran inside stern tubes which were lined with Lignum vitae strips for lubricarion. The rest of the shaft tunnel was open at the engine room end because the WT doors were raised. There was no trapped air in there.
 
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The problem I find is that most people take what somebody said to be the absolute truth. But eyewitness accounts have proven to be not very reliable, especially when it comes to the sequencing of events or subject estimates of distances and time intervals. In the case of Pitman:

Senator SMITH. Describe, if you can, how she sank?
Mr. PITMAN. Judging by what I could see from a distance, she gradually disappeared until the forecastle head was submerged to the bridge. Then she turned right on end and went down perpendicularly.
Senator SMITH. At about what angle?
Mr. PITMAN. She went straight.
Senator SMITH. Right straight down?
Mr. PITMAN. Absolutely. That was the last I saw of her.
Senator SMITH. Did she seem to be broken in two.
Mr. PITMAN. Oh, no.

Senator SMITH. Or was she entirely intact? Did you hear any explosions?
Mr. PITMAN. Yes; four reports.
Senator SMITH. What kind of reports?
Mr. PITMAN. They sounded like the reports of a big gun in the distance.
Senator SMITH. What did you assume they were?
Mr. PITMAN. I assumed it was bulkheads going, myself.
Senator SMITH. Did you hear anything like boiler explosions?
Mr. PITMAN. Yes; I heard a lot of people say that; but I have my doubts about that. I do not see why the boilers should burst because there was no steam there. They should have been stopped about two hours and a half. The fires had not been fed, so there was very little steam there.
Senator SMITH. Are we to understand that you do not believe that boilers exploded?
Mr. PITMAN. I do not believe it.
Senator SMITH. And from the distance you were from the ship, you would have known it if that had occurred?
Mr. PITMAN. I think so.

Others reported hearing sharp explosions before going under.

L/O Symons: "I stood and watched it till I heard two sharp explosions in the ship. What they were I could not say. Then she suddenly took a top cant, her stern came well out of the water then...You know what I mean to say, she took a heavy cant and her bow went down clear...Head down, and that is the time when I saw her lights go out, all her lights. The next thing I saw was her poop. As she went down like that so her poop righted itself and I thought to myself, 'The poop is going to float.' It could not have been more than two or three minutes after that that her poop went up as straight as anything; there was a sound like steady thunder as you hear on an ordinary night at a distance, and soon she disappeared from view."
Hi Sam,

Good point, but does that mean that every other eyewitness account is false? Lightoller said she didn't break in two, nor did a lot of Seamen and Crew. Wasn't there a theory that they didn't say the ship broke in two to try and save White Star more bad press? I'd say sometimes some don't give the survivors enough credit (not you specifically!).

Pitman also clearly described, and clarified, that the booms came after the ship disappeared. Loud BOOMS would certainly catch your attention. Without the ship's lights, the surrounding area became extremely dark. We know there were 4 loud booms, multiple people testified to that. But other survivors also testified to things some don't remember, like there being lights still burning in the aft most part of the ship (which is still debatable), or whether or not People were screaming.
 

Seumas

Member
Hi Sam,

Good point, but does that mean that every other eyewitness account is false? Lightoller said she didn't break in two, nor did a lot of Seamen and Crew. Wasn't there a theory that they didn't say the ship broke in two to try and save White Star more bad press? I'd say sometimes some don't give the survivors enough credit (not you specifically!).
Bill Wormstedt did a compilation of how many survivors described either a break up, a sinking in one piece or offered no description.

Crewmen who described the ship breaking apart outnumbered the three (Lightoller, Pitman and Dillon) who said it went down in one piece. Even more survivors were either unsure what they saw or did not go into much detail.

Full tables here - The Facts - What Did the Survivors
 
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We know there were 4 loud booms, multiple people testified to that.

Cam, I'm simply questioning when those "explosions" were actually heard. The correct sequencing of events is one of those memory details that has proved to be very fallible in eyewitness accounts, especially when a traumatic even happens.
 
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Arun Vajpey

Member
Even more survivors were either unsure what they saw or did not go into much detail.
Among them was QM Rowe, who was rescued on Collapsible C. That was launched around 01:58 am and Rowe felt that the boat was about "three-quarters of a mile away" when the Titanic went into her final plunge some 20 minutes later. He described hearing sounds like "distant thunder" but was uncertain if the ship had broken in two.
 

Incony

Member
There were a lot of lit oil lamps, so its probable that providing they could tilt as the stern sank, they would stay lit until water reached them.. so its likely there were still visible lights, right up until the stern went under., small though they were, they would be obvious because they were moving quite fast.. unlike the stars etc... humans are very good at detecting moving things, especially lights in the dark.. :) and yes i have no reason to believe there was air trapped in the very big prop tunnel ( over 12 high, it reached the height of the fresh water tanks, ) there were ladders for engineers to service the shafts.. but it was vented at the stern, and that is where air would escape as the stern went vertical..
 

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Arun Vajpey

Member
I was wondering about the actual nature of the sound that several people in lifeboats described as "explosions", probably for lack of a better word. QM Rowe's allusion to "rumbling like a distant thunder" might be an interesting analogy.

Before the break-up, the stern was high and dry - quite literally - and so all the empty spaces were full of air. With the break-up, spaces between the decks became almost completely exposed within a relatively short space of time and through those the sea would have rushed in. Although there must have been a few outlets through which the air could escape, the sheer speed and volume of the water inrush would have resulted in compression of that air. So, when that compressed air started to be forced out of smallish spaces higher up, that could have produced the rumbling "explosions" that the people in the lifeboats heard.

The fact the people like Lightoller who were relatively close to the Titanic during its final plunge did not see the break-up would mean that after the lights failed, those in lifeboats could not see the silhouette of the sinking ship very well. That would be especially true of those in earlier lifeboats which would be much further away, like #5 with Pitman in charge for example. He and some others who thought likewise might have been mistaken in believing that those sounds were coming from underwater while they were actually emanating from the still exposed part of the stern.
 
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