Truthfully what were the Titanic's final moments like


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I’ve always wondered how the Titanic truthfully did sink in her final moments. When I read accounts by survivors about the Titanic’s sinking just as it gets to the interesting final moments they always seem to be brief in description without much detail. Maybe this is because they were some distance away and could not fully see what was going on. …

Which survivor would you say gave the most detailed account Titanic’s final moments ? I understand the lights blinked & went out and it felt like an elevator etc. But I wonder if it was spectacular as Cameron’s film? I assume the Titanic’s final moments might not have been quite so spectacular. Did the stern stand up in the air completely vertical or rather more at angel?
 
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Mike Anderson

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I can't really speak about the last moments of the ship as others can, but I have a few observations.

In several survivor accounts (I'll try and find specific references) the stern is described as rolling over to, I believe, port right after the breakup. I don't think I've heard those claims addressed in either books or this board. I can't imagine what would cause this to happen, so it may be that these claims have been debunked.

On a side note, how much of the ship do you think was above water after the breakup and subsequent rise of the stern? I'd think the entire area aft of the lounge to the end of the boat deck would have have lost structural integrity (disintegrated, even), being open to the sea. I'd imagine that when (if?) the stern went near-vertical, only areas aft of the cargo hatches were dry, given the weight of the bow tugging down and the limited flotation the stern retained. Of course, I'm no scientist, but I can't believe that the entire section of ship aft of the foreward 2nd Class Entrance stood on end above the water.

On a side note, the theory that the angle of the stern before the breakup never exceeded 15 or so degrees makes sense to me. A bottom-up split also seems to make the most sense.
 

Paul Lee

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On a side note, I think it was Edward Wilding at the BoT inquiry who stated that the Titanic couldn't have exceeded some angle (and I forget what it was! - about 25 degrees?) otherwise the boilers would have left their beds and cascaded through the hull.
After the break-up, I think the ship did achieve the perpendicular.

Best wishes

Paul

 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>In several survivor accounts (I'll try and find specific references) the stern is described as rolling over to, I believe, port right after the breakup. I don't think I've heard those claims addressed in either books or this board.<<

I think a gentleman by the name of Quinn mentions this in Titanic at 2 am.

>>I can't imagine what would cause this to happen, so it may be that these claims have been debunked.<<

In a few words...instablity caused by any number of factors including the centre of gravity being out of whack, random flooding, etc. None of which can be proven or disproven conclusively. IIRC, some of the witnesses spoke to this at the Senate Inquiry.
 
Mar 18, 2000
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Joughin is one of those who speaks of this roll to port.

For those who do not have a copy, Paul Quinn's "Titanic at 2 am" is well worth it. Using a lot of the Inquiry testimony, Paul describes the last 20 minutes of the sinking. Included are many paintings done by Paul himself. Paul is not a 'photo-realistic' painter, but I still like his work.
 
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Do these paintings show how the Titanic sank in the last 20 minutes ? Or are they just pictures of the Titanic ?

I wonder if the computer graphics at the start of Camerons Titanic showing the way she went down is truthful ?
 
Jul 11, 2001
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Hello Miles,

I think Camerons depiction of the sinking is very accurate. He went to great lengths studying witness testimonies and biographys. He also enlisted two of the top foremost Titanic Historians for technical accuracy. I have an interview that James Cameron did for the Titanic Historical Society that I could snail-mail to you if you want.

David
 
Mar 18, 2000
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Miles:

Yes, Paul's paintings show what he believed happened in the last 20 minutes.

For example - there is one of Steward Ray (I think) looking down the starboard companionway on D Deck, and you can see water advancing toward Ray.

There is another of people racing away from the water coming down the boat deck.

More than just these two, too.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I think Camerons depiction of the sinking is very accurate.<<

In spirit, I'd agree. The sinking was far from being a sedate event where the band played "Nearer My God To Thee" while a 1500 strong choir group sang calmly as the stern slipped under. It was a violent event that included a catastrophic break up just befor what was left of the ship plunged to the bottom. One where the only thing the terrified "choir" did was scream for help while the stern section suffered multiple implosions and other insults which left it plunging to the bottom in a shower of steel.

The forensics however may well be a different story, so I'd treat that with some caution. In fairness to Jim Cameron, the portrayal of the sinking was pretty much what was thought to have happened in 1996/97 as the film was being made.
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Bill and others surely know more on this, but it seems pretty clear to me from survivor accounts that, whether or not Titanic upended as dramatically as is depicted in the '97 film, she surely stood on end to an appreciable degree. It also seems sure that she broke at the surface (or began to) for witnesses describe her dropping back or "righting" herself, etc.

One thing that I think is accepted (yet is seldom referred to) is that, during the final moments, the stern rotated (as in the Jack Thayer drawings) over the area vacated by the detached bow.

I think all this dropping back and shifting about during the catastrophic break up is why so many survivor accounts differ in their overall perspective. It was dark and survivors were observing the ship from such a wide range of vantage points, and then with the ship popping around as she did, it was difficult to know exactly what was going on.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>One thing that I think is accepted (yet is seldom referred to) is that, during the final moments, the stern rotated (as in the Jack Thayer drawings) over the area vacated by the detached bow.<<

And the fact that the stern faces in the opposite direction of the bow would tend to support that. I think it helps to know here that the question is one of stablity, all of which had gone strieght to hell as spaces flooded randomly and unpredictably. Frankly, I'm amazed that the stern section didn't appear to roll over onto it's side.
 
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Well that answers the question. Thanks. Although Cameron’s sinking scenes seem to be correct - I can't imagine the survivors got such an eye full. I read recently that Titanic sank very quickly after the last lifeboat was launched ? Something like 15 or so minutes. Would you also not agree over 2 hours is a very long time for a ship to sink.
 
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Miles, The fact it took over two hours to sink is just about what Thomas Andrews predicted. I think he would have been shocked to see the Brittanic sink even quicker with even more safety features.

As you noted about the ship sinking with the last boats leaving, it make you wonder what good having twice as many lifeboats would have made. Would half of them been dragged to the bottom with the ship?

David
 
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One part of Cameron's sinking scenes that was NOT correct, was having the stern SLAM back down into the ocean after it broke free from the bow section. There is no evidence that I am aware of that it came down with such force, just that it slowly settled back.

I am fairly sure that Cameron did this deliberately - as it is far more dramatic to have it slamming back than settling slowly.
 
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Did some passengers think they were saved when it did settle back ?
 

Paul Lee

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I think Cameron put it in because, with the stern so high out of the water, it should have created a big splash.

Paul

 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I can't imagine the survivors got such an eye full.<<

Well as portrayed in the film, they certainly didn't. The reason being that it was darker then the inside of a coal sack at midnight with a blindfold on. That's just how it is at sea at night. The only sources of light would have been the stars and Titanic's own lights. Once the latter went out, those trapped on the ship, and those watching from the safety of the boats would have seen little but shadows in the night.

It would seem that the last lifeboat which was successfully launched was collapsible D on or around 2:05am (See Bill Wormstedt's Website for a quick reference on that) with the last two collapsibles...A and B...floating off as the ship plunged.

>>Would you also not agree over 2 hours is a very long time for a ship to sink.<<

Depends on the nature of the casualty. Compared to some, it is, and that much at least gave the crew time to work things out and get some people off.

>>As you noted about the ship sinking with the last boats leaving, it make you wonder what good having twice as many lifeboats would have made. Would half of them been dragged to the bottom with the ship? <<

Very probably, David, but in fairness, this falls into the realm of the unknowable. I think what it would have done is give the officers an incentive to load every one of them to full capacity. IMO, that they got away the ones that they did without losing anybody in the time they had was no small achievement in it's own right, but when you get down to it, they really needed more time then they had.

>>Did some passengers think they were saved when it did settle back ?<<

Miles, I wish I could answer that one, but unfortunately, most of the people who could speak to that ultimately froze to death in the ocean. The survivors who rode the ship down and who were eventually picked up or made it to a boat were very few in number. As far as I know, they never spoke to that one at all.
 
May 1, 2004
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Pacifique du Nord
I've seen the header to this thread for days and thought and thought and thought about responding with a post w/o flaming....

If you remember, in Cameron's "Titanic", there's a short clip of a passenger on the poop deck who who loses his footing and falls vertically, colliding w/a capstan on his way down.

Anybody who even imagines or WANTS to imagine what it was like to be aboard The Titanic after the lifeboats had gone, knowing their fate, and dying in the freezing water...

It's too, too, horrible, too inhumane to imagine. Thank God none of us were there (those of us who don't remember it, that is.... but that can wait for a discourse over and few thousand pints of good English Ale sometime) to feel, hear and have it imbedded in our collective conciousness. How horrific, how unimaginably unbelieveable.
 
Jul 7, 2002
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Miles,

In A Night to Remember Walter Lord mentions the stern rotating as it sank and describes Baker Joughin walking up the side of the ship to reach the stern. Once there, he rode the rail down and allegedly stepped off into the water without getting his hair wet. (If you look closely at Cameron's Titanic you can see him on the stern next to Jack and Rose.)

>>Did some passengers think they were saved when it did settle back ?

I agree with Mike that we can never know the answer for sure, but that's a reasonable assumption. You might want to take a look at Roy Mengot's web site for a model of the wreck and a well-researched theory of the sinking and break up.

Best wishes,

Cathy
 
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