R.M.S. Titanic: from a drawing to a sinking

Luca Marzano proposes a hypothetical sinking sequence inspired by the recollection of a young passenger, 17-year-old Jack Thayer.


In this brief article I propose an hypothetical, slightly different sinking sequence, partly inspired by the reconstruction based on the experience of a young passenger, the 17-year-old Jack Thayer, as an eyewitness. I'll let the pictures describe the most.

Titanic Drawing 1

After hitting an iceberg, R.M.S. Titanic started going with the bow underwater, the hull being gradually tilted by a few degrees on the right side, for the fact that the opened space between the riveted plates – caused by the collision – was on the starboard side and water was coming in from that point only. The view in figure 1 is taken from the rear side of the ship, looking forward.

The main, ordinary sinking sequence follows up (figures 2 and 2-bis) until the poop deck reaches a certain height over the water line. As Thayer's account suggests, the Titanic did not break underwater. As soon as the Titanic breaks the bow is lifted up for a few feet, then it falls down again. It is my guess that the drawing exaggerated the scene where break occurs and consequently I made a few modifications to the same when drawing mine. The R.M.S. Titanic could not break that way because the heavier point in the hull was not amidships, actually it was within the bow: the breakage depicted by Thayer refers to a situation in which there is no support in the middle of the hull while the ship is still horizontal, but it was not the case that night.

Titanic drawing 2

Figures 3-6 show how the two main pieces of R.M.S. Titanic separated from each other, respectively. Being the hull tilted on the right side, after the whole stern part detaches from the rear expansion joint, it does fall on the water following the tilt angle of the rest of the hull. It does rotate on the right and it is soon submerged starting from the opened front as the water fills the giant engine rooms. Only at this point the fourth funnel goes down. Two ending sequences based on the picture above are possible.

Titanic drawing 3

The first sequence (figures 7 to 10) is perhaps how anyone could expect to see final moments of the R.M.S. Titanic. This is very similar to how the final sequence is depicted nowadays, as seen in books and movies about the ship, although the stern floats almost vertically only in the very last seconds, with a limited part of itself visible. This is clearly outlined in the fifth and sixth scene of Thayer's drawing.

The vacuum-like water motion caused by the fast run of the immense bow part towards the oceanic bottom takes the stern down like an hand from the sea. The air trapped inside the poop decks acted like a balloon filled with air – which is difficult to place completely underwater without a great effort – at least until all the air contained inside is gone.

The second possible sequence is, in my analysis, the most interesting. What would happen if the stern could rotate almost completely before going underwater? The answer to this question could give an alternate reason to why the stern does face today the rear of the bow instead of drawing an imaginary, continuous line from the prow to the stern.

In the following picture I illustrate this approach.

Titanic drawing 4

The stern (figures 7-II and 8-II) literally rotates to the right, then – when almost flipped – falls down onto the surface of the sea (figures 9-II to 11). The giant reciprocating engines, being of considerable weight, act as a counter-weight together with the water that pulls the poop deck upwards, then the stern floats and disappears forever.

L.M. July 2013

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Luca Marzano

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