What Caused The Titanic To Sink?

The Titanic hit the iceberg just after 11:30 pm on April 14th 1912, she sank at around 02:20am on April 15th 1912. But why did she sink?

We know that the main reason Titanic sank was because more than 5 consecutive bulkheads of her massive hull were breached, causing water to spill over at E and D deck into rear compartments. But why was the damage so severe that the accident was fatal?

There are many theories as to the reasons behind Titanic sinking that night, just some of these include:

  • The construction of Titanic's hull
  • The turning ability of Titanic
  • The speed at which Titanic was travelling
  • The angle and orientation of the impact
  • The night time whether conditions

The Construction Of Titanic's Hull

It's possible that the materials used in the construction of the Titanic's hull were actually sub-standard, in fact analysis of rivets from the wreck of Titanic found a high concentration of slag. This essentially made the rivets more brittle and more prone to damage. On the night that Titanic sunk the hull plates buckled in multiple places, allowing water to flood the hull, had the rivets been of better quality and been well fitted then the steel plates may not have buckled.

The Turning Ability Of Titanic

The size of the rudders on Titanic have been criticised by many as being too small for a ship her size. Whilst the rudder size met the standards enforced at that time, were they suitable for a ship her size and did they allow for enough water flow across them for optimum turning ability?

In reality Titanic met all of the shipping standards laid out at that time, including those for lifeboats but they were far from adequate for the amount of passengers on board that night. Ships the size of Titanic were rare and standards at that time weren't designed for ships of this magnitude.

The Speed At Which Titanic Was Moving

It's reported that just before the iceberg was hit, the Titanic had been travelling at around 22 knots, this was 2 knots below her designed top speed. This was in spite of the ice warnings sent throughout the day and later on that evening, the final one being sent by the Californian's only radio operator who left his post at 11:15pm immediately after being told to “shut up” by the Titanic's radio operator. But why was the Titanic going so fast?

It's always been rumoured that J. Bruce Ismay had put pressure on Captain E. J Smith to increase Titanic's speed in order to get to New York earlier than planned. White Star Line were keen to show passengers that they were better than their rivals and could make a 6 day crossing.

The Angle And Orientation Of The Impact

The Titanic hit the iceberg on it's starboard side, this cause the iceberg to buckle the steel plates of Titanic's hull across several of the watertight compartments. It's theorized that had Titanic hit the iceberg head on, less watertight bulkheads would have been breached and the Titanic would not have sunk.

The Night Time Wheather Conditions

On the night that the Titanic sank the weather was cold but good, the sea was extremely calm, described in TV and books as being like a “mill pond”. This meant that there were very few waves present and therefore the icebergs were even harder to see since there were no waves breaking at their surface.

Conclusion

In there are many reasons and theories as to why the Titanic may have sunk that night, do you have any comments or theories of your own as to the demise of Titanic? If so then please go ahead and post them below, we'd love to hear what you have to say.

Comments

  1. azmi says:

    The major cause of the disaster was the human words itself. The word ,’build to be unsinkable’ are the word to ‘challenge’ the power of God!!.

  2. Ben says:

    Hi Azmi,

    Yes, I’m inclined to agree with you. The ship was even advertised as “The Safest Ship In The World”.

  3. Matt says:

    It says ‘Concentration of slag’ i think you meant slack

  4. Ben says:

    I didn’t mean “slack” Matt, slag is a solid material which resides in metal as a result of the interaction of flux and impurities when smelting metal – in Titanic’s case during the construction of the hull.

  5. Ash says:

    iv’e just watched the movie on tv and its released at cinema’s in 3D but its really amazing how a ship of that size had not been reinforced to take on such impact,although it may not of met the total standard of having a thicker sheeting of metal to withstand bumps,scratches and dents on its star board side…it should of been able to take the impact and so forth be able to give way to atleast pour in a least amount of water so that the ship does not sink within 2hours of damage…correct me if I’m wrong but just speaking my mind

  6. Ben says:

    I agree that the ship should not have sunk but this recipe for disaster had far more ingredients than just that. Just some of which included:

    - Poor quality rivets containing high quantities of slag which became more brittle at lower temperatures. Welding was a new concept back then and so rivet and plating was the “done thing”.
    - The bulkheads not extending up far enough and not being self contained, therefore once water reached the top of one bulkhead it simply overspilled into the next. Titanic had a water displacement value which once exceeded by the weight of water on board meant Titanic would inevitably sink.
    - The rumours that Titanic DIDN’T stop all engines following the collision. There are eyewitness accounts that the ship continued ahead once it hit the iceberg before eventually stopping, this was while the damage was assessed. If this is true then the forces against the hull whilst the ship was moving would have drawn much more water in, much more quickly than it would have if the ship had remained stopped.
    - Rumours that many bulkhead doors were open allowing water to flood farther in.

    Titanic had water pumps on board which could pump water back out of the hull during such an incident, the fact of the matter was though that the pumps were unable to cope with the volume of water, probably due to the above factors.

    The sinking of Titanic was twofold:

    1) The design flaws
    2) The catalogue of errors which occurred on the night of the sinking

    Design flaws aside, could it’s sinking have been prevented after she hit the iceberg? Probably not, but I think it’s likely that it could have been slowed down until more help arrived. On the other hand however, HMHS Britannic (Titanic’s sister ship) only took around 40 minutes to sink some 3 years later and she had many design modifications following the sinking of Titanic.

  7. Maya Germano says:

    I think the titanic is a really bad disaster that happened

  8. Ben Harris says:

    I have seen many documentaries on this matter, alot of the problem was with human error. it was said that a few days before the ship set sail they changed the crew over from another ship, most of which were not too familiar with it, the men in the crows nest also took the only pair of binoculars with them and forgot to give the new crew certain keys and things, had these been done properly the ship may have seen the iceberg earlier and moved away more efficiently

  9. Henna says:

    didn’t the titanic sink because of the iceberg and because all most all of the compartments were flooded and it was the maker of Titanic fault of what happened to the ship right

  10. Ben says:

    Well yes of course it sank because it hit an iceberg but the answer isn’t that simple, it’s more about the web of issues which collectively led to it’s demise.

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