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Titanic – Causes of the Disaster

May 21st, 2010

RMS Titanic Model

Construction of the Titanic Hull

The Titanic was originally thought to have sunk from the iceberg cutting a gash into Titanic’s hull. However, sonar technology has discovered from the buried impact point of the ship that the iceberg actually hit the hull causing it to buckle, and thus let water flow freely into Titanic. While the steel plating used for Titanic was arguably the best carbon ship plate available at the time, detailed analysis of small pieces of the steel plating from Titanic’s wreck hull discovered that the one to one and a half inch thick plates were composed of a metallurgy that loses elasticity in icy waters, thus becoming brittle and susceptible to cracks. The steel plating was determined to have a high content of phosphorous and sulfur. The high content of phosphorus is known to create fractures, while sulfur forms grains of iron sulfide that make cracking easier, and the lack of manganese makes the steel less ductile.

Impact

Many speculate that Titanic could have been spared had it hit the iceberg head on instead of attempting to maneuver around it. The resulting impact from a head on collision would have probably been absorbed by the naturally stronger bow, only killing a few of the passengers near the bow. Furthermore, a forward collision would have likely have resulted in only two – four compartments flooding, which the Titanic was designed to be able to handle.

Speed

Another cause of the disaster according to the British Inquiry read “that the loss of the said ship was due to collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated”. The Titanic was thought to be travelling at her normal cruising speed of 22 knots, less than her top speed of 24 knots. Maintaining normal speed was a common practice in iceberg prone areas, as it was thought that icebergs of a threatening stature could be seen in enough time to be avoided successfully. The sinking of the Titanic caused the British Board of Trade to begin regulating the speed of vessels traveling in iceberg waters. Popular culture speculates that J. Bruce Ismay instructed Captain Smith to increase speed in order to make an early landfall, and this can be seen in the blockbuster hit Titanic, that was released in 1997. However, little to no evidence suggests this being a possibility.

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