What Caused the 2nd Explosion?


Jan 29, 2001
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Capt. Wood (RET)

Then, I do think that, as the LUSITANIA wreck will attest (Rudder is hard-over) Capt. Turner made an effort to beach LUCY. Then when you consider the plainly evident extent of damage to BRITANIC'S bow and also bearing in mind Dr. Ballard sent multiple ROV's about the LUSITANIA wreck in an vain effort to determine the direct cause of her demise...IMO, and gathered from my studies, I do think that CPTN. Turner would have successly *shallow watered* his command, had not it been for a secondary explosion. This secondary devastation result remains an unrelinquished secret of the Irish sea.

The beaching/shoaling of LUSITANIA would have course resulted in the saving of most of her passenger complement.

(BTW, I own an original first release of Schweiger's log, from the NYT Mid-Week Pictorial, wheras he states, witnessing a secondary explosion, and furthur having not the heart to execute the launching of a second torpedo into, "...that mass of humanity attempting to save their very lives".

Michael A. Cundiff
USA
 
May 3, 2002
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Picking up on Brian's submission about the steamline explosion not being sufficient to increase open hull area to the sea.

I would argue that the torpedo was sufficient, blasting a gaping hole of no less than 10feet high and 20 feet long. Hull rivets in the area would have been started allowing further access for the sea. Evidence from Stoker Madden tells us that the WTDs could not be opened by override owing to distortion of the bulkheads and door tracks.

A steam line explosion could have further damaged the bulkheads watertight integrity and also breeched the watertight F deck over the boiler rooms. Massive inflooding would give the increasing list and trim thus bringing the open ports on D deck to the waterline increasing the ships instability. The only mitigating factor in my view that prevented total capsize was the cross flooding of the portside coal bunkers.

Without this the ship would in my view have totally gone over resulting in far fewer survivors.

Martin
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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Mr. Cundiff has point out another question. If after the primary explosion Captain Turner turned his ship in a attempt to ground her, what did he base this decision off of. Another words, if Turner realizes his ship has been wounded, grounding it by not necessarily be the best course of action. One would then assume that he had some sort of knowledge of the damage attained via communication with the engine room. What knowledge exsists about information relayed from the engine room to the bridge directly after the primary explosion?? Or did Turner act on perception of the situation??

If Turner realized he had been hit by a torpedo, grounding his vessel would have given it somewhat of a safe haven from further torpedo's but could also have caused it to roll upon contact with the mud/sand.

The Lusitania has always been a mystery to me, I doubt highly that a steam line could have caused the damage done for the second explosion. However, understand that a pin sized hole in a full pressurized steam line can slice off an arm like a lazer (I have seen it happen), there is a lot of stored energy in a steam line, that if ruptured while fully pressurized could cause some serious destruction, ask those of the Norway during the secondary phase of there recent boiler disaster.

The evidence provided by Stoker Madden shows just how destructive the intial explosion may have been, if doors could not be opened manually because of bulkhead distortion that would indicate that the hull and keel connection itself could have been in the dangerous limbo state between "connection" and "failure". We see this a lot in World War 2 as well as the USS Cole incident. This would mean that after the initial explosion the ship was NOT stable, she may have been moving and may have been under power, but the ship itself was begining to fall apart in a ingrity sense.

I would be interested to hear the Sauder brothers views on this.
 
Jan 29, 2001
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Erik:

Have a look see at my submission of Schwieger's log...it's interesting that of his 3:10 entry directly after his *G* torpedo impacted LUCY, and his witnessing of an *unusual* heavy detonation followed with a very strong explosion cloud. Assuming there must have been a secondary explosion, Schwieger notes in his log (Boiler or coal or powder) Or powder...or powder?

What indeed were the Brits attempting to cover-up during their subsequent depth-charge (hedge hog) bombardment of the LUSITANIA wreck site over the decades? Leading up into the '30's...

...what indeed ? ? ?

Michael A. Cundiff
USA
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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I am no expert in gun powder or any type of war time explosive so I will refrain from commenting other then to say powder could have caused such an explosion I would think.

I would also be interested to know exactly how far apart the two explosions where and if they appeared to be from the same location.
 
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Brian R Peterson

Guest
From what I read of passenger and crew accounts the torpedo explosion was fairly mild then there was about 15-30 seconds before the second explosion that rocked the ship and made everyone very aware of what happened.

I dont know how accurate this is, but from the accounts I read people had time to move about and come up on deck etc. before the second explosion, so there would have to have been at lest a 15 second time window in between the two.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
Sep 22, 2003
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im still sticking w/ what i said earlier. the torpedo strikes the bulkhead or very close to it, seperating the coal bunker from the cargo hold, and damages the bulkhead, causing steam lines to burst and shaking up the aluminum powder causing it to explode. also, if the boiler exploded, than why were furs floating to shore after the ship sunk? w/ 2 bulkheads seperating (boiler/coal bunker & coal bunker/cargo) the boiler rooms from the cargo area, i find it hard to believe that an exploding boiler could cause damage in 3 compartments (boiler room, coal bunker, cargo). but the aluminum powder was in the cargo area which would easily explain the how the furs got out of the cargo area and also explains why coal is scattered all over sea floor. recomendable books w/ good info on the 2nd explosion are:

Bailey & Ryan, The Lusitania Disaster 1975
Colin Simpson, The Lusitania 1972
Charles E. Lauriat, The Lusitania's Last Voyage 1915
Diana Preston, Lusitania 2002
Robert Ballard, Exploring the Lusitania 1995
Patrick O'Sullivan, The Lusitania 1998
Lowell Thomas, Raiders of the Deep 1928
Nigel Pickford, Lost Treasure Ships of the 20th Century 1998

Good Books w/ Passanger Accounts are:

Charles E. Lauriat, Lusitania's last voyage 1915
Frederick D. Ellis, The Lusitania Tragedy 1915
Hoehling & Hoehling, last voyage of the lusitania 1955
Chidsey, The Day They Sank the Lusitania 1967
Hickey & Smith, Seven Days to Disaster 1982
 
Sep 22, 2003
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Im not sure about Madden witnessing a a boiler explosion and breaking through into the boiler room. torpedoes than exploded on impact. also Seven Days to Disaster, while it's a very good book, is not the most reliable lusitania book, the 2 most noticable mistakes being:

1. Deck Pool on Lusitania
2. 1 man revolt on U-20

this to me would seem to indicate more mistakes are in the book, but less noticable. i do not have the book, though i have borrowed it from the library quite a number of times. so ill excuse there story of madden being witness to a boiler explosion until i see further documentation on the subject which would prove hickey and smith wrong or right.
 

Greg Burns

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Dec 4, 2003
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Jesse, mind if I ask why the item 2 is a mistake? I don't know much about it, but found it interesting and planned on pursuing it further later on. If it's generally conceded to be in error then there's not much point.
 
Sep 22, 2003
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the 1 man revolt on the U-20 described in hickey & smiths is generally conceded to be a error/mistake by most lusitania & U-Boat historians. no book other on either subject has mentioned such a revolt, and im not aware of any interviews, recordings, or documents that mention a revolt on U-20. while the thought of a 1 man revolt on a U-Boat to save a passenger ships sounds nice, theres just no evidence to back it up, no crewman of the U-20 reported a revolt and Scwieger doesnt mention one in his log or to any fellow U-boat men, and no other u boat men seem know of a revolt on U-20.
 
Aug 23, 2003
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Call me stupid if you wish, and maybe you're right to do so, but I'm not completely convinced that U-20 didn't discharge both its remaining forward torpedoes at Lusitania. I mean, why fire only a single torpedo at so large a ship when ships only one-sixth Lusitania's weight sometimes required a few torpedoes and a few shots from the deck gun to sink? Are there not eye-witness reports of a pair of torpedoes hitting the ship? I believe there are. And the reason there really aren't any reports from below of such damage further aft could be that the second fish struck those bunkers beside the fourth, unused, boiler room. And doesn't it seem that the ship sank at a pretty shallow angle for all the major damage to be so far forward? And a hit in the region of the fourth boiler room could explain why steam pressure to the engines fell off so fast, figuring the blast jarred the conduits. Those who disregard the two-torpedo theory I think are mostly going on Schwieger's log, which could've been "doctored" after returning to Germany in the midst of the world outcry over what he'd done.
 

Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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I agree with Anthony on the above statement. Schwieger could have been horrified at his killing of so many innocent women and children that as he said he did not want to fire another torpedo at the lifeboats of the Lusitania.
He could have very well fired TWO torpedoes instead of one and caused the ship to sink so quickly as he was not confident that one torpedo could finish off the Lusitania (31,550GRT). [The Carpathia (13,750GRT) took three torpedoes to finish her off]
It is also a mystery to me why the steam pressure fell by more than 100lb. so fast.
In this case, with so much outrage over the torpedoing, Schweiger or the German Navy could have very well covered up the fact that two torpedoes were fired instead of one. Also, the few people on the U-20 could easily made to keep their mouths shut about the incident.
 
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Mike G. Anderson

Guest
Quote:
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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.
______

Out of curiousity, were torpedoes seen as a viable threat around 1905? I'm probably wrong, but I always thought torpedoes were viewed as ineffective gizmos up until the war. Still, I would think a torpedo's damage isn't *that* far removed from a high caliber explosive shell.
 
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Brian R Peterson

Guest
I agree with Mike on this one, up until 1914 the torpedo was still regarded as a nothing more than a floating bomb, the extent of their capability was not widely known as they had not been in continual use that I can recall since the U.S. Civil War some 50 years earlier and even then with few exceptions, the results of their use against enemy ships were not viewed as effective so I don’t think the Cunard Line or the British Government took this into consideration when designing and building the Lusitania.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
Mar 22, 2003
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"... up until 1914 the torpedo was still regarded as a nothing more than a floating bomb ..."
Are you kidding? It was well known that when a torpedo actually hit a target it created great damage. More importantly, its existence was a weapon in and of itself. The first automatic torpedo was produced in 1868 by the English engineer, Robert Whitehead. This engine driven torpedo travelled at speeds of 15 to 20 knots. The device was self-propelled through compressed air. The first time one of Whitehead's torpedoes were used during a war was on 25th January 1878, when the Russian navy sank a Turkish steamer. By 1885, the torpedo boat had arrived, capable of delivering a much improved Whitehead torpedo reaching 30 knots and holding 200 lb of gun cotton. By the time Dreadnought was completed in 1906, the Hardcastle torpedo then in use reached a speed of 33 knots, and had a range of 7,000 yards. Navies of the world were forced to develop a class of warships to counter the threat from torpedo boats, thus the birth of the Torpedo Boat Destroyer, or just Destroyer as it was called.
As technology progressed, the increasing threat from the torpedo was not underestimated, and warship designers moved quickly to develop improved means to safeguard against it. A major innovation in capital ships was the addition of longitudinal 'Torpedo Bulkheads'. Running from the after machinery spaces to the forward and flanking boiler and machinery rooms, these were set far enough inboard to prevent being breached by a torpedo exploding against the shell plating. The outboard space could be coal filled, but was more effective if left void, giving the explosion space to vent itself. However in their original form, they did not cover all of the important areas of the hull, and were limited in value.
The torpedo (or torpedoes) that did the Luci in had an Hexanite explosive of 195 kg and traveled at 37 knots for about a maximum range of 4 km. The design year was 1910 and was in service since 1913.
 
Sep 22, 2003
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Im gonna have to Agree w/ sam and discredit the theories of anthony, jeremy, mike and brian. while the idea of two torpedoes sounds nice, if the lusitania had been hit by two torpedoes, under the bridge and between the 3rd & funnel as claimed by some people, the ship wouldve adopted the same type of list as the Andrea doria and would have keeled over and sink on her side. the problem w/ that is the lusitania sank by the bow. also as same pointed out, the torpedo than was a deadly a weapon. they had been in developement for almost 50 years, and the torpedo boat almost replaced the battleship, but than the tables turned and the dreadnought was introduced giving the battleship more time to stay around.
 
Aug 23, 2003
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Oh, I don't know. It was listing pretty heavily. That it didn't sink on its side doesn't necessarily mean anything; it could've leveled off a bit as the flooding progressed with the ship being fairly narrow for its length and all. The Andrea Doria was pretty stout. Also, I didn't mean that torpedoes were ineffective, I just pointed out that many much smaller ships required much more to sink them than just a single torpedo.
 

Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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Also, the Lusitania did not sink straight down like the Titanic. Lusitania sank by the bow, but it was also listing heavily, Schweiger in his log notes that the Lusitania looks like it would quickly capsize (2.20 p.m.). Oliver Bernard's sketch also shows the Lusitania's funnels all going down together and was also listing, unlike the Titanic, whose funnels fell in a sequence.
 

Tom Bates

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Aug 16, 2002
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I think a boiler explosion not Steam Line Explosion their wasn't a steam pipe large
enough in the forward part of the #1 boiler room. What i think happened is The
torpedo hit the hull near or at a boiler. The explosion breaks the steam pipe causing
a lose of steam pressure and making the wtd's not operational. If you look a the
boiler room plan in the Lusitania engineering reprint it shows check valves? on the
steam lines near the engine room wtb. If the check valves did on close it would cause
a lose of steam pressure and causing the pumps and engines to fail.
 
Aug 23, 2003
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But still, there were firemen in the first boiler room who survived. And though the wtd's probably were rendered inoperable soon after the blasts, they were shut to begin with.
 

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