Titanic's Welded Hull


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Alyson Jones

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It's the $64 dollar question here!

The outcome Better Or Worst?

Would the outcome be totally different IF Titanic's hull was WELDED? Better or for Worst?
 
May 1, 2010
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I see that this was posted here over a year ago, but I'll probably be late for my own funeral.
I'm not sure I can completely agree with that. Welded seams on a ship have the plates butted up to each other, as opposed to riveted plates overlapping each other. Welded seams, (at least in modern times) are stronger than the plates themselves. The damage sustained by the collision with the berg popped rivets, and if the plates were welded, the first damage would have been the steel itself, which would have to be torn open, Which would have happened... but to what extent? Wouldn't that take more force to open up the hull enough to doom the ship? And by having the hull "smoother " with butted seams have changed the dynamics of the collision?
Food for thought. Michael S, I'm sure you're gonna be all over me on this one.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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The seams may have been stronger but the surrounding steel plate was not. In some respects, it might have made matters a bit worse since this is an area where brittle steel could potentially come home to bite. With a riveted plate, the damage goes no further then the affected plate, so brittle steel is not an issue. However with a welded plate, a crack can appear and spread with lightning speed, and that makes it an issue.

Keep in mind that the berg didn't just pop some rivets either. It made some holes in the hull by way of buckled and broken plates and over a third of the ship's length. In this sense, it makes little difference how the holes are made. What's at issue is where they are punched through. The five or more compartments laid open to the sea was non-survivable.
 

Adam Went

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A better question might be how much stronger the hull would have been had it not been weakened and made brittle by the fire that had been burning in that coal bunker for almost the entire voyage....

Weld is not necessarily stronger all the time. I've seen many objects that have been welded together (using modern welding equipment) which has snapped off after a certain amount of use. I'm not sure how far advanced welding equipment was in the early 1900's, but I imagine a welded hull also would have been more difficult to repair should minor problems occur than one with a riveted hull....

You can liken brittle steel to a chipped windscreen on a car. You might think that it's just a chip, but a sudden change in temperature and/or a sudden jolt can crack the entire length of the windscreen - same thing with a ship's hull, although obviously in much larger scale.

Having said all of that, I am inclined to side with Steven on this one.....
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>Keep in mind that the berg didn't just pop some rivets either. It made some holes in the hull by way of buckled and broken plates and over a third of the ship's length.<<

Where is the evidence of broken plates? The forensic data only shows openings across riveted seams.

>>how much stronger the hull would have been had it not been weakened and made brittle by the fire that had been burning in that coal bunker <<

Forensic investigation has shown that the fire in the bunker would not have weakened or made the steel brittle .
 
May 1, 2010
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So Michael, I don't necessarily disagree, and it sounds like you are, in a way, equating the behavior of the steel acting not unlike the "crumple zones" that my very reliable Volvo possesses. Are you suggesting that by having the rivets "shear off" the ship absorbed more energy (at least more localized energy) than if they didn't? and if the steel itself had given way and more damage would ensue? I would submit that if this were the case, the collision would been felt much harder by all aboard.
Unfortunately, this was a ship on the ocean requiring a watertight hull, and not a car.
 

Adam Went

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I'm afraid I don't buy that. I've watched documentaries on the Titanic before where they have tested sections of the ships hull and discovered that the steel had been made brittle in some areas, and this could be blamed by the fire. It's inconceivable that a fire of that length and the huge temperature it would have been would have had no effect at all on the hull of the ship, especially when it was being burnt on one side and ice cold from the water on the other. Common sense tells you that is not a good combination.
 
May 1, 2010
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>>Common sense tells you that is not a good combination.<<
I'll tell you a very short story...
My trade for 30 years has been in plumbing and heating. Hydronic heating, to be specific. The use of hot water or steam for space heating. At a very old building in San Diego, the apartment "super" decided to "dump" the entire steam heating system's water through the drain valve and fill'er back up to flush out the system. Well, that in itself wasn't really such a bad idea, except that the system was completely up to temperature. (HOT!) when he opened the fill valve and added new water (around 55-60 degrees) into the boiler, he cracked one of the cast-iron sections. The boiler was the size of a Volkswagen Bus, and we had to disassemble the thing, and replace the section.(a 400 lb hunk of cast-iron) Had to come from the East Coast, and was a $3000.00+ mistake. He's lucky he only cracked one.
Job security for me, but we cussed like longshoremen until the job was done. story over.
My point is, if he would have let the thing cool down, no problem there. Even if there were a fire in the bunker, the fact that the plating was immersed in water would have kept similar molecular changes from occurring. Get the plating hot, and THEN immerse in cold water, different story altogether.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Are you suggesting that by having the rivets "shear off" the ship absorbed more energy (at least more localized energy) than if they didn't?<<

Not at all. She may have but that's not really what I'm driving at. Replace rivets with welding and all you manage to do is trade one form of through hull damage for another. If you have five or more compartments open to the sea, you're still turning a liner into the world's largest submarine.

In a sense, I suppose it's a moot point since welding was an extremely immature technology at the time. While the advances were in the works to make it possible to replace riveting with welding for the structure, at the time in question, it was employed on the most limited scale.

>>I'm afraid I don't buy that. I've watched documentaries on the Titanic before where they have tested sections of the ships hull and discovered that the steel had been made brittle in some areas, and this could be blamed by the fire.<<

I've seen some of those documentaries as well and not one of them made any fuss about the bunker fire. The issue was the condition of the hull steel itself, none of which came from the area affected by the fire. No way it could have since the hull plating in that particular area is still attatched to the ship.

>>It's inconceivable that a fire of that length and the huge temperature it would have been would have had no effect at all on the hull of the ship, especially when it was being burnt on one side and ice cold from the water on the other. Common sense tells you that is not a good combination.<<

Appeals to so-called "Common Sense" is not science. You need to take a look at what actually happened, and all the witness statements to the effect point to an extremely localized fire. In point of fact, it was a smouldering bed of coal and on coal fired ships, this occurance was not quite as rare as the black gangs wished it was.

It was dealt with in the usual fashion by way of shoveling coal to the furnaces as needed and put out as soon as it was reached. It was an annoyance but not that big a deal.

It did have some effect on the bulkhead but there is no evidence whatever that it had any effect on the hull.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Adam, my friend. You are a Jack the Ripper expert. Your article was excellent. So, I will put this in a JTR context.

Yes, there was a brittle steel Titanic documentary. But, there have also been pro-Maybrick, pro- Sickert et al, documentaries in the JTR world, which COULD be very convincing to someone who hasnt studied up on the case. Just because it is well done, and on TV, does not mean that it can be relied on.

In the only other case I know of, of a large liner striking an iceberg and sinking 1900-1912, the Canadian Pacific liner Islander sank in about 45 minutes after colliding with ice in Alaskan waters. She was traveling at half the Titanic's speed, yet received massive damage~ considerably worse that 12 square feet.

My problem with the brittle steel theory :if the ship WAS structurally compromised, would not the damage have been more akin to the shattering encountered by the Islander, and not a series of sprung seams and punctures? To me, and I'm not a takkie by any means, the limited (but still fatal) extent of the damage would indicate a structurally sound ship striking a hard object at high speed.
 

Adam Went

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Steven:

Yes, it would suck to be the bloke who caused all of that damage....and while I do understand your point and what you're trying to get at, there is quite a big difference between that, and the side of the Titanic's hull which was subject to the heat from the fire for a matter of days - so it was a constant heat, not just something which was started and was then quickly extinguished.

Michael:

The documentary does go back a while. I couldn't tell you what it's called now but I do recall that it was available on VHS, so that gives you an idea of the time it was around.

However, it definitely did have mention of the smouldering fire in connection with the brittle steel from the hull.....

Jim:

Thanks for the comments.
The thing with the hull is that it would have maintained a warm temperature during the time the fire was burning, and that was for some time, and then when it was extinguished, it would have been cooled down again - a lot quicker than it was heated up. Anyone, anywhere, can tell you, and probably from experience before as I mentioned with the car windscreen comparison, that sudden changes in temperature or changes after an extended period of one particular temperature, can cause cracking or weakening in the material. All it needs is a trigger - in the Titanic's case, the iceberg.

What could ultimately solve the question is if tests were done on the steel from the area the fire was burning, and then compared to a sample from the exact opposite side of the ship, to see what, if any differences there are. Until something like that is done, it all just has to remain conjecture unfortunately.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>However, it definitely did have mention of the smouldering fire in connection with the brittle steel from the hull..... <<

I'm sure some of them have but what of it? There are a lot of "documentaries" out there which do a wonderful job of conflating and confusing seperate issues. The people who take part in it may be doing their best but the end result is still at the mercy of editors who have ratings as their top priority.

The fact of the matter is that the bunker fire effected an extremely localized area by way of the bunker itself. If it had been a raging conflagration, admittedly, that would change things.

It wasn't.
 

Adam Went

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I'm afraid I don't quite understand how saying the Titanic had brittle steel would increase ratings at all....especially since this was a VHS documentary which could and should have been edited in the meantime if that was the case....what of it? People with degrees in the field of this kind of study have tested the material, that's what of it.

I am not a scientist. Science has always been one of my worst subjects and I don't claim to be an expert. I am simply expressing an opinion based on what I've seen and heard, combined with my own personal logic, and it's as simple as that.

Anyway, the legendary band that is Starship seems to agree....remember the lyrics to their song "Sarah"...."With fire and ice, the dream won't come true..."
Who are we to argue with a band like Starship, eh? ;-)
 

Jim Kalafus

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Just thinking aloud here.

Unless one knew that the steel tested came from the impact area (Did it? I dont know) the entire test becomes questionable. Because, one would imagine, that if the steel fragment tested came from a shattered section of hull 300 feet aft of the fire, and if the fire generated enough heat to affect steel 300 feet aft of the burning area, then the same level of heat would have radiated upwards as well, and have been quite intolerable to those inside the hull.

Yet, no one seems to have commented on unusual warmth in the passenger quarters.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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The steel tested (for the fire) were coming from a part of a bulkhead from the "missing" section, were the ship break apart It was found in the debris field!

The "brittle" steel test was also coming from the debris field.
There were also made steel test from items which was a part of the "big piece" and has nothing to do with the area of the iceberg impact.
There has been written so much about brittle steel, fire and rivets and there is only half true in it. (Also all parts were not from the impact area.) One has to wonder that the wreck made it intact on the ocean floor and did not fell apart on impact!
 

Adam Went

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That's a good point Ioannis, given how much pressure there is down at those depths. And even more amazing that the ship is still in the condition it's in even almost a century later.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>People with degrees in the field of this kind of study have tested the material, that's what of it. <<

And a lot of these people and their views were misrepresented, some to very signifigent degress. Several...Tim Foecke for example...have said as much right on this forum. Documentaries may be nice but they need to be regarded with a grain, if not a boulder, of salt. When the people who actually did the homework state publicly that much of what they said has been used out of context, I tend to take that seriously.

>>Who are we to argue with a band like Starship, eh? ;-)<<

(Shrug) Pop/rock bands don't do forensic metal analysis work.

>>The steel tested (for the fire) were coming from a part of a bulkhead from the "missing" section, were the ship break apart It was found in the debris field! <<

And these samples were not from locations which were anywhere near the fire. That makes them, as Jim pointed out, entirely worthless for any such analysis. What's needed is steel from the affected bulkhead itself as well as any hull metal in the immidiate area.
 

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