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Watertight Doors

Discussion in 'Collision / Sinking Theories' started by Sandy McLendon, May 3, 2012.

  1. This has intrigued me for a while -

    There is a theory that Titanic's "watertight" compartments were actually a liability under the circumstances arising from her collision with the iceberg. The theory is, compartmentalizing all the flood water at the bow pulled Titanic down at the head so fast and so much that she essentially pulled herself under. The theory further states that if there had been no compartments closed, and the ship could have flooded more evenly, she could have floated longer, possibly even long enough for most people aboard her to be saved (Carpathia arrived less than two hours after the final sinking). And while I've never read this, I have to wonder if a more even pattern of flooding might have greatly decreased stress on Titanic's hull, preventing some of the horrific deaths and injuries that resulted from changes in angle, the breakup, etc.

    I'd definitely be up for others who know more about this to share their opinions and knowledge here!
  2. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    According to survivor George Cavell the lights went out in the boiler room almost immediately after the collision. Does this mean the watertight doors were ordered to close when they lost power? When he was next asked if the doors had closed he answered - "I heard the bell go and I knew in a minute what it was for." Does this mean it was pitch black when the doors were closing? Could the ordering of all watertight doors to be closed simultaneously have blown a fuse in the electrics, plunging the boiler rooms into darkness? Would this cause some of the doors to jam or not close entirely?

    According to the deck plan there is a watertight door in the forward section of boiler room 6. If that had jammed slightly open, or if a wheelbarrow or a discarded shovel was preventing it from closing fully, would the water rush into the forward compartment?

    What I find curious is that George Beauchamp was in Boiler room 6 and he was asked:

    Q - Can you say which watertight doors they were? In which bulkhead they were?
    A - The watertight doors shut. There was only one in the section where I was. They all shut all through.

    Was he referring to the door that led into boiler room 5 or the one that led into the forward compartment? He did not see any water flooding boiler room 6 until a significant time had passed. Could the sea have flooded below the plates he was standing on and entered the open door leading forward (assuming it was jammed open or not closed entirely?)

    Q - How soon do you suppose after the order to “Stop” came from the bridge did the watertight doors close?
    A - In less than five minutes.

    Does this mean the doors did not close immediately or there had been a delay owing to an electrical fault? Assuming boiler room 6 was the first compartment to be damaged, would the delay cause an enormous volume of water to first enter boiler room 6 and instead of flooding that room it passed through the open door and entered the forward compartment?


    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017
  3. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Reading newspaper accounts. Does anyone know who the witnesses are in this article?


  4. Go to Titanic Inquiry Project website. You can go through the list of witnesses day-by-day. As I recall, the 30th of April was the 11th day of testimony.

    -- David G. Brown
  5. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    According to the Inquiry website none of the crew testified that day, only First class passengers, and Mr. Ismay, and none of them mentioned the watertight doors that day. Perhaps the article made a mistake and was referring to another day.

    Mr. Harder spoke on day 13 and said there was difficulty in closing the F-deck watertight door and how the men were trying to turn a bolt on the floor of E-deck near the elevator on the starboard side. He said:

    ".......When I went down into my stateroom in order to get the life belts, when we came out of the stateroom with the life belts I noticed about four or five men on this E-deck, and one of them had one of those T-handled wrenches, used to turn some kind of a nut or bolt, and two or three of the other men had wrenches with them - Stilson wrenches, or something like that. I did not take any particular notice, but I did notice this one man trying to turn this thing in the floor. There was a brass plate or something there......it was marked, "W. T.," and I do not know whether it was a "D" after that or something else. A few days before that, however, I noticed that brass plate, and, naturally, seeing the initials, "W. T.," I thought it meant water-tight doors, or compartments......On E-deck. It was on the starboard side of the boat, in the alleyway. I think this brass plate was situated between the stairs and the elevators. The stairs were right in front of the elevators, and right in between there, I think, was this brass plate. We heard one of these men with the wrenches say: "Well, it's no use. This one won't work. Let's try another one."

    At first I thought he was just suggesting they use another wrench, but perhaps he was implying they should abandon that door and try another one.

    Charles Joughin was on the port side on E-deck and witnessed men trying to close the watertight door on that deck not long before she sank.

    "The door was not closed, but just about that time I saw two men coming and they said they were going to close it, but I did not see it closed."

    Was there anything out of the ordinary with the doors on E-deck and F-deck? Were they jammed as the ship started to bend?

  6. Harland Duzen

    Harland Duzen Member

    Their was a story from Jack Thayer of a 1st Class cabin door being jammed shut and either Thayer or his friend had to break it down.

    It would be interesting if entire sections of Titanic's interior were smashed to pieces?
  7. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Tests have shown that the ship may have bent to a degree before she broke. Wonder if the bending throughout the ship caused doors to jam on various decks?


  8. Aaron, from what I know of newspaper operations in 1912, nothing got in the way of a good story. If the clipping has a datelne and directly states that crew members testified that day...yet the official record has no such testimony...I would put the clipp in the realm of fiction. If the key facts are wrong, why believe anything else?

    As far as the WT doors on E deck go, there were some problems reported. I've wondered about the quote you posted over the years. Even if one or more of those doors did not get closed, does that make a difference in the outcome?

    Ships do bend and the result can be sticking cabin and passage doors if precautions are not taken by the builders. In yachts it was formerly the custom until to do final adjustment of doors only after the hull was afloat for this reason.

    -- David G. Brown
  9. Harland Duzen

    Harland Duzen Member

    In the event some reason that the electricy failed or no one noticed water entering, (I think) when the water got to a certain height, the doors would close automatically (so long as nothing was lodged between the bulkhead).

    While the Newspaper story may be fake, we can't forget Jack Thayer's account of the jamming cabin door and that Titanic was built in stages. when launched, she was just a shell with the floors attached and the addition of walls and doors didn't come till her fitting out so it is feasible rooms or portions of the ship could have warped or been dented by the weight of water.
  10. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    At the US Inquiry an affidavit from survivor Daisy Minahan (33) was presented. It read:

    "A stewardess who had been saved told me that after the Titanic left Southampton that there were a number of carpenters working to put the doors of the air-tight compartments in working order. They had great difficulty in making them respond, and one of them remarked that they would be of little use in case of accident, because it took so long to make them work."

    Was this matter investigated and was there indeed a fault with the watertight doors? Was she referring to the doors on E-deck and F-deck as I understand several survivors had witnessed the crew having problems closing them.

  11. Robby House

    Robby House Member

    Titanic's Vertical Watertight Doors-

    George Cavell's recollection was a bit off which is understandable given everything going on around him and all throughout the ship as the crew were all trying to get their hands around the situation. Having said that, the 15 watertight doors at Tanktop level were released by 1st Officer Murdock up in the bridge probably about the same time if not a little before the hull and bottom made physical contact with the iceberg along the first 5 (and a few inches into the 6th WTC) watertight compartments. From what all I have researched and read about this lead fireman of Boiler Room 6 Fred Barrett along with George William Beauchamp and a few others were sort of huddled together in Boiler Room 5 (after extricating themselves from torrents of water entering Boiler Room 6) discussing what next should be done when the lights went out and Fred Barrett was sent further aft of the ship to obtain lamps which I believe were kept in the Engine Room. The point I'm trying to establish here is that the lights did not go out until enough time had elapsed for Barrett to relocate into Boiler Room 5 and for everyone to then gather somewhere in Boiler Room 5 to discuss how to deal with this sudden turn of events. However, even if the ship's electrical power had been permanently knocked out (the lights came back on before Barrett returned to Boiler Room 5 with the extra lamps he was sent o fetch) this wouldn't have prevented the Water Tight Doors from working properly as they were hydraulically powered. (Also as far as I know, the control panel in the bridge was more or less an all or nothing thing with respect to closing all the Watertight Doors. They all would have closed at the same time. But electricity was not necessary or needed in the hydraulic system used on board the Olympic Class ships.)

    Beauchamp's Testimony-

    Regarding Beauchamp's incongruous testimony it is something of a riddle to me really. How he did not see the huge geysers of sea water pouring into Boiler Room 6 through the plates is bewildering and if anything could point to him not even being in Boiler Room 6 (which he was assigned) at the exact time of impact for whatever reason. I would think even if one were stationed at the port-most boiler on the port side of Boiler Room 6 at the far opposite side of the collision side should have been able to fairly quickly ascertain that major ingress of sea water was forming on the starboard side. Again, like so many other survivors, given the stress and fluidity of what was happening it's easy to see how he could be mistaken.

    Watertight Doors in Boiler Room 6 & the Fireman's Passageway-

    The forward most Watertight Door in BR6 led to the Fireman's Vestibule which in turn led to the Fireman's Corridor which in turn led to the twin set of spiral stairs that ascending up to about D Deck. There was a Watertight door at the forward end of this very short and stubby Fireman's Vestibule room and on either side of that door were two non-watertight swinging doors leading into Hold 3's cargo area in case extra coal was deemed necessary for whatever reason. If there had been an obstruction keeping the forward watertight door of Boiler Room 6 from closing then I guess further flooding would have been prevented with the watertight door at the other end of the vestibule but in a different scenario where Hold 3 did not get holed by the iceberg I guess that Hold 3 would be vulnerable to flooding through the non-watertight doors of the Fireman's Vestibule if the forward Watertight door of Boiler Room 6 had somehow been prevented from closing properly. However in the Titanic's case this would have been a moot point since Hold 3 received some of the worst damage to her hull during the collision.

    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  12. B-rad

    B-rad Member

    Titanics wtds were not hydraulic , instead they closed merely by gravity. This mistake has been unfortunately published many time & has miss steered even me. The only electricity used was to energise the magnetic solenoid which lifted the bell crank weight which released the clutch. This electricity current would be from the contact made from the bridge and most likely would not be on the sme fuses as the lights which would be on a circuit of it's own, though possibly ran through the same distribution box. I do not have any schematics to look at right now. But the current to the wtds should not have overloaded the entire system causing a power failure especially being night when much less energy was being consumed.

    All below decks make the closing of the wtds happen at a much later time than those on the bridge. Cavell says if I remember that it happened 3 minutes after impact. Beauchamp places no more than 5 minutes. Barrett had enough time to go into boiler 5 before the doors broke. I personally believe that the doors were activated after the damage was done to the ship, nut that's another thread.

    As far as the lateral closing doors, all the T wrenches would have been the same for all doors. Thus makes sense as you wouldn't want a bunch of door specific wrenches. These doors, at the doors, would have taken time to close as they had to use a large open wrench on a nut and manipulate the nut until the door was closed. Anyone who had tightened a bolt with an open ended wrench knows that the constant removal and realigning of the wrench us time consuming. I will have to 're read the testimony to come up with a valuable theory as to what was meant.
  13. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Did Murdoch actually ring the warning bell?

    Frederick Scott was asked:
    Q - Did you hear any bell ring first?
    A - No, not for the watertight doors.
    Q - Do you mean that without any signal they came down?
    A - Yes.

    He was further aft. Is it possible that the bell that was heard in the boiler rooms was the order to stop engines just prior to the doors closing which made some people like Cavell who was inside the coal bunker mistake it for the warning bell to close the doors?

    A warning bell of some kind was heard, but that was significantly after the collision. e.g.

    Samuel Rule
    Q - What woke you?
    A - The stoppage of the engines.
    Q - Did you feel any shock before that?
    A - No.
    Q - Did you think that something was wrong?
    A - I thought so when the ship stopped suddenly.
    Q - Did you notice anything further with the engines?
    A - Not until she went full speed astern.
    Q - You did notice that?
    A - I noticed that, and the electric bells going in the fidley.
    The Commissioner: Does he say full speed astern?
    The Attorney-General: Yes, that is what he said.
    Q - You noticed the engines had been reversed?
    A - Yes.
    Q - I am not sure whether it was after that or at the same time that you heard the electric bells go to close the watertight doors?
    A - The same time.
    Q - What did you do then?
    A - I immediately got up and dressed and went on deck.

    Mr. Taylor said - "I was asleep when the accident occurred; sir. The alarm bell for accidents rang outside of our door. I went up on deck, and could not see anything. I went down in our room again." Mr. Clench described the fire practice on the Olympic and said - "Well, every Sunday the fire bell rang, and all like that, and you had to attend to your fire hose, and after that was done we proceeded to our boats."

    Were all of these bells controlled from the bridge?

  14. B-rad

    B-rad Member

    sorry for all the bad grammar, typing on phone sucks...
  15. B-rad

    B-rad Member

    As read, the watertight doors had an alarm that was suppose to be rung for ten seconds before the activation of the watertight doors. On the bridge, Boxhall is the only one who gives information as to rather or not this alarm was sounded. In both the American and British inqury Boxhall relates that Captain Smith specifically asked if the warning bell was rung, and at both inquiries Boxhall would say that Murdoch told the Captain that it had been.

    Lightoller would be asked about the function of this alarm:

    14528. So I want you to answer me a few questions about the equipment and system on the bridge before we come to what happened. Supposing you are in charge of the ship, and a collision happens, and it strikes another vessel or an iceberg, is it in your province to close the watertight bulkheads?

    • Yes.
    14529. Without sending for the master?

    • Yes.
    14530. By doing what, Moving a lever?

    • Moving a lever over.
    14531. And without any communication with the engine room; they have to do nothing to assist you?

    • You communicate by the bell push, just an alarm bell, previously, and then put the handle over.
    14532. The alarm tells them it is going to be done?

    • Exactly.
    14533. But it does not require that they should do anything to assist your operations?

    • Nothing whatever.
    14534. Therefore in all probability these watertight doors were closed immediately the accident happened?

    • Yes. I may say I saw the watertight doors myself tested in Belfast; they were all in perfect working order.
    14535. And the warning is or ought to be given to the engine room that it is being done?

    • Yes.
    14536. That is in order that they may not be in the way of the doors as they descend?
    • Exactly.

    Neither Barrette or Beauchamp state to hearing an alarm before the watertight doors closed. As seen in Scott's testimony, he claims that there was no alarm. George Cavell, on the other hand, in the coal bunker in boiler room 4 would state:

    4219. Did you notice whether the watertight doors fore and aft of your stokehold had been closed?

    • I heard the bell go and I knew in a minute what it was for.
    4220. You heard the warning bell?

    • Yes.
    4221. And so you knew they had closed?

    • Yes.

    Fireman William Taylor would state during day 7 of the US inquiry, “I was asleep when the accident occurred; sir. The alarm bell for accidents rang outside of our door. I went up on deck, and could not see anything.” As written earlier in this publication, Bathroom Steward Samuel Rule would hear the watertight door alarm. His timing of events are a bit hard to follow, though he clears up the matter a bit when stating:

    6386. Did you all wake together?

    • Yes, pretty well, I think. If they did not I woke them myself.
    6387. Did you think that something was wrong?

    • I thought so when the ship stopped suddenly.
    6388. Did you notice anything further with the engines?

    • Not until she went full speed astern.
    6389. You did notice that?

    • I noticed that and the electric bells going in the fidley.
    The Commissioner: Does he say full speed astern?

    6390. (The Attorney-General.) Yes, that is what he said. (To the Witness.) You noticed the engines had been reversed?

    • Yes.
    6391. I am not sure whether it was after that or at the same time that you heard the electric bells go to close the watertight doors?

    • The same time.

    9756: When did they come?
    • I got up and dressed immediately the engines stopped. The engines reversed.

    9757: She reversed?
    • Yes.

    9758: When did it stop?
    • Almost immediately and the electric bells below started ringing, and I dressed and went right up on deck.

    9759: The electric bells started ringing; was that attached to the Stone-Lloyd doors, the automatic doors?
    • Down below in the fidley.

    9760: You could hear them ringing?
    • Yes; from my room.

    From Rule's early testimony it sounds as if the doors were closed as the ship reversed, which happened after the ship stopped. While from his later testimony we can come to the conclusion that the alarm was sounded about the same time as the engines were stopped. This was done as the ship was stopped, which was after the reverse. This later testimony is in accordance to what we have learned from Barrette and Beauchamp as far as when the watertight doors would have been activated.

    Secretary to the Chef Paul Mauge would recall hearing an alarm signal, after having got up after his bunk mate, after the collision. Mauge would erroneously say that this alarm was to alert the passengers, however, there was no such alarm on Titanic.

    20086. Did he call you?

    • No; I got up after when I saw him come back, but one steward said to me "Oh, there is no danger; it is better you go to sleep." I had been sleeping again. At the moment I heard the alarm signal, and I went to the front, but the stewards sent me back to my cabin.
    20087. I think I heard you saying there was an alarm signal?

    • Yes, an alarm signal.
    20088. What do you mean by that? ringing.

    20089. A bell ringing?

    • Yes.
    20090. Down where you were on the third class corridor?

    • Yes.
    20091. Alarming everybody on that corridor?

    • Yes.

    It is apparent by some testimony that in fact an alarm was sounded before the doors were closed. Perhaps Barrette and Beauchamp were to busy to have taken note of an alarm, and perhaps the alarm was not great enough in the engine room to have allowed Scott to hear it? This is just mere speculation however. Perhaps Murdoch did not ring the alarm very long? Or perhaps the alarm malfunctioned in some areas?
  16. B-rad

    B-rad Member

    So I've read Harder's testimony and have come up with a theory. First I will try to place the watertight door he was speaking of. He states that it was, “On E deck. It was on the starboard side of the boat, in the alleyway. I think this brass plate was situated between the stairs and the elevators. The stairs were right in front of the elevators, and right in between there, I think, was this brass plate.”

    The two lateral doors were on frame 42 corresponding to bulkhead F. This would place the floor plate, if they were directly around the doors (some adjustments possibly being made) more forward towards the elevators. If we look at the WTD for bulkhead F on the tank top level we see that it is between frames 37 & 38, which would place it at a more in between point.

    Wheat would say that he closed, by hand, the door on F deck, on bulkhead F, closest amidships. This would leave the outer most door needing to be shut, which he said he went to E deck to do. Why he did so makes little sense, unless one supposes that he closed the mid-ship one first, and as such, cut off access to the outer door. That being the case, the middle door was most likely operated from the aft side, as there is no exit point that I can see.

    Once on E deck Wheat would say something interesting, he said that the WTD had to be closed from the deck above (again probably because he sealed it off) and that they were closed with a key. Unless Wheat meant wrench instead of key, a key may indicate the deck plate that needed a key to unlock it, which based on my research, was only the deck plates to the tank top WTDs, which required a key from an officer. Perhaps this is what was meant by, "Well, it's no use. This one won't work. Lets try another one.” Perhaps the "another one" was the deck plate itself.

    Harder did say, “...this one man was trying to turn this thing in the floor. There was a brass plate or something there... it was marked, “W.T.”,...” These men had wrenches but Harder does not say they were using the wrenches. It sounds like they were messing with the deck plate itself trying to open it.

    If it was the deck plate for the tank top door, than perhaps they realized that was not the right deck plate and the “another one” was the other deck plate along frame 42.

    Bishop makes mention of Harder's story, but you can tell he is relating second hand as some of the details don't make sense.

    Molly Brown states that she, “...six or more stewards and one officer in the corridor forcing an auger through a hole in the floor, while treating the whole thing with levity.” Many claim that this was the same instance that Harder mentioned, though Molly never states that the men were having difficulties. If the men had moved on to the “another one”, which would most likely have been within eyesight down the hall from what is believed to be Molly's room E23, in line with 42 corresponding to bulkhead F. She would not have seen the men mistakenly try the deck plate between frames 37 & 38 from that angle (assuming she just peaked out her door). These mens spirits would not most likely have changed from one deck plate to the next, so them treating it with Levity fits nice with Harder's observation that they did not appear nervous.

    Then we have Hilda Slayter in 2nd class, who said they saw two men 'working a 2 handled flat wrench on the floor' trying to shut a water tight door. 'One said, 'we can't make this one work, we had better try another.'" She then went up on deck. (http://www.paullee.com/titanic/belowdecks.php)

    This sounds very similar to Harder's story, though Slayter would have been in the wrong class. Even if Slayter had made it to the 1st class area, her troubles getting to the boat deck then make little sense.

    So that's my theory.