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View Full Version : Titanic 96th Anniversary



jpdc
April 15th, 2008, 05:06 PM
x

Meerkat
April 16th, 2008, 09:55 PM
^ Very nice - i like that.

Funny, i was just thinking about the Titanic yesterday. There is only 1 survivor left now, Millvina Dean - She's 96.

ZippyTheChimp
April 16th, 2008, 10:25 PM
April 15, 2008

In Weak Rivets, a Possible Key to Titanic’s Doom

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/04/14/science/14titanic-600.jpg
Titanic, left, and Olympic sit next to one another in a double
gantry while under construction.

By WILLIAM J. BROAD

Researchers have discovered that the builder of the Titanic struggled for years to obtain enough good rivets and riveters and ultimately settled on faulty materials that doomed the ship, which sank 96 years ago Tuesday.

The builder’s own archives, two scientists say, harbor evidence of a deadly mix of low quality rivets and lofty ambition as the builder labored to construct the three biggest ships in the world at once — the Titanic and two sisters, the Olympic and the Britannic.

For a decade, the scientists have argued that the storied liner went down fast after hitting an iceberg because the ship’s builder used substandard rivets that popped their heads and let tons of icy seawater rush in. More than 1,500 people died.

When the safety of the rivets was first questioned 10 years ago, the builder ignored the accusation and said it did not have an archivist who could address the issue.

Now, historians say new evidence uncovered in the archive of the builder, Harland and Wolff, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, settles the argument and finally solves the riddle of one of the most famous sinkings of all time. The company says the findings are deeply flawed.

Each of the great ships under construction required three million rivets that acted like glue to hold everything together. In a new book, the scientists say the shortages peaked during the Titanic’s construction.

“The board was in crisis mode,” one of the authors, Jennifer Hooper McCarty, who studied the archives, said in an interview. “It was constant stress. Every meeting it was, ‘There’s problems with the rivets and we need to hire more people.’ ”

Apart from the archives, the team gleaned clues from 48 rivets recovered from the hulk of the Titanic, modern tests and computer simulations. They also compared metal from the Titanic with other metals from the same era, and looked at documentation about what engineers and shipbuilders of that era considered state of the art.

The scientists say the troubles began when its ambitious building plans forced Harland and Wolff to reach beyond its usual suppliers of rivet iron and include smaller forges, as disclosed in company and British government papers. Small forges tended to have less skill and experience.

Adding to the problem, in buying iron for the Titanic’s rivets, the company ordered No. 3 bar, known as “best” — not No. 4, known as “best-best,” the scientists found. Shipbuilders of the day typically used No. 4 iron for anchors, chains and rivets, they discovered.

So the liner, whose name was meant to be synonymous with opulence, in at least one instance relied on cheaper materials.

Many of the rivets studied by the scientists — recovered from the Titanic’s resting place two miles down in the North Atlantic by divers over two decades — were found to be riddled with high concentrations of slag. A glassy residue of smelting, slag can make rivets brittle and prone to fracture.

“Some material the company bought was not rivet quality,” said the other author of the book, Timothy Foecke of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency in Gaithersburg, Md.

The company also faced shortages of skilled riveters, the archives showed. Dr. McCarty said that for a half year, from late 1911 to April 1912, when the Titanic set sail, the company’s board discussed the problem at every meeting. For instance, on Oct. 28, 1911, Lord William Pirrie, the company’s chairman, expressed concern over the lack of riveters and called for new hiring efforts.

In their research, the scientists, who are metallurgists, found that good riveting took great skill. The iron had to be heated to a precise cherry red color and beaten by the right combination of hammer blows. Mediocre work could hide problems.

“Hand riveting was tricky,” said Dr. McCarty, whose doctoral thesis at Johns Hopkins University analyzed the Titanic’s rivets.

Steel beckoned as a solution. Shipbuilders of the day were moving from iron to steel rivets, which were stronger. And machines could install them, improving workmanship.

The rival Cunard line, the scientists found, had switched to steel rivets years before, using them, for instance, throughout the Lusitania.

The scientists discovered that Harland and Wolff also used steel rivets — but only on the Titanic’s central hull, where stresses were expected to be greatest. Iron rivets were chosen for the stern and bow.

And the bow, as fate would have it, is where the iceberg struck. Studies of the wreck show that six seams opened up in the ship’s bow plates. And the damage, Dr. Foecke noted, “ends close to where the rivets transition from iron to steel.”

The scientists argue that better rivets would have probably kept the Titanic afloat long enough for rescuers to arrive before the icy plunge, saving hundreds of lives.

The researchers make their case, and detail their archive findings, in “What Really Sank the Titanic” (Citadel Press).

Reactions run from anger to admiration. James Alexander Carlisle, whose grandfather was a Titanic riveter, has bluntly denounced the rivet theory on his Web site. “No way!” Mr. Carlisle writes.

For its part, Harland and Wolff, after its long silence, now rejects the charge. “There was nothing wrong with the materials,” Joris Minne, a company spokesman, said last week. Mr. Minne noted that one of the sister ships, the Olympic, sailed without incident for 24 years, until retirement. (The Britannic sank in 1916 after hitting a mine.)

David Livingstone, a former Harland and Wolff official, called the book’s main points misleading. Mr. Livingstone said big shipyards often had to scramble. On a recent job, he noted, Harland and Wolff had to look to Romania to find welders.

Mr. Livingstone also called the slag evidence painfully circumstantial, saying no real proof linked the hull opening to bad rivets. “It’s only waffle,” he said of the team’s arguments.

But a naval historian praised the book as solving a mystery that has baffled investigators for nearly a century.

“It’s fascinating,” said Tim Trower, who reviews books for the Titanic Historical Society, a private group in Indian Orchard, Mass. “This puts in the final nail in the arguments and explains why the incident was so dramatically bad.”

The Titanic had every conceivable luxury: cafes, squash courts, a swimming pool, Turkish baths, a barbershop and three libraries. Its owners also bragged about its safety. In a brochure, the White Star Line described the ship as “designed to be unsinkable.”

On her inaugural voyage, on the night of April 14, 1912, the ship hit the iceberg around 11:40 p.m. and sank in a little more than two and a half hours. Most everyone assumed the iceberg had torn a huge gash in the starboard hull.

The discovery in 1985 of the Titanic wreck began many new inquiries. In 1996, an expedition found, beneath obscuring mud, not a large gash but six narrow slits where bow plates appeared to have parted. Naval experts suspected that rivets had popped along the seams, letting seawater rush in under high pressure.

A specialist in metal fracture, Dr. Foecke got involved in 1997, analyzing two salvaged rivets. He was astonished to find about three times more slag than occurs in modern wrought iron.

In early 1998, he and a team of marine forensic experts announced their rivet findings, calling them tentative.

Dr. Foecke, in addition to working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, also taught and lectured part time at Johns Hopkins. There he met Dr. McCarty, who got hooked on the riddle, as did her thesis adviser.

The team acquired rivets from salvors who pulled up hundreds of artifacts from the sunken liner. The scientists also collected old iron of the era — including some from the Brooklyn Bridge — to make comparisons. The new work seemed only to bolster the bad-rivet theory.

In 2003, after graduating from Johns Hopkins, Dr. McCarty traveled to England and located the Harland and Wolff archives at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, in Belfast.

She also explored the archives of the British Board of Trade, which regulated shipping and set material standards, and of Lloyd’s of London, which set shipbuilding standards. And she worked at Oxford University and obtained access to its libraries.

What emerged was a picture of a company stretched to the limit as it struggled to build the world’s three biggest ships simultaneously. Dr. McCarty also found evidence of complacency. For instance, the Board of Trade gave up testing iron for shipbuilding in 1901 because it saw iron metallurgy as a mature field, unlike the burgeoning world of steel.

Dr. McCarty said she enjoyed telling middle and high school students about the decade of rivet forensics, as well as the revelations from the British archives.

“They get really excited,” she said. “That’s why I love the story. People see it and get mesmerized.”

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/photo/2008/04/10/041308Titanic/22765363.JPG
A blueprint of the Titanic shows all nine decks in cross section.
The ship had a double hull at the bottom, but not up the sides.
Its design also included watertight compartments intended to
keep it afloat even if 4 of the 16 compartments flooded.


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/photo/2008/04/10/041308Titanic/22765355.JPG
Samples of four different types of rivets recovered from the Titanic.
While some ships of the time were built entirely with steel rivets, the
Titanic used a mix of steel and iron rivets. In the bow, where the
Titanic hit the iceberg, weaker iron rivets were used.


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/photo/2008/04/10/041308Titanic/22765371.JPG
To test the theory of weak rivets on the Titanic, Chris Topp,
a blacksmith in Yorkshire, England, recreated one of the
Titanic's double-riveted hull joints.


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/photo/2008/04/10/041308Titanic/22765373.JPG
Stresses similar to what the Titanic experienced in its collision
with the iceberg were applied to the joint, and the top of one
of the rivets popped off, at a load only 60 percent of what a
good quality rivet should have withstood.


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/photo/2008/04/10/041308Titanic/22765375.JPG
The small "button" on the inside of the rivet head was similar
in shape to broken rivets recovered from the Titanic wreckage.


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/04/15/science/15titanic_graph.250.gif


PHOTOS (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/04/14/science/041308Titanic_index.html)



Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Alonzo-ny
April 16th, 2008, 11:21 PM
I saw an identical test on a sample a year or so back on discovery, seemed pretty cut and dry.

Meerkat
April 17th, 2008, 12:04 AM
^ I saw a similar documentary a while back about poor quality iron used to build the ship - as you say, seems cut and dry. The other night i caught the last 10 minutes of a TV programme that argued the Titanic and the Olympic had been 'switched' and it was actually the Olympic that sank (there are quite a few conspiracy theories about the sinking).

Funny - nearly 100 years after it sank it still attracts so much attention. I've always been fascinated by the Titanic, ever since i was little. I even went to the Harland and Wolf shipyard in Belfast to see where it was built, though there isn't much there these days (although the whole area is about to be redeveloped so i hear). I also met one of the survivors, Eva Hart, in 1992 - she was 7 at the time and could remember watching it go down. It was amazing actually talking to someone who was there (her mum had a premonition that something was going to happen during the voyage).

http://www.lva.lib.va.us/whoweare/exhibits/titanic/img/eva.jpg

ZippyTheChimp
April 17th, 2008, 12:16 AM
Was a rationale given for why they would have switched the ships?

Alonzo-ny
April 17th, 2008, 12:18 AM
Ive always been pretty interested in it, given my love for all things huge and being from Glasgow a love of shipbuilding and old industry.

Meerkat
April 17th, 2008, 12:43 AM
^ I only caught the last few minutes of the programme, but from what i gathered it was something to do with a collision between the Olympic and HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight in 1911 - the Olympic was badly damaged and had to go back to shipyard in Belfast for repair and for some reason the ships were 'swapped'. It doesn't seem very likely, but you know what conspiracy theories are like. I would have liked to have seen the whole programme though.

I've also got a small lump of coal from the site of the wreck - about the size a pea. It cost £15, but if i hadn't bought it knowing me i would have regretted it later. They were selling it at the science museum when the Titanic exhibition was there.

GVNY
April 17th, 2008, 01:02 AM
I also met one of the survivors, Eva Hart, in 1992 - she was 7 at the time and could remember watching it go down. It was amazing actually talking to someone who was there (her mum had a premonition that something was going to happen during the voyage).

Could you expand on your conversations with Ms. Hart? I am tremendously excited to read about your discussion.

Meerkat
April 17th, 2008, 01:17 AM
^I'm coming to the end of my night shift so haven't got time to go through the full story now - i'm back on tonight so i'll expand then.

ZippyTheChimp
April 17th, 2008, 09:25 AM
^ I only caught the last few minutes of the programme, but from what i gathered it was something to do with a collision between the Olympic and HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight in 1911 - the Olympic was badly damaged and had to go back to shipyard in Belfast for repair and for some reason the ships were 'swapped'.I search around and found a book about the conspiracy theory.

Olympic & Titanic - The Truth Behind The Conspiracy (http://books.google.com/books?id=6r0_PKEE3dwC&dq=olympic+%26+titanic+the+truth+behind+the+conspi racy+by+bruce+beveridge&pg=PP1&ots=HDXn7pKVDw&sig=UPm41fiCWDlz6qBSBlpNzhwiDvQ&hl=en&prev=http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&newwindow=1&safe=off&rlz=1B3GGGL_en___US228&q=Olympic+%26+Titanic:+The+Truth+Behind+the+Conspi racy,+by+Bruce+Beveridge&btnG=Search&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title&cad=one-book-with-thumbnail)

From what I gather: At a hearing to determine responsibility for damages to the Olympic and Hawke, the Admiralty ruled that each company was to pay their own repair expenses. The White Star Line determined that the damage to Olympic was too costly to repair, so a plot was hatched to swap the ship with the Titanic, and deliberately sink her to collect insurance.

The conspiracy was fueled by reports that Captain Smith was seen on the streets of New York. You'd think such a massive effort would involve an assassin's bullet to the head.

Typical of conspiracy theories: All three Olympic class ships were identical in dimensions, but there were differences that made identification straightforward. When the Titanic wreck was finally located, it was noted that the number 401 was stamped into one of the propeller blades, identifying the ship. The conspiracy theorists explained that the propellers were swapped at the shipyard. And so forth.

What I get from skimming through is that the conspiracy theory doesn't stand up well to logical analysis.

Ninjahedge
April 17th, 2008, 10:31 AM
Question though, didn't they say in the article that the other ships used similar manufacture and materials? If that is the case, it does not matter which ship actually went down, they all had the same materials, so arguing which one it was is just plain silly:


“There was nothing wrong with the materials,” Joris Minne, a company spokesman, said last week. Mr. Minne noted that one of the sister ships, the Olympic, sailed without incident for 24 years, until retirement.

Which brings up a second point. If the Olympic (or whatever that boat was really called) never hit a 'berg, how would that prove that the construction was not sufficient for hitting one?

If a building never experiences an earthquake, you cant site that as a proof that its design could withstand one if one happens. You need other means than its mere existance to proove this.


This is where you get a true feeling for "design loads" and "service loads". Design is usually a worst case scenario, and service is just day-to-day. If you only have Service Load design, your building, car, or boat will be fine.

So long as there are no hurricanes, tidal waves, earthquakes or people text messaging while driving...

ZippyTheChimp
April 17th, 2008, 10:42 AM
Question though, didn't they say in the article that the other ships used similar manufacture and materials? If that is the case, it does not matter which ship actually went down, they all had the same materials, so arguing which one it was is just plain silly:The point of which ship went down is whether the sinking was deliberate...not silly if you consider the conspiracy theory.

Meerkat
April 17th, 2008, 08:10 PM
Could you expand on your conversations with Ms. Hart? I am tremendously excited to read about your discussion.

I met her through someone i used to work with who was also interested in the Titanic.

Eva Hart had friends she used to visit every year or so a short distance from my home town - the local methodist vicar suggested it would be interesting to have a 'Titanic evening' at the Methodist hall, my colleague was invited, and in turn asked me if i'd like to go too, so thats how i met Eva.

There were about 20 of us there, and Eva was happy to answer any questions. She told us that initially her family were emigrating to America on another ship, but due to a coal strike they were transferred to the Titanic. Her mother was uneasy about travelling on the Titanic, and was convinced that something was going to happen, although she wasn't sure what. During the voyage her mum slept during the day, and stayed awake at night, as she was sure that whatever was going to happen would take place at night. Eva remembered the night the ship hit the iceberg being woken up and taken on deck and told to put on a life jacket. She and her mother were put into a life boat, and she remembered being lowerd into the sea with her father watching down from the deck above.

She said that after the ship had gone down they could hear the cries for help, which gradually faded away - she said that the sound haunted her all her life. Her father went down with the ship, and they subsequently returned to England.

It was quite an experience meeting her and actually talking to someone who had been there and could remember some of the events of the evening, but it was also interesting to hear about her mothers premonition.

Getting back to conspiracy theories, my favourite has to be the cursed mummy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic_alternative_theories), that was said to be on board ship.

Ninjahedge
April 18th, 2008, 05:04 PM
The point of which ship went down is whether the sinking was deliberate...not silly if you consider the conspiracy theory.

I'm not.

I was considering it in context of the viability of the method/reason of structural failure of the ships cladding components.

IOW, which ship went down does not matter if they were built the same with the same materials. If the other had hit, then it would have sunk just the same.

If there were OTHER things attached to the switch, like some sort of pre-meditated weakening of the boats structure, then it would bring the switch back into discussion, but that is only because it brings in an alternate mode/cause of failure.

Meerkat
April 21st, 2008, 11:29 PM
What I get from skimming through is that the conspiracy theory doesn't stand up well to logical analysis.

I had a look through a synopsis of Robin Gardners theory too, and most of it is easily disproved. To pick out just one:

'Gardiner then makes one his most controversial statements — that the Titanic did not strike an iceberg, but one of the IMM rescue ships that was drifting on station with its lights out'.

There were numerous witnesses who saw the iceberg as it slid alongside the Titanic, part of it was even sheared off and landed in the forecastle deck. There is even a photograph of the iceberg they think sank the Titanic - it was very close to the location the ship went down, and had a smear of red paint along one side.

http://www.uscg.mil/lantarea/iip/pics/unberg.jpg