The Titanic might be the world’s most famous ship, and has been the subject of countless books, films, and documentaries. The ocean liner reached mythical status stemming from the claims of it being ?unsinkable” but following her loss on April 15, 1912, Titanic continues to captivate minds today. Unsolved mysteries have surrounded the legend of Titanic and it was not until after her rediscovery in 1985 that some of these questions have been answered, leaving more yet to be resolved.
Shipbuilder Harland and Wolff was contracted by White StarLine to build the three largest ocean liners of the time. The Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic were luxury hotels for the rich but the vast majority of the ship’s passengers would be in third class, where immigrants from Europe sought a better life in America.
The three ships, being built simultaneously, required 9million rivets to finish their construction. This lead to Harland and Wolff cutting corners in metal quality and skilled labor. The prevailing theory followingTitanic’s sinking was that these weak rivets were also improperly installed, and the iceberg cut
through the ship’s hull with ease.
Forty-eight rivets have been recovered from the wreck of Titanic and have been the subject of many tests and debates. Studies of the iron’s imperfections concluded the rivets were brittle and prone to breaking, potentially leading to more damage than necessary.
The moments leading up to the disaster have been the focus of intense study. Titanic had received ice warnings from passing ships but her speed and course remained unchanged. Just before midnight, lookouts spotted an iceberg in front of the ocean liner but the distance, one mile, proved too close to turn in time. A modern theory is that the cold night air created an atmospheric effect called ?Fata Morgana?. This form of mirage creates a false horizon due to a layer of cold air being trapped beneath warmer air. The trapped layer of air distorts the appearance of objects and the dark moonless night of April 14 could have easily hidden icebergs until it was too late.
Eyewitness testimonies from the Titanic crew gave rise to the theory that a coal bunker fire doomed the great ocean liner. These bunkers, places where coal was stored for the engines, were located below the waterline along the sides of the ship. Coal bunker No. 6 was located on the forward starboard side of the ship and a fire burned inside it throughout the ship’s maiden voyage. However, by April 14, this fire had been extinguished and all coal removed from the bunker. Workers later testified that the steel hull was warped from the fire’s intense heat. Some researchers theorize that this fire damage weakened the hull and without it, Titanic could have survived the impact from the collision. However, most scholars believe this hull damage did not increase the iceberg’s fatal destruction.
Regardless of the above theories, around 2:30 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the legendary ship disappeared from the surface for the last time. Modern estimates believe the ship took an additional 6 to 10 minutes to travel the 2.37 miles to her final resting place on the ocean floor.
Excerpt taken from The Anchor Newsletter, April, 2017.