Sinking Dynamics, angles and timeline : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

(This thread is a continuation of Discovery says Cameron was wrong....)

The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) has a review of the movie, specifically focusing on the technical elements. Basically, it mentions that the sinking angle reached a maximum of 17 degrees and that the ship stayed together (although broken-apart) for part of the way down (underwater).

The Discovery Channel documentary Titanic: Secrets from the Abyss mentions that the naval engineering firm of Gibbs & Cox ran a finite-element computer model of the sinking.

{tweaked 01999 April 29th}

-- Thomas M. Terashima (, April 29, 1999


The recent Secrets from the Abyss documentary also mentions that according to the finite-element computer model, the maximum down- angle reached by Titanic would have been around 12 degrees.

My first thought was, "That's *way* too low!" My second thought was, "Hmm...interesting...maybe it could have been that low."

I'm of the opinion that studying the history of Titanic is fractal in nature: there are always deeper levels of detail, as well as "big picture" views if one cares to zoom-out enough. The most expansive viewpoint is that of the symbiosis between humans and technology, the human condition of the 20th century. (I'm cribbing lines from James Cameron here, from some Quicktime interviews he gave from the first-class stairwell set.)

A fine detail is the exact maximum angle reached by the hull of Titanic as it sank. It could have been anywhere between 10 and 50 degrees before the break-up. Cameron's film shows around 45 degrees; the SNAME review indicates 17 degrees, and the finite-element model indicates 12 degrees. (Zoom-out and it doesn't matter that much in the greater scheme of things.)

Something to keep in mind is that the finite-element model is of intermediate resolution (higher rez would have meant more time and money); it is also unlikely that secondary structures such as conduits and pipes would have been included in the model. I mention this because such structures would have added strength to Titanic, especially tensile (tensional) strength.

One of the foremost proponents of tensile strength in the 20th century was R. Buckminster ("Bucky") Fuller, best-known for the geodesic dome; he also has a molecular form of carbon named after him: buckminsterfullerene, also known as C60 and buckyballs. He was the same age as Rose, being born in 1895 and 17 years of age in 1912.

The ship did sink, and it is universally agreed that it broke-up on the surface; only the exact details differ.

My version of the timeline has Titanic reaching a maximum angle of 23 degrees, whereupon the overstressed hull starts to fail. Conduits and electrical wire separate longitudinally, shorting-out circuits: the lights go out. The hull breaks-up, with the bow and stern remaining connected by a "flap hinge" of keel; the time is around 2:15 AM.

The stern falls back, only to be pulled back up to a near-vertical position by the submerged bow section. What survivors recall hearing as gunshots, thunder or exploding boilers is the flap hinge of keel separating from both bow and stern in a "Z" shape; this also causes the bow to turn about its long axis in a slow partial pirouette

The bow and Z-hinged keel detach, and the stern slowly goes down around 2:20 AM.

{edited 01999 April 29th}

-- Thomas M. Terashima (, April 29, 1999.

Hello Thomas:

I don't think the stern section ever went completely back and certainly not as depicted in the film. I seem to remember a survivor account (can't remember which one but possibly Jack Thayer) that the stern "settled back a bit" and then slid under. I probably read this in "A Night to Remember" which, of course, was written long before the discovery and the realization that the ship did break up. It's interesting that there was so much disparity between witnesses, such as Eva Hart, who was in a boat somewhat away from the ship saying she broke ("I know it's true!") and someone such as Lightoller, who was in the water close to the ship insisting that she sunk "intact". I still believe Lightoller's insistance that it did not break up was due to Ismay's "coaching" him at the hearings to try to support the integrity of the construction of his line's ship. I suppose that may come from my undying respect (a little sarcasm here) for J. Bruce Ismay's character!


-- Peter Nivling (, April 30, 1999.

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