Why didn't Titanic capsize?

Jessie M.

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Jan 13, 2019
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Hard to be sure, but it I think it had to do with both the flooding and the shifting of coal during the voyage. I heard during the 3rd day of the voyage in order to calm a fire in the coal bunker they moved a ton of coal to the other side of the ship which ended up giving it a slight list for the remainder of the voyage. Then once the flooding came - on the side of the ship that wasn't already listing due to coal - it reached a kind of equilibrium for a tiny bit before the water started to become heavier then the coal. And of course there's the issue of the gangway door.

Don't take my word on it tho. I'm nowhere near as knowledgeable as the other folks around here :)
 

Kyle Naber

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This is very true. It was discovered that if the coal hadn’t been shifted, the Titanic would have gone further and further to starboard and never would have returned about an hour and a half into the sinking. This is why Andrews underestimated the time it would take for the ship to actually sink.
 
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Mar 18, 2008
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Titanic did not had a double hull as Britannic had which makes her to list more to starboard. Also the open portholes add additional openings for the water to flood the starboard side first.

I think there is too much claim about the empty coal bunker and the "shifted" coal. There were many other factors which play a role to the list.
 

R.M.S TITANIC

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Mar 7, 2016
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Personally, I have to agree with Jessie. The fire, fueled the coal in the bunkers, made the starboard side lighter. Didn't Lawrence Beesley mention the Titanic having a list on Sunday afternoon? I believe he did.
 
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Miller88

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I don't think this question can be definitively answered since we don't know for sure the influx of water into the hull, how much influx at each breach or how many port holes were opened. Not to mention the hundreds of potential openings as the ship settled further underwater.

One thing to consider is this:
It's estimated ( I think based on the sonar imagery of the keel at the wreck site) that the breach caused by the iceberg totaled about 12 square feet. How large of an opening is a porthole, I'm guessing about a square foot. So each opened porthole increased the rate of flooding by about 8%.

I'm not an engineer but it makes me wonder, does that mean that for each open porthole the ship sank 8% faster? How long would the ship have staid afloat had none of the portholes been open?

P.S. Sorry for the Rambling
 

Dave Gittins

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Quite simply, Titanic didn't capsize because she was pretty well designed. Water entering the starboard side could easily flow across the ship and keep her reasonably upright. There were a few obstructions, like the firemen's tunnel, but overall the design was good. Today there are strict rules limiting longitudinal bulkheads, which are quite likely to cause a capsize.
 

Scott Mills

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Let me start with the caveat: I am not an engineer, nor am I an expert in hydrodynamics.

My thoughts start with the fact that we do not know for certain what the damage to Titanic's hull was, whether or not there were any bulkhead failures, and whether or not there was any significant damage to Titanic's double bottom. For example, while the 'grounding theory' is not currently in vogue, there is the often overlooked and unexplained flooding in boiler room four, where the water slowly came up from the floor over the plates which made up the ceiling of Titanic's tank top (the top portion of Titanic's double hull).

That being said, it is my understanding that Titanic's design, in large part, is responsible for her lack of capsizing in as much as she was built with only vertical bulkheads. Meaning, as each section, or compartment, flooded, the water was able to spread itself horizontally without much impediment. This is distinctly different than many modern ships (and warships) where ship bulkheads spread horizontally as well as vertically. In most scenarios where flooding is limited to a small section of the hull, having horizontal bulkheads allows for areas of flooding to be isolated, thus preserving important spaces (and the equipment in them) in areas adjacent to the hull breach; that being said, when horizontally separated spaces along a large section of the hull are breached, absent quick counterflooding, the additional weight of the water on that single side of the ship can very quickly cause a ship to roll.

Again though, take my comments with a grain of salt! As I said I am no engineer.
 

Miller88

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In most I agree with you Scott, the only issue I'm having a problem wrapping my mind around is once Titanic began listing to port wouldn't she have kept that same list or more likely continued to list to port?

What would make her shift the list from port to starboard or vise versa? The only thing I can imagine causing it to shift is if the hull had a breach from the stress of the list. For example if she had an 8 degree list to port then the starboard hull might have had enough stress to partially buckle the hull.

If that had happened could that explain the two "explosions" heard by some of the survivors? It was said those two explosions were about 10 to 20 minutes apart. Possibly starboard hull buckling and then shortly after the port hull?
 

Scott Mills

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In most I agree with you Scott, the only issue I'm having a problem wrapping my mind around is once Titanic began listing to port wouldn't she have kept that same list or more likely continued to list to port?

What would make her shift the list from port to starboard or vise versa? The only thing I can imagine causing it to shift is if the hull had a breach from the stress of the list. For example if she had an 8 degree list to port then the starboard hull might have had enough stress to partially buckle the hull.

If that had happened could that explain the two "explosions" heard by some of the survivors? It was said those two explosions were about 10 to 20 minutes apart. Possibly starboard hull buckling and then shortly after the port hull?
Those explosions were most likely, I think, boiler failures; however, again back to this point about me not being an engineer. :) I assume that any sudden shift of water could correct a list. So the collapse of a bulkhead, or perhaps water reaching an open manually operated watertight door, suddenly allowing a once mostly dry portion of the ship to flood. All that said... I am not in a position to anything other than wildly speculate on that point.

Indeed, you could be entirely correct. The beginning of the failure of Titanic's hull could have caused the sudden flooding of an otherwise dry portion of the ship.
 
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Miller88

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Wouldn't that be from boiler rooms 4 and 6? That would make sense as some simulations show a 10 to 20 minute time difference from the two boiler rooms flooding just before and during the final plunge.

I believe unfortunately that researchers have gotten as far as they can on the progression of the sinking and breakup with the knowledge we have and unless someone can make an interior dive of the Titanic we'll never have more to go on. But it is fun to try and speculate how it all happened!
 
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I'm not shure how in recent months the port list has been described more and more as the ship's initial list. This is not so. The evidence from the U. Senate inquiry is that the ship took a starboard list from the outset. In this exchange quartermaster Hichens describes Captain Smith checking that list on the clinometer in he wheelhous.


Senator SMITH.
Who said that, the captain?

Mr. HICHENS.
Capt. Smith, sir, to Mr. Murdoch; "Close the emergency doors." Mr. Murdoch replied, "The doors are already closed." The captain sent then for the carpenter to sound the ship. He also came back to the wheelhouse and looked at the commutator in front of the compass, which is a little instrument like a clock to tell you how the ship is listing. The ship had a list of 5' to the starboard.

Senator SMITH.
How long after the impact, or collision?

Mr. HICHENS.
I could hardly tell you, sir. Judging roughly, about 5 minutes; about 5 to 10 minutes....


The actual name for the instrument for measuring the heel of a vessel is a "clinometer." Hichiches mistakenly called a a "commutator" which is part of rotating electric motors and other machinery of that type. His word mixup is of no matter as it is obvious he was speaking of the instrument used to determine a ship's roll, heel, or list. In 1912 clinometers used a sort of plumb bob mechanism and were traditionally mounted on he compass binnacle. Hichens estimated the time of the captain's visit to the cinometer as 5 to 10 minutes after impact on the iceberg. This fits into the stream of events flowing through the bridge after the accident.

-- David G. Bronw
 
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Mike Spooner

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Jan 31, 2018
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Add to the list problem. If one looks at the diagraph of the coal bunker plan. It would appear the coal bunkers are off set to port side! Was there a reason for that in the first place?
As removing coal from fired bunker on the starboard side ASAP would only make the list worse!
 

Scott Mills

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Wouldn't that be from boiler rooms 4 and 6? That would make sense as some simulations show a 10 to 20 minute time difference from the two boiler rooms flooding just before and during the final plunge.

I believe unfortunately that researchers have gotten as far as they can on the progression of the sinking and breakup with the knowledge we have and unless someone can make an interior dive of the Titanic we'll never have more to go on. But it is fun to try and speculate how it all happened!
I agree completely. This is why I wish I was as rich as James Cameron. :) I am vainly waiting for someone who has the interest, desire, resources, and technology to attempt to actually make a deep penetration attempt into the boiler rooms before the wreck collapses. I want to at least attempt to answer some of these questions while it still even remotely possible.
 

Miller88

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If the wreck can survive a few more years I believe we'll finally have technology that is small enough and cheap enough to make that viable, but I don't think she'll make it that long.

On the other hand I read somewhere that the lower portions of the ship that are free from the currents and maybe deep enough inside the wreck to avoid the microbes eating the steel, may be in almost 1912 conditions. Not sure if that's true or not.

I would love to see the exact iceberg damage and put to rest one way or the other whether the ship grounded onto the iceberg.
 

Scott Mills

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In some ways, even if we humans manage to get an electronic eye down into the boiler rooms, it may be difficult to distinguish between iceberg damage and damage caused by the collision of Titanic's hull with the sea floor; yet, I still think it is worth looking. What it would be able to tell us quite definitively is whether or not there was a bulkhead collapse, and put to rest the 'disagreement' in testimony regarding boiler room 5 between Barret and Beachamp.

Edit:

I am also quite irritated that, as Dr. Ballard himself points out, that if we as humans wanted to save Titanic's hull it would be rather 'easy,' though quite expensive. It would just require the application of anti-fouling paint to the outside of Titanic's hull, which could be done robotically with technology currently available.
 

T Gerard

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Feb 26, 2019
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The theory involving the coal fire and shifting coal makes sense to me as a naval architect. To help put out the coal fire on the starboard side, they shifted a lot of coal over to the port side, which gave the ship an estimated 3 or so degrees of list to port. The ship's starboard side hit the iceberg and started flooding in there, which worked to slowly correct that port list and bring the ship to starboard. Then they opened the D-Deck gangway door on the port side, hoping to load more people into lifeboats through it, when that door sank below the waterline, the ship started to go back to port. The port and starboard listing was slow enough compared to the rate of sinking that the ship sank without capsizing.

There's one point I heard in this theory that I found especially interesting. Early on in the sinking, shortly after the iceberg collision when Thomas Andrews first calculated the ship had approximately one hour remaining, he might not have been taking the port list into account and was expecting the ship to capsize to starboard in one hour. Of course there's no way to know for sure, but that part of the theory makes sense to me.
 
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Scott Mills

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That is, if Andrews calculations happened at the time stated in the official records. There is pretty good circumstantial evidence that nobody, including Andrews, knew for certain Titanic would founder until a good 45 minutes or so after the collision. In fact, Andrews commented to one crew member early on about how the damage was serious as the first three compartments had been breached.

Incidentally, if Andrews did not understand the true nature of Titanic's damage for 45 or so minutes post collision, his back of the napkin calculation for how long the ship might last become much more accurate.