I’m reading What Really Sank the Titanic, 2006 by McCarty & Foecke. A riveting history, LOL! Titanic was the inspiration for my novel Lusitania Lost, available by advance order at leonardcarpenter.com .
They’re saying Titanic’s steel, or at least the rivets, left much to be desired, due to a speedup in work at Harland & Wolff shipyard, and the need to repair collision-damaged RMS Olympic right next to the partly-completed Titanic.
Very interesting, really. But the middle plates of the hull were 1½ inch steel machine-bolted with triple rows of strong steel rivets, and that’s where she broke in two. The iceberg damage was likely iron and steel rivets partly unzipped along the bow and side. Titanic, although designed as an auxiliary Royal Navy cruiser, was not armored below the waterline. Could any rivets have held tight, or at least stopped the damage before it reached the fatal fifth compartment?
The bigger the ship, the bigger the impact. An iceberg that makes it to Newfoundland is big. And by floating an ice cube in a glass, you can see that 90% of it is underwater. Nearby on that same night, the steamer Californian was stopped before an ice floe 30 miles long. Even if ice is softer than steel, it’s no Slushy.
When a vast floating skyscraper’s irresistible force is concentrated at a tiny point on the hull by an immovable object, something’s got to give. It may have been better if, instead of turning, Titanic had struck the iceberg head-on. Then only two or three forward compartments might’ve been breached, and she would have stayed afloat. That’s naval doctrine for collisions. In a grazing hit, it seems unlikely that any rivets in the world could have reduced the damage.
Failing that, would better steel have slowed the leaks and allowed more time for escape or rescue? Well, there were only lifeboats enough for half the souls aboard. And the nearest rescue ship SS Californian was adrift for the night, her telegraphist asleep (after being telegraphed “Shut up!” by Titanic’s radio man.)
So another hour or two afloat might have made no difference. Even if RMS Carpathia had arrived before Titanic broke up and sank, there would have been little time for boats to circulate back and forth and pick up passengers in the frigid water. However slow the sinking, the lifeboats stayed clear of floating survivors even after the ship was down, for fear of being mobbed. Many boats were only partially filled with upper class men, women and children. Others had declined to enter the boats, doubtless assuring each other, “Don’t worry, it’s only leaking in steerage.” Much like our own upper classes in this century, on Spaceship Earth.