Were most of the Titanic's lights on during the Sinking?


Rancor

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Jun 23, 2017
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I reckon it is most likely that most of the lights remained on, for two reasons.

Firstly there is no survivor testimony saying that they went off until the breakup (apart from a brief loss of power in the boiler rooms). If there had been a failure earlier on in the sinking it would have been noticed and someone would have mentioned it.

Secondly, the main dynamos were at the stern of the ship and would most likely have stayed dry until the very end. Plenty of steam was available from boiler rooms 2 through 4, given that they were venting excess steam after the collision. As long as circuits were isolated as they shorted out due to flooding, (as shown in A Night To Remember) the rest of the system should have kept going until the breakup. It is possible that steam pressure began to run low towards the end, as the lights were described as burning a dim red.

Regarding some lights remaining on after the breakup...

Quote from "The Electrician" 28 Jul 1911
It may here be mentioned that in all passages, public rooms, compartments and decks throughout the vessel are placed emergency electric lamps. These are on special circuits and derive current from the emergency dynamos previously referred to, so that in the untimely event of an entire extinction of the ordinary lighting, there would still be available illumination at all points where passengers and crew would congregate; in fact, anyone could find their way from one end of the vessel to the other lighted at night by this means.

Depending on exactly how the engineers had the steam supply arranged (see posts by Codad1946 in the thread Engineering after the collision for more detail) perhaps they could have continued to operate for a few moments during the breakup after the main sets had their steam supply cut. However considering how most of the wiring would have been torn apart and would be shorting out, I think this to be a bit unlikely. If I recall correctly there is survivor testimony saying that one or two lights remained on after the breakup, and others who say that everything went dark when the breakup occured.
 
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Aaron_2016

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I believe the broken stern floated on the surface for a considerable time. Watches stopped at 2.20 and others stopped at 2.30. Survivors marked the time the Titanic 'disappeared' as 2.20 i.e. the moment she broke and her stern turned the opposite way. As Mr. Thayer wrote - 'She turned her decks as though to hide the awful spectacle.' Survivors who were close to the ship said the screams began when the ship exploded and broke in two and the screams immediately ceased the moment the stern went under. Mr. Dillon said the water was so cold that nobody could scream in the water. It sent their bodies into shock and they could barely breath in the water as the cold water compressed the air out of their lungs. I believe this is an indication that the screams came from the people on the floating stern. Some thought they were cheering. Edith Rosenbaum thought they were celebrating and cheering that they were safe on the stern and she said the people in her lifeboat cheered back in jubilation. Others thought the stern would float altogether. Survivors were asked how long the stern floated after she broke:

Mr. Evans
Q - How long was the stern afloat in that horizontal position?
A - About four or five minutes, I should judge.

Mr. Buley
"....We thought the afterpart would float altogether.....She uprighted herself for about five minutes, and then tipped over and disappeared......We were quite near to her and could see her quite plainly."

Mr. Brice
"The lights were still on in the after end of the ship after the first and second explosions."

Mr. Clench
"The lights went out after the second explosion. Then she gradually sank down into the water very slowly.
Q - How long a time would you say it was after the second explosion before she sank out of sight?
A - I should say a matter of about 20 minutes.

I believe the stern became its own lifeboat and would sink very slowly. If the watertight doors were closed and the ship was detached from the bow then the only flooding that would take place would be from the broken decks above the sealed bulkheads. When the stern keeled over to port it probably dipped D deck and E deck below the water which allowed the sea to flood the stern on the port side, and as the water gradually filtered down the maze of corridors and decks it eventually flooded enough inside (added with the weight of the engines) to sink her. I recall a documentary which showed almost a mile of coal extending south of the wreck of the stern and in the documentary they hypothesised that the stern very likely remained afloat for a significant time which allowed the coal to drift so far with the current before the stern finally flooded and went down.


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Rancor

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Jun 23, 2017
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In any case, the operation of the emergency dynamos must have been a very short one, since the stern sunk quite rapidly and violently after the break up. One few seconds the most.

Totally agree. And regardless of how long the stern floated for after the bow detached with all the boilers in it, there would have been no steam left to drive any of the dynamos.

Someone posted a quote from a survivor in another thread where the survivor stated something along the lines of "all the lights went out, except for some lanterns people had lit". I'll see if I can find the exact quote, but perhaps this may explain some lights remaining on after the breakup?
 
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Aaron_2016

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The official time of her sinking comes from 3rd officer Pitman.


3rd officer Pitman - "Judging by what I could see from a distance"
Q - Can you fix the exact moment of time when the Titanic disappeared?
A - 2.20 exactly, ship's time. I took my watch out at the time she disappeared, and I said, "It is 2.20," and the passengers around me heard it.

He saw the stern sticking up in the air and he thought the ship sank intact. He said the explosions and the screams occurred after she "disappeared" and he mistakenly thought the ship had already gone down and noted the time. We can easily debunk the 2.20 time for the sinking because survivors stated the stern was still afloat for a considerable time after those explosions. i.e. the moment she broke. Some said 5 minutes after, and others estimated 10 - 20 minutes after those explosions the stern finally went under. Dillon felt the stern bob up and down two or three times before finally going down. Yet Pitman denied she broke and said the explosions were heard after she sank, or in his words after she "disappeared" so we can deduce that he did not witness her final moments. I think if he was holding a lantern close to him then his vision would be greatly hampered by the glare of the light near him and if most of the Titanic's lights were out it would be very difficult to peer through the glare of the lantern to see the outline of the black mass of the stern in the distance and realize she was broken and still afloat in the dark. Dillon said nobody could scream in the water because it was so cold. Others said the screams began when the ship exploded and silenced immediately when the stern went under. Others estimated the screams lasted for 10 minutes, so we can deduce the stern was afloat for about 10 minutes after she broke.


2nd officer Lightoller was asked:
Q - She was struck. And sank, then, at 2.20?
A - 2.30.

Edith Rosenbaum also did not believe the ship broke and stated pretty much the same as 3rd officer Pitman.
"At 2:20 I saw the green light (starboard side light) disappear entirely. The boat fully lighted up, suggesting one of our skyscrapers. It stood on end and then seemed to shoot or dive; went down by her nose with such speed, that I seemed to think it would come up again in some other part of the ocean."

This I believe tells us that when the Titanic broke her stern canted high into the air and her lights either went out or the stern began to rotate which made it appear her lights had gone out and this made Pitman, Edith, and several others believe that the Titanic stood on end with her lights still blazing and went down intact. They would have heard the explosions afterwards and the screams would last for about 10 minutes and then absolute silence.

Those closer to the ship could see the moment the stern really went under and the screams immediately stopped.

Sir Cosmo-Duff Gordon
Q - Did you hear the cries?
A - Yes, I heard the explosion first, and I heard, I will not say the cries, but a wail. One confused sound.

(Edith thought this wail was coming from the people on the stern who were celebrating that the ship might stay afloat after all.)
(Pitman thought the explosions and wail came after the Titanic had gone down)
(Others saw the stern settle back and remain afloat after these explosions for about 10 minutes)
(Others heard screams in the darkness which lasted for about 10 minutes)

Putting it all together I think tells us the ship exploded open, the screams began, the stern floated for about 10 minutes and the Titanic finally sank around 2.30 and the screams stopped. Watches also stopped in the water at and around 2.30 when the stern went under.

Lady Duff-Gordon
Q - You never heard anything?
A - No, not after the Titanic sank.
Q - Did not you hear cries at all?
A - Yes, before she sank; terrible cries.
Q - Before she sank?
A - Yes.
Q - Did you see her sink?
A - I did.
Q - You mean you heard nothing at all after that?
A - My impression was that there was absolute silence.

I believe she was just one out of a few who actually saw the moment the stern went under at 2.30.


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>>Dillon said nobody could scream in the water because it was so cold. Others said the screams began when the ship exploded and silenced immediately when the stern went under.<<

Actually that is not what Dillon said.

We gripped the rail, and the next thing I remember – O! it’s awful – I came among a lot of people groaning.
It was too cold it seemed for them to cry out, and it was a horrible row.
The first man I saw I knew was John Bannon. One fellow put his arm round me, I choked him off.
I got away from the crowd, as I was going to die by myself. I said ‘Our Father’ and ‘Hail, Mary.’
One young man near me shouted, ‘Mother, mother!’ I was getting a little bit away from the throng when a man who was swimming alongside me clutched me round the neck.
I knew, of course, that that would be fatal, so I seized him by the throat and we both went under.
When we came up we were clear and he swam away.

Behind me there was the horrible volume of the groans, which rose and fell, I can hear it now.
It was really remarkable that there was so little clutching. I think a large number of people soon gave up the struggle, and were content to die, for the water was so fearfully cold, and there seemed no hope of rescue.
When at last I got comparatively clear I swam as though I were taking part in a race.
Behind me there was the horrible volume of the groans, which rose and fell, I can hear it now.
I know there were some women on board when the ship went down, but I saw neither woman nor child in the water.
“Swimming on, I came up to my chum, John Bannon, who was lying on a grating.
It was not big enough for two, but I rested my arms on it for a minute. I said, “Cheero, Johnny,” and he replied, ‘I am all right, Paddy.’ Then he told me he had seen a flash-light some distance away, and pointed out the direction.
I took note of a particularly bright star in the line he pointed out and swam for that, but I had not myself seen the light.

As I went off I cried out, ‘Well, so long Johnny.’ Poor chap, he was drowned.




There are many survivors who were clear that the cries came up when the stern went below the surface.
Also pocket watches did not directly stopped the moment the owner hit the water. Despite how compact they are it would take some time.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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Yes, there are similar other stories from others who were fighting in the water.

As addition to the above statement from Dillon we have also Frank Prentice who was also in the water and previously on the stern before he jumped off. He also mentioned how the people in the water were not only calling for help but also shouting each other or by names.
 
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Aaron_2016

Guest
>>Dillon said nobody could scream in the water because it was so cold. Others said the screams began when the ship exploded and silenced immediately when the stern went under.<<

Actually that is not what Dillon said.

We gripped the rail, and the next thing I remember – O! it’s awful – I came among a lot of people groaning.
It was too cold it seemed for them to cry out, and it was a horrible row.


The quote you provided from Dillon in the UK newspaper - "It was too cold it seemed for them to cry out." Is what I was referring to when he said it was too cold to scream out.

The victims who cried and wailed and moaned could be heard in the immediate area, but they could not scream out for help and be heard by the boats further away for any significant time. The scene from Cameron's Titanic where Rose is yelling for the lifeboat to "come back...come back" is probably how loud the victims were able to yell after the Titanic sank. The screams that were heard on the ship immediately after she broke and rolled over to port and threw everyone over would have been a tremendous chorus of help and I believe that is what the survivors were referring to when they said the screams stopped when the stern finally went under e.g. Lady Duff-Gordon - "My impression was that there was absolute silence." Mr. Hyman said - "The cry was blood curdling and never stopped until the Titanic went down, when it seemed to be sort of choked off. The cry is ringing in my ears now and always will."

Dillon felt the stern rise several times and when he sank with the stern he looked back and saw the stern rise up again and go down one more time. At the Inquiry he said:

Q - She had sunk when you came up again?
A - Well, I saw what I thought would be the afterpart of her coming up and going down again, final.
Q - Then she had not sunk?
A - She came up and went down again.
Q - You saw what you thought was the afterpart coming up again?
A - I thought it was the ship coming up again. She came up and went down again, finish.

I believe the loud screams that were heard in the lifeboats finally ceased when the stern finally went down. Pitman probably could not see the black hull of the stern in the distance especially if his attention was on protecting the people in his boat and making them row away faster and if he held a lantern close to him which made it difficult to see the black hull of the stern roll over in the darkness. That is why I believe his 2.20am official time of her "disappearing" is really the moment most of her lights went out and she began breaking up. If the screams lasted for 10 minutes following the explosive sounds and ceased when the stern went under then it could explain why watches stopped at 2.20 when the bow went under and 2.30 when the stern went under.


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Khan aadil

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Dec 25, 2020
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I think titanic should be seen like this
This is the image of white star liner RMS Majestic during night at harbour
lights appearing from portholes is faint and on deck we can see boat deck is brightly lit with bulkhead lamps and lights on promenade decks so I thought some survivor would say that ( lot of lights remained lit on titanic during in which it seems very bright from a miles)
 
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Magnus Lundin

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I would imagine that Titanic's cabin lights were 60W, which was quite standard for an incandescent light bulb of the period. The 60kW available from the two emergency generators running together would have lit 1000 60W bulbs.
The cabin lights were nowhere near 60W. We know from the Olympic that only the First Class staterooms had 30W incandescent light bulbs (as did the boiler and engine rooms). IIRC, the ship carried two 75W lights, but the ship's cabins and common areas were very dimly lit compared to today's standards (as a comparison, the Second Class library had an illumination of four foot-candles. The Illuminating Engineering Society recommends an illumination of 15-60 foot-candles).
 

Keith H

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According to the testimony of Thomas Ranger at the British enquiry the lights of the Titanic stayed on apart from the submerged sections gradually going out till it broke in half then the lights stayed on in the rear section from the forth funnel back gradually dimming and going out as the stern disappeared beneath the waves .
He also states that the emergency generator under the forth funnel was running as the ship sank as he had passed it on his way up to the boat deck.
 
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Keith H

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Another reason why lights stayed on in cabins below the water may be the space between the door and ceiling that would form an air pocket as the cabin filled up with water till eventually the fuse board located elsewhere for that block of cabins became submerged and shorted out or the air pocket got smaller with mounting water pressure and immersed the light fitting
IMG_20210117_233317.jpg
 

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