Opening watertight doors : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

I was thinking about the suggestion Capt. Smith alludes to in the movie, namely opening the water-tight doors and using the bilge pumps to slow the sinking. Andrews said, "That buys you time, but minutes only." The pumps alone probably would have only bought a few minutes. But I'm wondering if Titanic might have stayed afloat significantly more than a few minutes longer if it was allowed to settle level. Water must have flooded into the submerged bow much more quickly (asuming it wasn't completely watertight above the water line) than if it had stayed above water as long as possible. Keeping in mind that the late arrival of rescue ships is hindsight ( we know NOW it wouldn't have made a difference), how much time would have been "bought" and why did they decide against this?

-- Dan Dalton (, March 05, 1998



There is no evidence I know of that Thomas Andrews ever considered opening the WTDs; he knew the ship better than anyone on board. The question was later put to Edward Wilding, a Harland and Wolff naval architect, at the British BOT inquiry, and he rejected the notion out of hand. He felt such a strategy would have actually **accelerated** the rate of flooding and caused the ship to take on a dangerous list (computer simulations conducted by H&W a couple of years ago supported Wilding's opinion).

This strategy would also have allowed the engine rooms to flood much earlier than they actually did. Since the ship's dynamos were located in the engine rooms, this would have cut off the ship's electrical power **far** earlier than was actually the case. And of course, when that happens, they lose the pumps, lighting and wireless. Losing the pumps would obviously accelerate the rate of flooding. The loss of lighting would have made launching the lifeboats much more difficult, if not impossible, and likely would have precipitated a panic among the passengers still on board. Loss of power would have cut off the ship's ability to call for help via the wireless.

As someone pointed out in an earlier thread, the two most important things Titanic had to do that night were to 1. evacuate the ship; and 2. be seen and heard. Flooding the engine rooms would have made both those tasks impossible.


-- Kip Henry (, March 05, 1998.


Thanks for the response. I knew there had to be a good reason and that I could count on you to provide it! The other reasons not withstanding, I did realize that they wanted to keep the lights and wireless powered as long as possible, I just thought they might have had battery back-up for emergencies. What powered the dynamos; did they rely on steam from the boilers?

-- Dan Dalton (, March 06, 1998.


Yes, the dynamos were powered by steam from the boilers. There were four 400 KW engines located off the reciprocating engine rooms. There were two auxiliary dynamos on D-deck, rated at 30 KW each, and were obviously for emergency purposes. They could not have kept everything running, though.


-- Kip Henry (, March 06, 1998.

OK, I admit it. I'm cluelessly nontechnical. Can someone help me to understand how, with the boiler rooms flooded and shut by the watertight doors, the Titanic was able to maintain its electrical power for over two hours after the accident? Where were the dynamos and the engine room in relation to the flooding? Weren't the boilers, and the maintenance of them, necessary to maintain the power coming from the engine room? Or were some of the boilers free of the flooding for a while?

Kip, Peter, Thomas: I'm begging for some understanding, and hoping you'll indulge my stupidity in such matters, since I'm not sure I expressed this clearly or correctly....


-- Mary Lynne Nielsen (, March 08, 1998.

Hi Mary: Not at all a stupid question! In fact, a very good one! The engine room was located at a point from slightly aft of the third stack to slightly aft of the fourth stack and at the very bottom of the ship. I am assuming the dynamos were located there also although I can't seem to locate them on the diagram I am looking at. The boilers were forward of that. "Chief Engineer William Bell and a few crewmen kept the steam up in boiler rooms No. 2 and No. 3 so that the lights on the ship would remain lit, and more important, so there would be power to keep the pumps going." (This from "The Discovery of the Titanic" by Dr. Robert Ballard 1987). I would add that it also served to keep the wireless powered up as long as possible. There is no doubt that these men were true Titanic heroes.

Regards, Peter

-- Peter Nivling (, March 08, 1998.

Hi Mary:

There were six boiler rooms on the Olympic-class ships. Boiler room six was closest to the bow, and obviously the first to flood. Boiler room five was next in line, but the hull damage only penetrated a couple of feet into this room, so the firemen were able to shut these boilers down before the flooding became too severe. The watertight doors were able to keep the flooding of the successive rooms to a minimum until, inevitably, the each compartment ahead filled to the top of the bulkhead and spilled over into the next compartment aft. Because of this, the engineers were able to keep some boilers going to provide steam to the dynamos, virtually up until the breakup of the ship.


-- Kip Henry (, March 09, 1998.

Just this past week, I was watching a special on the Titanic and during the latter part of it, they did an experiment concerning this very question. In order to test the theory they built a model of the Titanic that would suffer the same results of the actual Titanic when they sunk it. They sunk it two times, once with the modelled water tight doors closed, and the model sunk in the same amount of time as the actual Titanic. They then sunk it again with the doors open, and not only did it sink faster, it also began to capsize before it sank, which if it had happened in real life, would have caused many more casualties than actually were suffered.

-- Todd Feurer (, April 13, 1998.

Yep! Edward Wilding (a Harland and Wolff naval architect) predicted a similar outcome in the British Board of Trade hearings in 1912. When you consider that he had no ability to run computer simulations, and likely never simulated it with models in a tank (as in the recent documentary), his knowledge of ships and their behavior at sea must have been remarkable.


-- Kip Henry (, April 13, 1998.

I still am not satisfied with Wilding's explanation of the outcome had the watertight doors remained open. We did not have any idea that the Titanic broke in two until 1985. (Check out the 1980 movie Raise the Titanic!) We will never know the pattern of the breaches in the first six compartments.

The Titanic went down by the head. Once the ship reached a critical angle of about 40 degrees, the ship broke in two. This doomed the ship in a way that the loss of lights or wireless could not. Admittedly, the sinking would occur very quickly at this point with or without a breakup. At this point, sinking was a matter of filling a series of tipped buckets.

Computer simulations can not possibly determine sinking time. We know the sinking time with closed doors. However, sinking time with open doors would very much depend on how large the breaches were in any given forward compartment. We have no way of knowing what the pattern of the breaches were. If breaches were more or less equal in each compartment, it would have helped to let the water spill away from the bow and deliver it toward the midsection and stern. Sinking time would also be very dependent on where (vertically in relation to the waterline these openings occurred). If relatively small openings were in say the 4th, 5th and 6th compartments, perhaps water entering there could have been distributed through open doors throughout the ship, preventing the acute forward list responsible for the rapid descent of the ship. It seems that water drawn away from the bow section through open doors could have kept the damaged bow elevated, leveled the ship and kept some openings from exposure to the sea for a longer period of time. In any case, the ship would not have broken.

With the Carpathia and daybreak only two more hours away, I would think it at least have been worth a try to open some of the doors about midnight. The final outcome certainly could not have been much worse.
Thank you, Larry Keniston

-- Larry Keniston (, December 31, 2003.

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