What would have happened to the Titanic if she hadn't sunk?


Adam Went

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Apr 28, 2003
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Hi all,

As the excellent debate on the March thread continues on, here is the topic for April:

What do you envisage would have happened to the Titanic if she hadn't sunk? Would she have followed in the footsteps of her four funnelled family members and been called into wartime service, and sunk anyway like Britannic? Or would she have carried on post-war and potentially outlasted Olympic? Would her survival have made a difference to the White Star Line in terms of remaining in business?

Enjoy!

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Adam Went

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Thanks for that Mark, though the thread you linked hasn't been posted in for 13 years. The whole idea of the topic of the month is to get members contributing to the otherwise relatively quiet boards, even if it means rehashing some subjects that have been gone over in the distant past. Therefore I hope the members will reciprocate by contributing to these topics - Jim Currie and Sam Halpern have an ongoing, fascinating debate on the go in the March topic as an example.

For my part I think it might have extended the life of WSL but not indefinitely. By the time WWII came around, Titanic and Olympic would both have been ageing ships and the designs of the 1950's were completely different. It would have cost a fortune to modernise them to a satisfactory level, so I suspect that they both would have gone by the 1930's anyway and the WSL soon afterwards. Just my 2 cents.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Apr 18, 2014
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I think if Titanic didnt founder, she would become a war ship, that is my opinion. I don´t think though she would be active in WWII, but she would participate in WWI for certain. Is it true that the Belfast shipyard was bombed by the Germans during WWII? Does anyone know, how many ships and how much equipment of this shipyard was destroyed? I always thought of how would Mr.Andrews feel, if he saw what became of his "child", had she not foundered and were she involved in war....
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Adam.

Congratulations on your last topic. I had a great time! Your idea behind these topics deserves a continuing "Well done".

Now for this one.

The late 1920's and early 1930's brought the great depression. That had a profound effect on the service life of many vessels and the Companies who operated them.

As to the vessel itself; I suppose she would have continued much like Olympic. Her specialty would have been speed and the ability to out-run U boats. At the end of 1918 during WW1, the fastest U Boats made a surface speed of 16.8 knots. It follows that with the exception of ambush, Olympic class vessels would have been best for troop carrying and hospital ship use.

As to how long Titanic might have lasted in service had she survived WW2; It would have depended on whether the cost of re-fitting out weighed the advantage of scrapping.
Personally, I served on two Anchor Line passenger ships which had been built in the 1930s,(Like smaller versions of Titanic but with one funnel) converted to AMC's during WW2 and thereafter returned to service for another 20 years before being laid-up.. but not scrapped.

Enjoy!

Jim C.
 

Mark Baber

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the thread you linked hasn't been posted in for 13 years
My analysis hasn't changed, though.
I suspect that they both would have gone by the 1930's anyway and the WSL soon afterwards.
I agree.
fanofvgandtitanic said:
she would become a war ship,
She wouldn't have been a war ship, a term reserved for naval vessels, but would almost certainly have been put to a war use as a hospital ship or troop transport, like Olympic, Britannic, Mauretania, Aquitania, Vaterland/Leviathan and (after the war ended) Imperator/Berengaria. Of the three great three-ship families, only Lusitania remained in regular commercial service.
Jim Currie said:
Olympic class vessels would have been best for troop carrying and hospital ship use.
Which is how Olympic and Britannic, respectively, were in fact used.
 

Adam Went

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Hi all,

Thanks for the ongoing discussion and for your kind words, Jim. Just trying to do my part!

It seems the consensus is that Titanic would most likely have been used as a hospital or transport ship during World War I, and I agree with that. Jim, great point to mention the depression as this obviously had a major impact on the viability of a number of businesses and the products they had - in this case, the WSL and their ships.

'The thing is that if Titanic had made it through World War II, we would need to assume that the WSL was still operating and Titanic hadn't been bought by another shipyard or scrapped because of the ongoing, and increasingly expensive operating costs. By the time World War II ended she would have been getting on for 40 years of age and I'm just not sure that with the coming of the age of air travel and increased technology and luxury on ships in the 1950's that there would have been a place for her, at least not as anything more than a novelty. She may have outlasted Olympic on account of less repair bills but I don't think by too much.

Anyway, it's interesting to ponder these things and hopefully some other members will share their thoughts as well!

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Rob Lawes

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Let's have a bit of fun with this then. Fortunately it's pure speculation so we can play around.

Extract from "150 years of the White Star Line" published in 1995.

"At the turn of the 19th century competition on the transatlantic routes was fierce and with the introduction by the Cunard Line of the Lusitania and Mauretania the White Star Line needed to do something to regain their position as one of the premier steam ship companies. They achieved this with the introduction of the three Olympic class vessels. While not as quick as their Cunard rivals the three White Star ships were bigger and far more luxurious. Despite some initial problems when the RMS Olympic collided with a Royal Navy warship, the first two vessels in the class entered service and quickly grew in popularity. Sadly for both companies, the First World War put a temporary halt to business with the third Olympic class liner, the RMS Gigantic (some reports suggest she was to have been called Britannic after an earlier White Star vessel and while this name does appear on some documents the name Gigantic was thought better to convey the size of these vessels) never saw passenger service. All three White Star vessels were called up to act as transport vessels and in the case of Gigantic, a hospital ship. Sadly Gigantic sank in the Med when she struck what was believed to have been a mine. Cunard famously lost the Lusitania to a U-Boat torpedo attack. After the war, transatlantic passenger services resumed and quickly grew and grew in size and popularity. The Titanic and Olympic remained hugely popular with passengers and cornered the market. Just prior to WW1 Cunard had tried to match the luxury and size of the Olympics by introducing the Aquitania, which sacrificed the speed of her elder sisters but was of greater length and beam than the Olympics. The Olympic class however, could still boast a higher tonnage. Despite of the Aquitania's attempt to steal the crown of the most luxurious liner from the Olympics, successful post war refits saw the White Star ships remain the more popular with passengers. By the late 20's it was clear to the owners of White Star that the Olympics couldn't go on forever and a replacement design was sought. An order with Harland and Wolf was placed in 1928 for the 1000ft long Oceanic an all Diesel-Electric 80'000 GRT monster with a top speed of 28.5 kts. The keel was laid down that same year and work began at a pace. Cunard, caught out by the size and scale of the new White Star ship quickly draw up plans for their Queen class which would be slightly bigger and much faster thanks to their steam turbines. Work hadn't begun on the Queens when the Wall Street crash of 1929 effectively suspended further plans to build the ships. Work continued slowly on the Oceanic and plans to construct a second ship, the Britannic were shelved. By now, both the White Star line and the Cunard line were in financial trouble. With the Oceanic slowly edging towards completion in Belfast, the British Government realized that White Star was the more viable of the two companies and after offering to loan White Star the money to complete the Oceanic, made a condition of the loan that White Star merge with Cunard to form the White Star - Cunard Line. This they did in 1931. With additional funding now available the keel of the Britannic was laid down in 1933 the same year that the Oceanic entered service. With the Oceanic taking up full time duties crossing the Atlantic the venerable but highly popular Olympic was paid off for breaking up. Completed in 1937, the Britannic entered service to give White Star - Cunard a highly popular and highly effective two ship service. That same year the Titanic bowed out and headed to the scrap yard. It was estimated that the Titanic had completed almost 2 million miles and carried 480.000 passengers during her lifetime of trouble free service. After World War 2 once again brought passenger crossings of the Atlantic to a halt, White Star quickly resumed services in 1945 with the Oceanic and Britannic. The Cunard name was dropped by the company in 1949."
 

Jim Currie

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Nice one Rob!

Did you deliberately miss- out the two queens "Mary" and "Elizabeth"?

Jim C.

PS Just in case anyone thinks this is true...It was the White Star name that was dropped in 1949/
 

Rob Lawes

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Hi Jim. No I didn't forget the Queens. If you look at my story you'll see the Queens were cancelled when the British Government agreed to help White Star out in the construction of the Oceanic. I've tried to mirror reality as much as possible. In the real story White Star's owners couldn't agree on the best power plant for the Oceanic and the build was delayed long enough for the bite of the great depression to scupper any chance of the ship being built. Oceanic's keel was laid down in 1928 however she was never completed and the steel was dismantled and used to construct two smaller vessels for White Star. One of which became the fleets last ship, the third incarnation of the name Britannic.

In 'Rob's' version of the story, when White Star merged with Cunard to form White Star - Cunard, it was the Cunard's Queens that were cancelled and instead a second Oceanic size vessel was built for the White Star line. It was these ships that ran on into the 60's while Cunard relied on other vessels in their fleet.

The joys of playing around with reality.

On a different note, if the Titanic never sank, it's intersting to consider when would the British Board of Trade got around to updating their requirements for life saving equipment? The next major sinking following the Titanic was the Empress of Ireland and the speed at which she sank it would have made no differnce if she'd had lifeboats for all or not. In fact, to the best of my knowledge there have been very few, if any sinkings of large ocean liners that have given the passsengers and crew the same length of time to abandon ship as those on the Titanic had or where rescue didn't arrive in enough time to make the requirement for all passengers and crew to depart via lifeboats pointless. I'm guessing what would have brought about the major changes in ship bourne life saving equipement would be the lesson learnt from WW1 and WW2. I know for a fact that the Royal Navy conducted major studies into improving the survival chances of crews who had to abandon ship after world war 2 and we still benefit from this work even today.

Also, as you pointed out in your Marconi thread, another side effect of the Titanic not sinking would have been the effect on the Marconi company. Would for example, 24 hour watch keeping at sea on the radio have been mandated after April 1912 or would the Marconi's postion as the lead company in Ship to Ship and Ship to Shore communications systems been dramatically different ??

Some interesting things to consider.
 

Jim Currie

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"The joys of playing around with reality."

Absolutely!

Too often in the past, it was stark reality that made people ask that crucial question Surely there must be a better way of doing this?

Nowadays, unlike in the case of Titanic, that question is asked before the stark horror of the event makes the asking of it an urgent necessity. Sure, the rules that were born of the Titanic disaster achieved a great deal. However, sad to say, the real mother of invention as far as survival at sea is concerned was, and still is, war.

As you probably know, I spent very many years in the business. During that time I witnesses the evolution of the lifeboat and it's associated equipment and the improvement beyond believe in communications. However, the most important (to my mind) development was the awakening of concern in the minds of those who design, build and own vessels and those who go down to the sea in them.

Jim C.
 

Adam Went

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Nice one Rob! I like your version a lot.

As for when the safety regulations would have changed, I have to agree with Jim that the thing which really heightened awareness was the war, because you were then constantly looking out for enemy threats rather than just the occasional accident. It comes back to the old argument that it's all well and good to say that more lifeboats on the Titanic would have saved more people, but would they have? By the time the final lifeboats were lowered, the ship was almost gone, and it was left to those on board to try and get the collapsibles away in any state that they could. Even if there was a seat for everyone on board, so many refused to go early on and so many boats left half full or worse that there was bound to be people still on board even if the Titanic had lasted another two hours and had ample lifeboats.

Yes, the regulations should have been changed but what was needed at the time was more urgency from both passengers and crew to get people into the boats. If they wouldn't get in the boats voluntarily, force them in there. Of course it wasn't done back then but these days we'd call it a duty of care. But again, hindsight is a wonderful thing and all we can do is think of what might have been such as what Rob posted!

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Doug Criner

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The aggressive regulatory action following the Titanic may have caused more deaths than it saved. The SS Eastland, while tied to a wharf in Chicago River on July 24, 1915 after loading passengers, killing 844. The ship was originally a bit tender, but became dangerously so after adding many additional lifeboats after Titanic. I think I read that more passengers died on the Eastland than the Titanic. Of course, the additional lifeboats were of no use with the ship on its side resting of the bottom of the river. Since the ship only plied Lake Michigan (during the shipping season), the extra lifeboats probably would have been of little use in most any situation even out in the middle of the lake.

Here is more info on the Eastland. It says that the problem was that its center of gravity was too high after adding the extra lifeboats. That's true as far as it goes, but in actuality, the metacentric height was too low (the difference between the center of gravity and the center of buoyancy). Evidently, when the extra lifeboats were added, the metacentric height wasn't recalculated.

SS Eastland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

Adam Went

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Hi Doug,

That's very interesting about the SS Eastland. Just goes to show what can happen with knee-jerk reactions after the fact. I think that a lot of focus has been given to the lack of lifeboats on the Titanic since it sank, but again, more lifeboats are only useful if you have the technology, ability and personnel to be able to lower greater numbers of them in a faster time, and fill them with passengers, whether they comply or not. In the Edwardian era there was still a hierarchy where it "wasn't done" for a lowly crew member to try and force a famous first class person into a lifeboat, so they didn't, at least not early on. The real issue is the way the ship was run in the lead up to the collision with the iceberg. Once the collision had occurred, the horse had already bolted regardless of whether there was 20 or 200 lifeboats on board.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

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