The Titanic; an iconic, tragic memory of a voyage at sea gone wrong. The event has inspired much in the world of literature and art since. But could this fateful venture have been avoided? There has been much speculation since the disaster as to how exactly the ship could have been saved, using modern ship building techniques, better communication with the captain or greater safety awareness from the ship’s manufacturer. In this article we will be looking at how Titanic could have been better designed so that it would not have sunk.
How did Titanic sink?
When it first set sail in its maiden voyage in April 1912, the Titanic was said to be unsinkable. The biggest ship afloat, Titanic was a massive 270m long, 28m wide and 54m high. It was equipped with 16 watertight compartments and watertight doors. All media, articles and advertisement around the ship often touted how well equipped it was and how it had been designed to be unsinkable.
Tragically however, this turned out to be far from the truth. A few days into its first voyage Titanic struck an iceberg whilst traversing the northern Atlantic Ocean. The iceberg struck at an angle, causing the ship’s starboard to buckle. Water filled 6 of the 16 water tight compartments and less than three hours later, the ship broke apart and sank. There are plenty of suggested ways that the captain could have avoided the iceberg, the crew could have better anticipated or reacted to the situation. However, we are going to be looking at the ways the ship could have been designed to better deal with the collision.
Titanic could have been constructed with a double hull. This technology which was readily available at the time. The hull would have greater shielded the ship from the force of the impact with the iceberg. However, the ship’s manufacturers considered this an unnecessary expense at the time. They were satisfied with a double bottom as opposed to the more expensive double hull. This was a fairly common opinion amongst shipbuilders at the time. After the disaster however, double hull became standard practice for new ships.
Better quality metal
Titanic was largely constructed of steel, strong enough for most sea applications. These days we fuse steel plates together by welding them. However, back in the early 20th century, steel had to be held together using rivets, a permanent mechanical fastener hammered into place by hand.
Although a majority of the rivets were steel some were cast iron and contained large amounts of impurities. This makes the metal poor quality, more brittle and weaker. When the ship’s surface scraped the iceberg, the rivets were snapped or popped open, allowing water into the ship. What’s more, the steel itself contained impurities. In the cold temperatures encountered in the northern Atlantic, the steel would become brittle and weak. This would have aided in the Titanic’s demise.
Finally, the watertight compartments could have been extended. As mentioned, the Titanic contained 16 water tight compartments to reduce the risk of flooding. However, these compartments did not extend up to the height of all decks, nor were they sealed at the very top. This meant that flooding could be contained if only some of the compartments were breached, around 4 in this case. But with the 6 compartments actually breached in the incident, the water would flood these compartments, reach the top and then pour over, flooding the rest of the ship. In the future, this crucial design flaw would be taken care of.