McCarty: What Really Sank the Titanic

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Jennifer Hooper McCarty and Tim Foecke, What Really Sank the Titanic : New Forensic Discoveries. New York : Citadel Press, 2008. 248 pages, 16 pages of plates; with bibliographic references and index.

Have you always thought that a collision with an iceberg sank the Titanic? After reading What Sank the Titanic, you will have other views as to the contributing factors of this tragedy. McCarty and Foecke both have doctoral degrees in Material Science, so I am sure that the “technojargon” that fills many chapters was from their dissertations.

The first few chapters focus on the iron or steel rivets hammered into the plates of the hull of the English-made Titanic, by the highly-reputed Harland and Wolff Shipbuilding Company, for the White Star Lines.

The hull of the Titanic was the “Belfast Bottom” design which has a nearly-flat bottom. Used in the construction were wrought iron and steel plates to form the hull. There was a lack of skilled labor during these boom times; workers were wooed from Scotland and other English shipyards. Materials were purchased from all over the United Kingdom. This book doesn't dwell on the tragic loss of life.

On 14 April 1912, the visibility in the Atlantic was poor. Other ships were sending messages about ice (icebergs) in the area, but the wireless operator ignored them because he was inundated with passengers' messages to send to shore. The code "MSG"--Master Service Gram--intended only for the captain, was not used.

Although the Titanic's logbook was never recovered, it was determined that the ship's speed was about 22 knots. After the collision, it was deemed that this was a reckless speed for the prevailing conditions. There was some thought that a transatlantic record was being set. Little is known about the iceberg with which the Titanic collided, except that it was pinnacle-shaped with one or more spires. It appeared blue, which indicated that the berg had turned over.

Knowing the location of the wreck of the Titanic dates to 1 September 1985 when Dr. Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, used an unmanned submersible, named Argo, to observe that the hull had definitely split in two pieces. In 1998 the Discovery Channel filmed a feature on the Titanic.

There were hearings and inquiries in 1912 both in England and America. Witnesses described what they felt as a grinding sensation, a little vibration, the roar of thunder, and one passenger did not even wake up. Second Officer Lightoller was in the middle of his watch and was concerned about the cold air with dropping temperatures and calm seas. During the Inquiries, all of the staff was questioned.

Although the Titanic continues to deteriorate, in addition to Dr. Ballard, in 1991 IMAX filmed underwater and gave credit to scientists involved. The August 1998 Discovery Channel's mission was to retrieve pieces of the ship's hull plating, and note the bottom of the starboard's opening or gash which caused the flooding. In 2000, no significant work was accomplished. In 2001, 24 Russian divers and the research vessels Mir 1 and Mir 2 videoed the interior decks, which are collapsing. It is a bone-of-contention among the scientists that the artifacts have never been inventoried or gathered in one place.

Part ll of the book, chapters 6, 7, and 8, is titled "Facts" and contains excellent diagrams. Part lll, chapters 9, 10, 11, and 12, is "The Analysis" and suggests a variety of conclusions. I think this quote sums up the research, “The analysis instead supposes that a better quality of the feedstock (materials) that went into the rivets would have changed the length of time of the sinking.” i. e., more passengers could have been rescued; the ship sank in 2 hours. The rivets, coupled with the near-chaos in the wireless room, led to this maritime tragedy.

Part lV, chapters 13 and 14, are called "The Rest of the Story". Notes and Bibliography conclude the book.

-- Notes by EHL

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