Would The Britannic Have Sunk if...


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Mike Lynch

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hi guys
i have always wondered this and hope that I can now find the answer
If the watertight doors had been able to close would the Britannic have survived, I heard that she was designed for 6 comprtments to breached and still float so that the damage that doomed Titanic would not be fatal to the Britannic
 
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Brian R Peterson

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Hi Mike!

The watertight doors are not what did the Britannic in. Open portholes allowed unrestricted flooding of all areas and hastened her demise.

Had the portholes all been closed at the time per regulations, the Britannic most likely would have survived.

Best Regards,

Brian
 

Erik Wood

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I would be interested to see the math involved in determining the portholes did in Britannic. I am not saying that they didn't, I am just interested in seeing the math. Especially the list comparsion. Does anybody know where I might find that information???
 
Jan 14, 2001
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Hi,

Scott Adrews from the TRMA had posted a very interesting message regarding this subject at the old OBRC forum.I still have it in my archive:


"The calculations performed on the flooding which sank the Titanic prove out that if all of her damage were condensed into a single opening, that opening would be only twelve square feet. As a comparison, the average interior door in a house has an opening of approximately 16.6 square feet. A 10 inch diameter port hole has an opening of 4.9 square feet. It would only take 3 submerged open port holes to produce flooding equivalent to that which sank the Titanic - over seven tons of water per SECOND!"

Best regards,
Michail
 

Erik Wood

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I might point out that the 7 tons a second does not add up mathmatically with over all sinking of Titanic, nor does it compare with the stabilty and roll figures for that class of ship. 7 tons a second could be and generally is the accepted rate of intial flooding.

If you assume that the ship took on 7 tons a second of sea water for the first 5 minutes directly after impact you see the ship has added 2100 tons of water to it's total weight, confined to entry from 12 square feet and located soley in the first (following the traditional story flooding all compartments forward of and including boiler room 6). If you assume the flooding rate slowed to 5 tons a second for the next 20 minutes that is an extra 2420 total tons in the forward 3rd of the ship within the first 25 minutes.

That is a fatal weight amount an amount on a 1000 foot ship that would mean instant catastrophe.

Wilding calcualtions are correct given the scenario that was put forth for him to fill.

In Britannic's case as Mr. Andrews and Michail have pointed out 7 tons a second could have been the culprit which lead to the ships ultimate demise.

However, in order for the water to enter the port holes something else has to have occured, list, my new question is was this list correctable and hence the ship savable if the portholes had been closed and at what degree or angle of heel does it take for Britannic's port holes to fill, as well as what down angle is required for this to take place??
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi,

my new question is was this list correctable

IMHO, it wasn't, simply because of the seriousness of it. However, a good case can be made that the extent of the list has been exaggerated earlier on in the sinking. Either way, it was awkward -- and sad.

Not to be critical, but 4.9 square feet doesn't quite seem right. Isn't it massive for a 10 inch porthole? I did some calculations a few years ago and from memory they are somewhat different.

In answer to your other question, Erik, IMHO the forward starboard ports would have been submerged pretty quickly indeed in the light of the extensive damage and the rapid nature of the flooding. Water was on G-deck very soon and E-deck didn't take long to flood either.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Erik Wood

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Hello again, and it is good to see Mark back on the board.

So the list was not only not correctable but the open portholes aided in the foundering. My question is how what degree list would it require for the port holes to fill at the lowest deck that they are known to be open?? Also if we assume that the ship took this list without regard to the portholes what can we gain from the immense size of the damage done to the starboard bow??

And finally how long did it take Britannic to assume this fatal list. I believe that Britannic may hold a secret to her famous sisters fate.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi,

IMO, no, the list wasn't correctable. There may be others who disagree.

In my view, the bow damage was so extensive within a very few minutes that the G and F-deck ports would have submerged anyway -- with the bow down, but not necessarily with the ship listing.

I know that many will debate the link between the bow damage and the listing, but with regard to the time of the list the enquiry concluded that the ship's starboard E-deck ports were underwater within fifteen minutes. The list was 25 degrees, which I think is a little high an estimate.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Erik Wood

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One of the things I want to say from the onset is that there is a HUGE amount of difference between foundering by roll over and going down by the head (like Titanic). If the E,F and G ports where open but filled because the ship was going down by the head it would indicate a whole list of other things, such as:

1. If the ship truely went down by the head and the ports filled because of this, where does the list come into play in the over all sinking. Assuming that she flooded at around 7 tons a second that should have flooded her well deck within a very short amount of time, as short as 10 to 15 minutes after impact, once this occurs the ships bow should hit bottom with in the next 5 or so minutes.

2. With a list being the cause of the flooding through the ports the ship would have to have assumed a list of at least 10 to 15 degree's for ports on G or F deck and as much as 20 for E deck. Of course these are all assumptions none of us know what the draft of the ship was on impact so we can't know with any certainty the degree in which it was necessary for certain decks to flood via the ports on the beam.

But some basic DC math shows that the list involved to flood portholes on the beam needs to be roughly 25 degree's possibly as low as 18 depending on draft. Which means if E deck was flooding within 15 minutes of impact via the port holes (or perhaps better put primarily through port holes) that the list of 20 degrees would be increasing every minute.

That is some catastrophic damage, more damage then Lusitania after the second explosion. But let us look at the damage another way. Instead of water or list, let's look at weight and weight only and not confine it to entry from any one side just add weight to the vessel.

Recall my prior post of 4 December 2003 on this thread where I stated:

If you assume that the ship took on 7 tons a second of sea water for the first 5 minutes directly after impact you see the ship has added 2100 tons of water to it's total weight, confined to entry from 12 square feet and located soley in the first (following the traditional story flooding all compartments forward of and including boiler room 6). If you assume the flooding rate slowed to 5 tons a second for the next 20 minutes that is an extra 2420 total tons in the forward 3rd of the ship within the first 25 minutes.

What exactly does 2420 tons in extra weight mean to the stability of a ship. If you assume that the ship weighs 50,000 tons at the moment of inflicted damage, then 2420 goes into 50,000 roughly 21 times (rounding up), and 2420 is roughly 1.2% of the ships total weight. Now, if you add 1.2% of the ships weight to the ship in the first 25 minutes, that doesn't seem so horrifying does it?? I mean 1.2% isn't much.

Take Titanic it took her over 2 hours to sink and she weighed less and had damage spread over a larger area.

So what was it about Britannic, a larger ship with damage confined to a smaller place that caused her to sink so quickly??

The Lusitania (some say a better built ship) sank just as quickly or quicker then both Titanic and Britannic. So what makes the sinking of Britannic so different then Titanic??

My answer (which is a unedcuated one) is the nature of the damage. Even though on Titanic damaged covered a larger area the type of damage inflicted on Britannic is what caused her to flood so rapidly.

I would be interested to know what folks think the similarities between the three sinkings (Lusitania, Titanic and Britannic) are??? If any.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>So what makes the sinking of Britannic so different then Titanic?? <<

Simply put, she parked on a mine. While the damage would have been confined to a reletively limited area, the effects of close to 300 pounds of TNT or amatol would have blown one whopping big hole in the ship. Recall what happened to the USS Tripoli in the first Gulf war. That hole was 21 feet wide and my understanding was that there was a real possibility that they could have lost the ship. Fast work and damage control saved the day, but this was with a fully trained crew ready for combat.

I also understand that quite a few of the WT doors were open on Britannic...supposedly to facilitate the change of the watch section down in the mainspaces. If this is true, and the bulkheads with the doors were warped/distorted by the effects of the explosion, then you can count on a signifigent number of doors not being closed when they needed to be. Throw in the open portholes and a crew largely untrained and inexperienced with combat damage control, and you have the makings of a really bad day.

But those are just my random musings on the matter.
 
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Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Erik,

I'm not quite sure what your main point is. It's clear Britannic sank by the head with an increasing starboard list, though when you speak of 'roll over' she did not fully capsize until the final moments. Several people escaped even after the bridge was submerged and didn't get squashed.

Kindest regards,

Mark.
 

Erik Wood

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Mike said: If this is true, and the bulkheads with the doors were warped/distorted by the effects of the explosion

The key words being "warped/distored". You are looking at the bigger picture. There are obvious differences between Titanic and Britannic but there are also some extremely striking similarities. My point is the Olympic Class ship had a couple of flaws, this same flaw claimed two out of three of the class of ship.
 

Paul Rogers

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Hi Eric - hope you're well.

Eric said: "My point is the Olympic Class ship had a couple of flaws, this same flaw claimed two out of three of the class of ship."

Ouch! Whilst I am in no way qualified to speak about ship design, it seems (in my uneducated opinion) a little harsh to talk about "flaws claiming 2/3rds of the Class" when comparing the Olympic Class ships to their contemporaries. After all, one can't really blame Britannic for sinking after having hit a mine!
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I'm wondering out loud now: would Lusitania or others have survived Titanic's grounding or Britannic's mine damage? How many warships of that era would have survived similar damage? (This might be an interesting debate for another thread, if one doesn't already exist.)

Both ships suffered damage to relatively similar areas of their structures, didn't they? Therefore the same flooding scenarios (to a certain degree) would surely have occurred? This co-incidence could imply a shared "flaw" but is this a true deduction or just a case of un-survivable lightning striking twice?

I'm honestly not trying to be clever, and I am acutely aware of my lack of expertise in this area. However, you've got me really interested and I'd love to know what these "shared flaws" that you refer to might be. Are you referring to the fireman's tunnel and vestibule by any chance?

Paul.
 

Erik Wood

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I wish I could hold a meeting with of my online friends in person, I tend to explain things better that way. I am going to finish my christmas shopping tomorrow so I am going to come back and hit this topic fresh on Thursday and see if I can't come up with something a little more understandable and possibly share a little more.
 
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Scott R. Andrews

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"...Not to be critical, but 4.9 square feet doesn't quite seem right. Isn't it massive for a 10 inch porthole? I did some calculations a few years ago and from memory they are somewhat different..."


Hi Mark,

Somewhat different!? There's nothing quite like the gift the English have for understatement! ;-D You're quite right about that; the correct figure is approximately 78.6 square inches, or 0.55 square feet! God only knows where my head must have been that day - big oops!

Even so, on a ship with so many sidelights, precious few of them would have to be opened up to achieve the equivalent of the Titanic's traditionally accepted 12 square feet of damage. Once you start shipping large quantities of water that far above the base line of the hull, it doesn't take long for free surface effect to do really nasty things with a ship's stability.

Best,
Scott Andrews
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi!

I find the concept of 'shared flaws' quite interesting too. With Britannic in particular I am quite sceptical as to the influence that the tunnel and staircase had on the vessel's flooding. My own view is that the evidence does not support the idea of the tunnel/stairway alone fatally damaging the damage control and isolation efforts -- since it will have little influence on events in boiler rooms 5 and 6, and the areas aft of the 'big' watertight bulkhead between boiler rooms 5 and 4.

I suppose I did use a bit of understatement, Scott.
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I remember making some notes that 25 portholes would be open to create the same sort of flooding that sank Titanic -- that works out at under fourteen square feet using the 0.55 square foot number. Well, I mean 'about the same amount' rather than the 'same sort.'

You do mention a very good point when you mention the influence such flooding has on stability. I believe that water accumulation on E-deck's starboard side, much of it due to open ports, played a key role in Britannic's increasing starboard list, particularly from 8.30 a.m. I think we all had a discussion back in 2001-02, on the 'Report of a formal investigation into the sinking of the HMHS Britannic' thread further down this page.

Kindest regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 14, 2001
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Hello,

I would say that the main difference between the two cases is the rapidity of the flooding.According to the existing accounts the forward compartments on Britannic had to be evacuated after only a couple of munutes after the explosion.Making a (very) rough calculation I would say that after 5 minutes the situation was similar to that on Titanic after one hour.This alone should exlplain the marked difference of sinking time.In addition,in Britannic's case there were also the problems with the open portholes and the open WTDs -factors that have certainly accelerated the flooding rate.On Titanic the crew had also the time to pumb out some of the water,buying some short extra time for the ship.

A striking difference is certainly the way the two hulls suffered stress.Titanic suffered stress near the centre of her hull, with the well-known results (IIRC the same point of Britannic's hull had been reinforced by extra riveting,but I'm not sure).On the contrary Britannic by touching the seabed before sinking completely received major stress near the forecastle area.

Another thing that many people do not realize is the efficiency of the gantry davits:During a very limited time period the crew of the Britannic managed to put on the water about 28 lifeboats,almost fully loaded,with the ship still in motion in some cases. However,I wonder if the weight of those davits in combination with their movement may had negative effects on the ships's stability,especially in case of list.Wouldn't be possible? In fact,I find it quite strange that those davits were not adopted on later ships (I think only two other liners used them after the Britannic) but perhaps was only a matter of maintaining cleaner lines in the designs.

I'm not qualified to speak about the difference of building quality between the Cunarders and the three Olympic-class liners.However,if the condition of the wrecks is a reliable indication I would vote for the White Star trio.Titanic's condition after breakup,long decent,violent impact and exposure to extreme water pressures for more than 80 years is still remarkable in my honest opinion.And what to say about the Britannic? Still a beauty despite her years.Unfortunately,I cannot say the same about the Lusitania.

Best regards,
Michail
 

Erik Wood

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In brief,

By flaw I am not talking about the tunnel, vestibule or stairway that is commonly discussed in regards to Titanic. Titanic and Britannic are two completely different incidents and although suffered some degree of damage in the same location, the nature of the damage is completely different, so the flaw would have to be something far more "universal" a flaw that to a lesser degree is still present in every ship built before and after the Olympic Class of ship. But it is the fates and founderings of two Olympic Class vessels the show a weakness in ship design of the era.

Perhaps "flaw" isn't the right word, but I can't think of one to replace it. Thursday I will right a better worded and in depth post.
 

Paul Rogers

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I am looking forward to your post, Erik. And please accept my apologies for spelling your name wrong - twice! I will put the blame on tiredness, 'though it's a poor excuse.

Paul.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Looks like I'll have to pour over my deckplans for the Britannic befor the gathering in April. It would help if there was some way of getting a better picture of the overall damage done by the explosion.

I have a feeling I'll be slapping myself in the head when Erik spells this out.
 

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