Titanic Technical Analysis Essay

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This project is focused on

Methodology

For this project, I will be conducting secondary research rather than a combination of primary and secondary research. This was done considering the time that the Titanic sunk

Context

The Titanic was owned by the company White Star Line and constructed by Harland and Wolff. She was deemed 'Unsinkable' by many as there had never before been ships constructed in that size. Instead of constructing one ship, they decided on three. The Titanic, the Olympics, and the Britannic. Thus, making an already seemingly ambitious project even more so.

On the 10th of April 1912, the Titanic departed from Southampton, England, for New York City just before noon. Despite the delay in her construction due to the Olympic colliding with the HMS Hawke, workmen were diverted from the Titanic to the Olympics (Flekins, Leighly, and Jankovic, 1998).

On a moonless night, 14 April 1912, the iceberg that struck the Titanic was spotted at 11:40 p.m. Green Land Time and sank completely at around 2:20 a.m. 15 April, more than 1500 lives were lost (Flekins, Leighly and Jankovic, 1998). Instead of taking around 2 to 3 days to sink as was expected of that time, it sunk in over 2 hours. This is because damage was made to the hull, which consequently caused the compartments to fill up one after the other, even though they were watertight, they were only so in a horizontal direction (Bassett, 2000). Out of around 2 200 people on the Titanic, there were only 711-713 survivors (Symanzik, Friendly, and Onder, 2018). Most who survived the sinking died from exposure to the water, possibly within 40 minutes (Hall, 1986). There were only 2207 confirmed persons on board however, there was conjecture that there were stowaways (Frey, Savage, and Torgler, 2011).

Speed

The RMS Titanic's speed increased gradually per day. This was done even though the captain had been informed of the ice field by other vessels. However, he may not have slowed his speed due to following the standard procedure of the time (Kelly, 2013). Captain Smith may have not reduced the speed as the night was clear with good visibility however, he was subtly pressured to increase the speed by the owner, Ismay, to set a new speed record (Battles, 2001).

Training

It was shown that there was a lack of staff training on the standard evacuation procedure as there had been no official drill along with only 705 lives saved, which is far below the capacity of the lifeboats (Kelly, 2013). The lookout Fred Fleet spotted the Iceberg a quarter mile away but should have seen it half a mile away but could not locate the binoculars that were found eighty years later (Battles, 2001).

Icebergs

Initially, a French liner, La Touraine, sent a warning on the 12th of April 1912 of the ice in the steamship lanes. However, it was not uncommon to find icebergs in the lanes at that time of year. As time passed, the warnings became more frequent and accurate. The icefield was estimated to be around 20 km wide and 120 km long in a northeast-southwest direction (Felkins, Leighly, and Jankovic, 1998). The Titanic continued at a speed of 21.5 knots and was twice diverted to attempt to avoid the icebergs.

In 1912, 1038 icebergs were observed which was not out of the ordinary but, the size of the iceberg that collided with the iceberg was. The iceberg was south of N°46, it was rare for an iceberg of that size to be that far south at that time of year in that location. Moreover, there was a greater number of icebergs reported that year than there normally would have been but, the weather conditions drove them South earlier than usual (Bigg and Billings, 2014).

Furthermore, the reason why the Titanic received most but not all of the messages of the iceberg warnings was that Wireless Officer Phillips was sending and receiving messages on the one radio channel available. He was told to place priority on sending out personal messages however, he did receive and pass on some iceberg warnings but, asked the senders to stop transmitting them (Battles, 2001).

Lifeboats

The RMS Titanic had complied with the current marine laws of the time set out by the British Board of Trade. Which stated that a ship with over 10,000 metric tonnes had to have a minimum of 16 lifeboats. Even though the Titanic complied with this law, it was 40,000 metric tonnes (Kelly, 2013). There were only enough lifeboats for half of the people on board and even then, several were launched half and three-quarters full. When the Titanic first collided with the iceberg, many passengers did not get into the lifeboats as they believed that it was unsinkable, they only started boarding when they saw true trouble (Dietz, 1998).

The Titanic only carried 20 lifeboats, which was enough for around 52% of the passengers, 1178 people. Another reason for the passengers' slow response to getting onto the lifeboats was that there was this disbelief that they were either in disbelief that they were in danger, reluctant to be separated from their husbands and the apparent presence of a ship nearby, meaning that some had decided to wait (Hall, 1986).

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Design Flaws

Even though the Titanic, along with her sister ships, were revolutionary in terms of their size and how they were built, how the compartments were constructed caused the ship to inadvertently sink faster.

The water compartments were watertight but, only so in the horizontal direction. Meaning that, as one compartment filled up, it would spill over to the next (Kelly, 2013). Six of the sixteen major compartments had flooded on the starboard side of the ship's bow. As the compartments were only watertight in a horizontal direction and the walls only a few feet above the water line, the water coming into the starboard side of the bow caused the ship to tilt. This, led to the propellers lifting out of the water at around 2:00 a.m. and later causing the stern to ascend out of the water, causing the bow to rip loose (Felkins, Leighly, and Jankovic, 1998).

Composition

When the iceberg hit the Titanic, damage occurred when the hull seams parted instead of an iceberg-induced gash. This was caused by the failure of some of the rivets and the type of steel used to construct the Titanic at the time experienced brittle fracture. When a fraction of the rivets failed due to the collision with the iceberg, they would then transfer the load to the others leading the stress levels to a failing point (Kelly, 2013).

On 15 August 1996, steel from the hull was brought to the University of Missouri-Rolla for analysis. They concluded that the steel was not made by the Bessemer process due to the very low nitrogen content but with an open-hearth process. Where two-thirds of the furnaces had acid linings that caused the high Sulphur and Phosphorus content in the steel. As a result of this combination of the high amounts of Sulphur, phosphorus, and Oxygen, low temperatures would embrittle the steel even though the combination is low by today's standards (Felkins, Leighly, and Jankovic, 1998).

To test how brittle the steel of the hull was, they conducted Charpy impact tests. It is a method to determine the energy absorbed by a material when it fractures and does so with the use of a swinging pendulum at the material at a range of temperatures. In this case, the temperature range was -55°C to 179°C. When the Titanic was sinking, the water temperature was -2°C. Even though the Titanic was constructed with the best plain carbon ship plate available at the time, it would not be acceptable today. This is because, when comparing the hull steel and ASTM A36 steel, it was shown that modern steel has a higher Manganese and lower Sulphur content which would reduce the ductile-brittle transition temperature a lot. The brittle fracture was caused by those low temperatures (Felkins, Leighly, and Jankovic, 1998). Moreover, the brittle steel is more likely to be relevant to the breakup of the ship and not the collision with the iceberg (Foecke, 1998).

Furthermore, another analysis was conducted by the College of Engineering University of Wisconsin and found that the brittleness of the steel was increased by disrupting its grain structure with the high Sulphur content. When the Charpy test was conducted, the modern steel was struck with a large force. The result was that the sample bent without breaking into pieces as it was ductile. However, under the same impact loading, the steel of the Titanic was extremely brittle and broke into two pieces along with little deformation (Gannon, 1995). Furthermore, the method of testing the steel, Charpy impact testing, was only developed a few years before the construction of the Titanic. Meaning that it would not make sense for the designers to use this testing method as it was relatively new. After analyzing the rivets, it was found that they either elongated or snapped. Thus, providing another inlet for water to flood into the ship as the iceberg tore through the seams, resulting in them being subjected to incredible forces (Bassett, 2000).

Research shows that the company that was responsible for the construction of the Titanic, Harland and Wolff, struggled to find enough good rivets and riveters as the Titanic alone required three million rivets. Due to the ambitiousness of this project, the company had to search beyond their usual suppliers such as small forges that generally had less skill. As a consequence of this, the rivets had high concentrations of slag resulting in brittle fracture and being prone to fracture. Furthermore, after searching in the company's archives, it was found that the shortages of skilled riveters were discussed at almost every meeting (Broad, 2008).

Steel rivets were only used on the central hull as they expected most of the stresses to be there, with iron rivets for the stern and bow. However, the iceberg struck the bow and the damage caused by it was close to where the rivets transitioned from iron to steel. This may also be a factor in the breakup of the ship. There is also evidence of complacency by the British Board of Trade found by Dr. McCarty. It showed that they stopped testing iron for shipbuilding in 1901 as they saw iron metallurgy as a mature field, unlike that of steel (Broad, 2008).

Psychology

The main reason why more women and children survived than men was due to the policy that was followed at that time and on the Titanic, women and children first. However, some of the crew members were armed to avoid incidents when people started to realize that they were in danger (Hall, 1986). Those who traveled alone had a better chance than those in groups as they could focus more on their self-interest however, in some cases those in groups had a higher chance of survival due to social support. Moreover, it was the duty of the 886 men and women in the crew to help save the passengers and only to abandon the ship when the task had been fulfilled. However, the crew had a 24% higher chance of surviving than the third class which proves that self-interests tend to dominate in life-and-death conditions. The key social norm of saving women and children first is still done today in evacuation procedures under the Geneva Convention (Frey, Savage, and Torgler, 2011).

Physical strength may have been a factor that increased survival however, adult males were less likely to survive than women and children. When comparing the ages of the adult males, those 55 years old and above were less likely to survive (Frey, Savage, and Torgler, 2011).

This difference was possibly due to the layout of the ship and not the lower classes being deliberately excluded (Hall, 1986). It is shown that first class had a better chance of survival as they had better access to the information about the danger and lifeboats were located closer to the first-class cabins. Third-class had the lowest chance of survival as they had little to no idea where the lifeboats were located and safety drills for passengers were only implemented after the Titanic. It was also more likely for British passengers to die as a result of their cultural norms at that time along with their belief that the Titanic was unsinkable (Frey, Savage, and Torgler, 2011).

Those who did not understand English could not understand what was required of them thus, the lower chance of survival (Hall, 1986). Time influences how people react in life-and-death situations. This is shown when you compare how people reacted to the Titanic and the Lusitania. The Titanic sunk in less than three hours and the people on board were calm at first and the lifeboats were loaded fuller than they were near the end due to the panic. However, when you consider the Lusitania, how people reacted was very different. She was torpedoed by a German U-boat on 7 May 1915 and sunk in twenty minutes. Instead of helping people calmly, the passengers panicked, thus causing more deaths (Frey, Savage, and Torgler, 2011).

Conclusion

She would have had a career of around 20 years, however, it was ultimately outdated legislation that led to the sinking of the Titanic as it had complied with all of the regulations of the British Board of Trade, were it not for this maritime disaster, many more lives would have been lost, the International Ice Patrol (IIP) was formed and the number of collisions was significantly reduced, along with laws such as having a lifeboat capacity for all of the passengers on board. The issue of legislation not keeping up with the increasing changes in technology is still a problem today.

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Titanic Technical Analysis Essay. (2024, February 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/titanic-technical-analysis-essay/
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