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Could All of Titanic’s Passengers Have Been Saved?

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Michael Bowler Having been fascinated by the Titanic disaster for most of my life, I ‘ve read a huge number of books and articles on the subject. In writing my novel, A Matter of Time, I sought to make the Titanic portions as accurate as I possibly could. Despite placing some fictional characters aboard the ship, I strove to portray the real historical figures, like Captain Smith, Jack Phillips and Thomas Andrews, with as much truth as possible. As you may or may not know, Titanic brushed alongside an iceberg that essentially punctured her hull below the waterline for a full three hundred feet, on the starboard side near the bow. A design flaw within the watertight compartments caused her to sink. But, there was a way to save the passengers and crew that was never attempted, and to the best knowledge of historians, never even discussed.
The builder of Titanic, Thomas Andrews, was aboard her for the maiden voyage, to gauge her strengths and weaknesses. The ship was considered “practically unsinkable” due to the watertight compartments designed to contain and restrain water should the ship strike something and damage her hull. But the builders, and designers, envisioned a head-on collision, or perhaps another ship ramming Titanic from the side. They never imagined an iceberg, or anything, ripping a 300-foot gash across the first five watertight compartments. Each compartment had watertight doors and bulkheads to contain the incoming seawater. The design flaw was the bulkhead between the fifth and sixth watertight compartments – it only rose as high as E Deck (not all the way to the top deck.) Thus, once those first five compartments flooded, the water spilled over that not-high-enough bulkhead into the seventh compartment and then into the eight, and so on. Titanic effectively became an ice cube tray, with water spilling over into each successive compartment and dragging her down. She was pulled down by the head, and once this process accelerated, there was no stopping it.
What neither Andrews nor Captain Smith even considered doing was the following: they could have opened the watertight doors separating these compartments and allowed water to fill the entire bottom portion of the ship. If they had done this, Titanic would not have been pulled down by the head, but would have sunk on an even keel, with only twelve square feet open to the sea all night. The aft (rear) engine pumps could have been activated, likely keeping the ship afloat indefinitely, or at least long enough for the rescue ships to arrive.
No one knows why this wasn’t tried, since both men went down with the ship. Perhaps the sheer shock of such an impossible event stunned Andrews to the point that this option never came to mind. Alas, had he thought of it, Titanic would not likely be the worst maritime disaster in history because the loss of life would’ve been slight, or perhaps no one would have been lost at all.
In my book, I give this knowledge to a character from the future, who must decide whether or not to inform the Captain of this possibility, and thus change history forever. You’ll have to read the book to discover what he chooses.

message 2: by Jeni (new)

Jeni No, they couldn't have been all saved. There were not enough lifeboats. Even if they had been filled correctly, there were only enough boats for approx. half the passengers.

Could more have been saved? Without a doubt.

Michael Bowler With all due respect to Jeni, I think you missed my point. The passengers might have been saved if Andrews and Smith executed the operation I described in the post, an operation that could've kept the Titanic afloat long enough for the rescue ships Carpathia, and maybe even Olympic, to arrive in the morning.

message 4: by Jeni (new)

Jeni I'm dubious it would have been effective, but it sounds like an interesting premise.

By the time the Captain was notified of the extent of the damage, the first five compartments were full and the bulkheads sealed. There was just too much water, too fast and strains and cracks in the hull already opening to allow more water in.

I hope Captain Smith listens to your character better than he did to the ice warnings he received earlier in the evening!

Good luck with your story!

The_Poptart_Guy They all daed. the end. no one cares anymore. adn yse I konw I can splel rgiht I jsut dno't want to.

message 6: by Ari (last edited Mar 12, 2017 09:23PM) (new)

Ari Blaw It is an old topic, but also an interesting premise.
There was plenty of wood, rubber, paraffin wax and thin metal sheets in the ship and also many hands to work and time to build rafts, since the Titanic take 2 and a half hours to sink.
Each lifeboat could carry 55 to 60 people, but if one could build rafts, in the form of a square area sustained by 4 to 6 boats in its sides, it could have saved hundreds more. Even thousands.

message 7: by David (new)

David Anderson Could more have been saved no because look at the facts
first of all this were 2300 people on this ship and they only had say 4 hours and it was in 1912 i time when people were still learning how to drive tractor trailers
let alone coordinate a mass evacuation there were no public address systems hell there wasn't even telephones back then so the crew had to go from door to door to door waking up every single person one at a time and i seriously doubt they made it to every room
So the bottom line is with the time and resources they had i'm surprised they managed save 700 people

message 8: by Peter (new)

Peter A David wrote: "Could more have been saved no because look at the facts
first of all this were 2300 people on this ship and they only had say 4 hours and it was in 1912 i time when people were still learning how ..."

How all could have survived. Immediately pivot the ship back to the iceberg and prepare to moor and disembark passengers onto it once you determined no rescue ships were in the vicinity. Pictures exist of the presumed iceberg. The left cleavage is the side where the ship hit, impossible to land passengers. However, behind that cleavage is a 100' high "platform" ready to receive 2300 passengers. That iceberg was reported by surviving witnesses to be 400' long and 100' high, the exact height of the ship's deck. Photos of the presumed iceberg correspond to the what passengers reported. Captain Smith had 2 1/2 hrs to work this.

message 9: by Peter (new)

Peter A Remember, that night was denoted by placid waters, not even a breeze in the air nor a wave in the ocean.

message 10: by Robert (new)

Robert Lloyd Unfortunately, none of you have read the inquiry that was made by the British government after the incident.

1) An initial assessment said that there was little damage

2) Hearing that. Capt Smith ordered the ship to resume forward motion at 1/2 speed.

Unfortunately, that decision caused the water to enter the ship at a higher rate.

It also took the ship away from the iceberg, preventing any use of that.

3) Titanic’s designer Andrews gave his grim assessment at midnight, 20 min after the impact, telling Capt Smith that Titanic would only last 2 hours.

It is only then that the ship came to a dead stop.

4) I had also thought that opening the water tight doors would allow the water to fill more evenly in order to buy enough time for the Carpathia to arrive.

Remember, we aren’t trying to keep the ship from sinking, we are just trying to slow the rate of sinking to last a couple more hours.

However, the transcripts of the Titanic inquiry claim that the crew did reopen ALL watertight doors.

Unfortunately, Capt Smith’s decision to proceed at half speed, causing faster filling of the compartments, is what doomed the ship.

Had Titanic just remained stopped after the impact, a number of things could have been done.

5) The damage was not a major gash in the hull, but was rather, popped rivets that allowed a gap where the steel plates were joined.

The crew could have taken mattresses and placed weights in them from the gymnasium so that they would sink. They could have tied ropes to them and lowered them one after another along the length of the popped rivers.

The mattresses would have been sucked into the narrow gap, filling it and stopping the inflow of water. That action actually could have even saved the ship if it was done early enough.

But as I said, Capt Smith decided to proceed at half speed after the impact, preventing any such actions to save the ship.

By the time he brought the ship to a halt, the front bulk heads had already filled to a point that it couldn’t be saved.

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