How did the Titanic sink?
One question that is searched a lot on the Internet about the Titanic is "How did the Titanic sink?"
Titanic broadsided an iceberg in the late night hours of April 14 1912, allowing hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to flood the hull and eventually the entire ship.
An iceberg usually shows only 1/7th to 1/10th percent above water, with the majority below the surface. The underwater portion of the iceberg doesn't just shoot down in a straight line like an ice cube floating in a glass, it can be in any form, just a misshapen mass of solid ice.
What an iceberg can look like
above and below the water
It was the portion of the iceberg below the water that brought death to Titanic and so many of her passengers.
As you can see by the image, there's a kind of shelf of ice below the water. That shelf is much like what struck the death blow to Titanic.
How did the Titanic sink? The iceberg...
The powers that be on the Titanic did not heed the ice warnings sent from other ships.
She sideswiped the iceberg on the starboard side at the bow and from there accounts differ.
Some say that the hull of Titanic was punctured several times in a horizontal row. Others say that there was a several-hundred foot horizontal gash cut into the Titanic. And still others say that many rivets popped causing the hull to collapse.
The most recent expeditions to the Titanic have revealed that it was popped rivets that allowed the water to enter the hull of the Titanic.
However it happened, one thing is for sure. Water started flooding the bowels of the ship. The ship was built so that as long as no more than four of the compartments in the hull of the Titanic took on water then the Titanic would be fine.
But if a fifth compartment took on water, Titanic would sink.
And that's what happened. Water rolled over the top of each compartment, each wall went only to the "E" deck, and when the fifth compartment took on water the Titanic's fate was sealed ... she would sink.
From the front page of the New York Herald, a depiction of Titanic sinking,
years before it was known for certain that she actually broke in two before sinking
The bow became heavier and heavier as more and more water poured in and it became a vicious cycle. The bow became heavier, more water poured in, the bow became even heavier and still more water poured in and so on.
How did the Titanic sink? The flooding...
The water flooded the first compartment and then went over the wall and flooded the second compartment, then the third, then the fourth compartment.
If it had stopped there then it's believed that Titanic would not have sank.
But the water did flood the fifth compartment, and the sixth, and so on.
As each compartment filled, the bow became heavier and heavier.
As quickly as the water flowed in, entire portions of the bow of the ship were under water while portions of the stern were still dry.
During all of this, the Marconi operators were sending rapid signals that the ship was sinking, their location, and that they needed immediate assistance.
How did the Titanic sink? Breaking in two...
She didn't go easily and she didn't go quietly.
As the bow became heavier with water it sank causing the stern to rise. Eventually the weight of the stern became too much, there was a horrendous cracking sound and Titanic split open under the strain, causing the stern to slam back down into the water.
The bow disappeared beneath the surface of the water but was still attached to the stern, causing the stern to rise back into the air. The bow "hung" there under water for a bit before breaking off and sinking to the bottom of the ocean, 2 miles down.
The stern kind of just bobbed up and down for a bit until it began sinking straight down.
How did the Titanic sink? The cook...
Charles John Joughin, a cook on Titanic, claimed that he climbed onto the outside of the ship, the railing at the stern, "rode the stern" down into the water (as the characters Jack and Rose did in the movie "Titanic") and basically stepped off into the water when the stern slipped below the surface.
He claimed that his hair didn't even get wet.
Charles John Joughin, a cook
on the Titanic who survived the sinking
When later he was asked how did the Titanic sink he responded that it was as if he were riding an elevator.
He also stated that when he swam to and tried to climb aboard a lifeboat he was pushed off but when he swam around to the other side, another crew member in the lifeboat recognized him and held onto him for three hours as he floated in the freezing water.
He was said to be "fortified with alcohol" that night and that the whiskey is possibly what kept him from freezing.
How did the Titanic sink? The passengers...
When Titanic first hit the iceberg, the passengers on the Titanic thought that all would be fine. In fact, many wouldn't stay on deck to wait for the lifeboats because it was much warmer and more comfortable inside, and they didn't believe the ship would sink.
Even as the lifeboats were being filled, people wanted to head back to their staterooms to retrieve forgotten items. Some had to be forced into the lifeboats.
Many lifeboats were launched without being completely full because the officers feared the lifeboats would sink if more people were put into them.
There is one account though of a woman who claimed that the lifeboat she was in was so full that she could feel the water at her knuckles as she hung on to the side of the boat.
When it became apparent that Titanic would indeed sink the passengers at this point desperately wanted on a lifeboat. But by then most had been launched and they weren't coming back.
The officers and passengers that were in the lifeboats were afraid that the lifeboats would be pulled down with the suction of the sinking ship or that people in the water would swamp the lifeboats, causing the lifeboats to overturn.
So, the lifeboat passengers sat out on the ocean and watched as the ship sank.
When they were asked later how did the Titanic sink, various responses were: they heard loud explosions as the lights went out; they heard agonizing screams and cries from the victims in the water as they succumbed; they heard a "roar" from aboard the ship, that was presumably all the furniture, dishes, etc. sliding down as the ship tilted forward as it sank ... a roar that was so incredibly loud that it could be heard even from a distance.
But strangely, many actually denied that the ship split in two.
Titanic lifeboat passengers watching the Titanic sink
As the Titanic was sinking, some passengers that were still onboard were throwing items, that would float, overboard to help them to stay afloat when they ended up in the water.
Others ran to to the highest point they could get, which was the stern as it became vertical in the water.
Any passengers that were not holding firmly onto something fell a great distance to the water, some after slamming into portions of the ship and meeting their death even before hitting the water.
Eventually, after the stern sank completely, over 1500 people went into the water. Many grabbed onto items that had been thrown into the water that were floating. Many were wearing life jackets which kept them from sinking.
They called and hollered and screamed for the lifeboats to come back but only one did. By the time the lifeboat got there, most of the passengers in the water had already frozen to death.
Only a few of the passengers in the water were pulled into the lifeboat.
At least one of those passengers that was pulled into a lifeboat died of hypothermia before the lifeboat passengers were rescued by the Carpathia.
Survivors aboard a collapsible lifeboat, as seen from the Carpathia
The surviving passengers could do nothing at that point except wait for rescue.
Long before the Carpathia arrived, Titanic was completely gone, claimed by the ocean.
According to most accounts it took her between two and three hours to completely disappear beneath the surface of the water.
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