What Caused the 2nd Explosion?


Sep 22, 2003
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What Do You Think Caused the 2nd Explosion?

A. Gun Cotton
B. Shells Filled w/ High Explosive Powder
C. Steam Line Explosion
D. Boiler Explosion
E. Coal Dust Explosion
F. Aluminum Powder Explosion
G. A combination of 2 or more of any of the mentioned above
H. Other

Please choose an answer and explain why you chose it in as much detail as possible.
 

Kyle Stewart

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Jul 18, 2002
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I would think E. I think that because the Lustiania because it was almost done her trip to liverpool and the coal dust picked up and boom the 2nd explostion. I dont think for the rest cause its very unliky.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Given the dampness in the coal bunkers at the end of a voyage on the North Atlantic, the chances of the culprit being coal dust is so small as to practically qualify as a modern day red herring.

And Jessie, I hope you don't mind if I refrain from choosing anything from your list. It's not that I don't have an opinion on the matter. I do. The problem is with the nature of polls themselves which only serve to showcase what interested respondants...often unqualified...believe and which seldom has anything to do with what it is the actual science supports.
 
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Tom Pappas

Guest
I second what Michael said about polls. They usually reveal more about the respondent than the subject.

Take G.W. Bush's "doing a good job" polls, for example.
 
May 3, 2002
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At the risk of impugning myself I will give my answer to the poll.

I think I have read widely on this area and possess most of the books on the Lusitania, Bailey and Ryan, Lauriat and Morton not withstanding.

A and B are out in my book as I am certain about the torpedo hitting aft of the forward bulkhead in the first boiler room.

E being coal dust was one I considered seriously when Dr Ballard put it forward. On subsequent consideration of arguement posed here on ET Coal Dust no longer rates.

F I don't know about the Aluminium Dust idea. Mr O'Sullivan's book was well written and original but requires a hit on the cargo hold to work.

D doesn't work either. Preston and Ramsay (especially) go into detail discussing the consequences of boiler explosions. No one would have survived in the room and the damage to the area immediately above would have been greater.
However Schwieger describes fire breaking out. Someone please explain this one?

C is left as remaining possible cause which on considering the evidence that I have read I must say makes the most sense to me.

If not Then we must consider H

any takers...?

Martin, B.A. Hist

P.S. While I appreciate that they are in no way obliged, I would love to know What Michael H. Standart and Eric Sauder think caused the second explosion.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Martin, I haven't given the Lusitania a lot of in-depth research so I'm not really confident of my ground on this. In my highly subjective opinion, it was something in the boiler rooms which gave up the ghost...either a large steam line or a boiler. Either or both could wreak a surprising amount of havoc...and God help any of the poor sods who happen to be in the way. They'll die screaming!

NOTE: Opinion subject to change and revision based on where any testable and repeatable forensics evidence may lead.
 
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Tom Pappas

Guest
I don't like C, because I don't think there's a steam line big enough to release a sufficient volume of steam at enough pressure to cause the kind of damage involved. At ten or fifteen atmospheres, the steam would only expand five times or so (because the Joule-Thompson effect would immediately cool it, reducing its pressure and volume).

When a boiler is breached, on the other hand, the superheated water it contains boils instantanously when the pressure is released, liberating enormous volumes of water vapor at high pressure.
 
Sep 22, 2003
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to be fair since i started this, i figured i might as well give my opinion too.

A Boiler and Steam Pipe Combination of explosions is possible, though as no stokers witnessed it that survived, than it must taken atleast 2 - 3 mins before a boiler explosion occured if thats the case.

Also possible is a steam line and coal dust exlosion, though this also is questionable as bilge water all around the bottom of the coal bunker and it was near the end of a voyage where the lusitania would not have much coal left.

also possible is just a steam line explosion, though that also faces some difficulty in proving, refer to Tom Papas note.

also possible is a aluminum powder explosion, although no one witnessed bright flames as a such an explosion or fire would cause, also take note that no one was in the immediate area when the 2nd explosion occurred.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>A Boiler and Steam Pipe Combination of explosions is possible, though as no stokers witnessed it that survived,<<

Well they wouldn't would they? Take a bath in live steam and about the only thing you'll be fit for is to be served up with drawn butter! You certainly won't be inclined towards conversation.

>>than it must taken atleast 2 - 3 mins before a boiler explosion occured if thats the case.<<

Not if it was breached by the warhead of the torpedo it wouldn't. It would happen almost at once.
 
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Tom Pappas

Guest
G. The torpedo strike ignited the coal dust, which ruptured the boiler, wrenching loose the steam line and igniting the aluminum powder, which set off the contraband gun cotton and h.e. shells in the valet's quarters.

Or maybe H.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>The torpedo strike ignited the coal dust, which ruptured the boiler, wrenching loose the steam line and igniting the aluminum powder, which set off the contraband gun cotton and h.e. shells in the valet's quarters.<<

Hay! I like that one!!!! Get's right up there with the Great Intergalactic Conspiracy between the liberals and conservatives to get together with the Illuminati, The Council on Foreign Relations and Space Aliens (C'mon...you knew the Space Aliens were lurking in there somewhere!) to kidnap our women and use them in breeding experiments with Elvis and Princess Di in order to turn our brains to mush.

Pass the tinfoil hat please!
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Drew Adamick

Guest
I think it could have been a combination of of coal dust and an aluminium dust explosion. It probably would not have been ammunition explosion because the arms carried on Lusitania, as far as we know, were not explosive.
 
Sep 22, 2003
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Drew

While i agree w/ you for the most part, im not 100% convinced that no highly explosive ammnunition wasnt on the lusitania as the key words are "as far as we know". it should be pointed out that alot of liners on eastern crossings used steerage and 3rd class as cargo space. this practice was especially popular w/ the germans, and was also a cunard practice, the vessels most known for doing this in the cunard fleet were the carpathia and her sister ships, i see no reason though why lusitania's third class section couldnt have been put to use as cargo space for eastern crossings back to liverpool. i also think that 3rd class could have been used as cargo space, without it ever being mentioned that 3rd class was being used for cargo, and i think theres a good possibility it was on the lusitania's last voyage, and will continue to think it possible until someone can prove no ammunition was there.
 
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Drew Adamick

Guest
Jesse

Actually, the Lusitania was carrying more passengers on her last crossing than on any of her previous crossings during the war.
 
May 25, 2003
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Although the writer in me wants to believe that it was something as nefarious as an aluminum powder or ammunition explosion, I'll admit that steam line and boiler ruptures are more likely. Citing Hickey/Smith, page 195-6:

"In the No. 1 boiler room, below the first funnel, leading fireman Albert Martin had seen the torpedo slam past him before it exploded between a group of boilers. The shell between the forward and centre coal bunker doors on the starboard side burst like paper as the sea water flooded in. Choked with dust and steam, fireman Tom Madden attempted to escape through the bulkhead door amidships, but it was shut tight. Unable to force it and not knowing where to find the release levers, he tried to turn back, but the swiftly rising waters swept him off his feet and carried him like flotsam across the boiler room to the starboard side. Grabbing a floating coal barrow he began to work his way slowly and painfully to the escape ladder in the portside ventilator. He fumbled frantically in the darkness until he found the bottom rungs and slowly began his climb to freedom."

So chances are the testimonies of Martin and Madden are
A) the truth
B) lies for good press OR because the Brit. Gov't told them to in order to deflect attention away from accusations of ammo explosions
C) inventions of Messrs. Hickey and Smith

Which one is it? I'd be more inclined to believe A, but hey, who knows.
 
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Brian R Peterson

Guest
There is not sufficient evidence for me to believe that illegal contraband set the ship off as the torpedo did not hit the cargo holds, coal dust is out because most intelligent black gangs would wet the near empty coal bunkers just enough to prevent the dust from becoming airborne. Steam lines rupturing are out because I don’t see how steam alone could blow a hole in the side of ship. A second torpedo wasn't fired because Schweiger himself noted he only had one torpedo left at the time in his log.

Based on the damage and location of the torpedo reportedly hitting, I would have to say the second explosion was 95% likely caused by a boiler/s not reacting kindly when forcefully introduced to its Atlantic counterpart.

I will let the remaining 5% rest with the other theories listed above for the sake of appeasement
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Best Regards,

Brian
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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The entire Lusitania debate is rather interesting to me, perhaps a little more mysterious then the Titanic, mainly because we have eye witness accounts of what happened on Titanic where for the most part the secondary and lethal explosion on the Lucy remains somewhat of a mystery. The second explosion is most interesting because it denotes several things.

One: The intial torepdo was not enough or may not have been enough to cause the Lusitania to sink. The second torpedo or second explosion appears to be what sunk the vessel.

Two: Lusitiania was unable to stay alive after two different explosions, which for a ship built with government funds and a ship that could be used as a naval vessel in the times of war and built with this understanding lends to questions regarding her construction or at the least her (and the entire class of ship) ability to withstand damage and her ability to remain stable during explosive situations such as a torpedo hit.

Third: Is more of a question, could she have been saved if no second explosion occured or if the explosions came about in the oppisite order, or if they occured in different locations?

Before the completetion of the Queens and after World War 1 we see a completely different system of ship division and it's connection with the keel and the divisions overall relation to the ships stability both in a damaged and undamaged state. The Queen Mary had a desire to roll a little (so I have read) while her sister (I have read) didn't share this, this is a direct result of what was learned in World War 1.

What we have is a secondary or lethal explosion/reaction which causes the ship to founder. Maritime Investigation would ask this question, which to my knowledge is unknowable: Was Lusitania in a savable or stable state prior to the second explosion?? This would answer a lot of different questions if the answer was in the affirmative.

This would mean that the intial damage done was not enough to cause the vessel to founder, that the ship and it's support structure was able to withstand and react to the first explosion. This would also mean that if the ship is truely "stable" or "savable" that the ship was settling and reacting to the conditions brought on by the first explosion and that the flooding that occured would have been able to be for the most part controlled.

This, to my mind is unknowable because it was never allowed to happen, the second explosion/reaction/torpedo is what sealed the fate of the ship. If Lusitania foundered today we would be able to get this knowledge from the wreck as it would lie on the bottom.

To me the question isn't so much what caused the second explosion, but how damaged was she after the first explosion??