In the early part 19th century, the only means of transportation for travelers and mail between Europe and North America was by passenger steamship. By 1907, the Cunard Steamship Company introduced the world’s largest and fastest steamers in the North Atlantic service, the Lusitania and Mauritania. Each had a gross tonnage of 31,000 tons and a maximum speed of 26 knots.
In that year, Lord William James Pirrie, managing director and controlling chair of the Irish shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff, duly met with J. Bruce Ismay, (MD) managing director of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, better identified as the White Star Line (a name taken from its pennant).
During this meeting, the plans were made to construct three giant new White Star liners to compete with the Lusitania and Mauritania on the North Atlantic by establishing a three-ship weekly steamship service for passengers and mail between Southampton, England, and New York City.
Sister Ships of RMS Titanic Inc.,
This decision required the construction of a trio of luxurious steamships. The first two built were the RMS Olympic and the RMS Titanic; a third ship, the RMS Britannic, was built later (the fate of the sister ships is described as below.
The RMS Olympic made more than 500 round trips between Southampton and New York before it was retired in 1935 and was finally broken up in 1937. In 1919, it became the first large ship to be converted from coal to oil. On May 15, 1934, as the Olympic approached New York, it struck the Nantucket lightship during a heavy fog, cutting it in half. Of the crew, four were drowned, three were fatally injured, and three were rescued.
The third ship of the series, the Britannic, had a short life. While it was being constructed, the Titanic was sunk. Immediately, the design was changed to provide a double hull and the bulkheads were extended to the upper deck. Before the Britannic was completed, World War I broke out, and the vessel was converted into a hospital ship.
On November 21, 1916, it was proceeding north through the Aegean Sea east of Greece when it struck a mine. Because the weather had been warm, several of the portholes had been opened, hence rapid flooding of the ship occurred. The ship sank in just 50 minutes with a small loss of life; one of the loaded lifeboats was drawn into a rotating propeller.
The Construction of RMS Titanic
The three White Star Line steamships were 269.1 meters long, 28.2 meters maximum wide, and 18 meters tall from the water line to the boat deck (or 53 meters from the keel to the top of the funnels), with a gross weight of 46,000 tons. Because of the size of these ships, much of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, had to be rebuilt before construction could begin; two larger ways were built in the space originally occupied by three smaller ways.
A new gantry system with a larger load-carrying capacity was designed and installed to facilitate the construction of the larger ships. The Titanic under construction and designed to provide accommodations superior to the Cunard ships, but without greater speed. Therefore, the first on board swimming pools were installed as was a gymnasium that included an electric horse and an electric camel, a squash court, several rowing machines, and stationary bicycles, all supervised by a staff of professional instructors.
The public rooms for the first-class passengers were large and elegantly furnished with wood paneling, stained-glass windows, comfortable lounge furniture, and expensive carpets. The decor of the first-class cabins, furthermore to being luxurious, differed in style from cabin to cabin. As an extra feature on the Titanic, the Café Parisienne offered superb cuisine.
The designed speed for these ships was 21–22 knots, in contrast to the faster Cunard ships. To achieve this speed, each ship had three propellers; each outboard propeller was driven by a separate four-cylinder, triple-expansion, reciprocating steam engine. The center propeller was driven by a low-pressure steam turbine using the exhaust steam from the two reciprocating engines.
The power plant was rated at 51,000 I.H.P. To provide the necessary steam for the power plant, 29 boilers were available, fired by 159 furnaces. In addition to propelling the ship, steam was used to generate electricity for various purposes, distill freshwater, refrigerate the perishable food, cook, and heat the living space. Coal was burned as fuel at a rate of 650 per day when the ship was underway. Stokers moved the coal from the bunkers into the furnaces by hand.
The bunkers held adequate coal for a ten-day voyage. The remodeled shipyard at Harland and Wolff was large enough for the construction of two large ships simultaneously. The keel of the Olympic was laid on December 16, 1908, while the Titanic ‘s keel followed on March 31, 1909. The Olympic was launched on October 20, 1910, and the Titanic on May 31, 1911.
In the early 20th century, ships were constructed using wrought iron rivets to attach steel plates to each other or to a steel frame. The frame itself was held together by similar rivets. Holes were punched at appropriate sites in the steel-frame members and plates for the insertion of the rivets. Each rivet was heated well into the austenite temperature region, inserted in the mated holes of the respective plates or frame members, and hydraulically squeezed to fill the holes and form ahead.
Three million rivets were used in the construction of the ship. The construction of the Titanic was delayed due to an accident involving the Olympic. During its fifth voyage, the Olympic collided with the British cruiser, HMS Hawke, damaging its hull near the bow on the port. This occurred in the Solent off Southampton on September 20, 1911.
The Olympic was forced to return to Belfast for repairs. To accomplish the repairs in record time and to return the ship to service promptly, workmen were diverted from the Titanic to repair the Olympic.
On April 2, 1912, the Titanic left Belfast for Southampton and its sea trials conducted in the Irish Sea. After spending two days at sea, the Titanic, and its crew and officers arrived at Southampton and tied up to Ocean Dock on April 4, 1912. During the next several days, the gigantic ship was provisioned and prepared for its maiden voyage aiming to create history.
Titanic Start the Journey
The Titanic History started its maiden voyage to New York just before noon on April 10, 1912, from Southampton, England. So, two days later at 11:40 P.M., Greenland time, it struck an iceberg that was three to six times larger than its own mass, badly damaging the hull so that the six forward compartments were ruptured.
The flooding of these compartments was enough to cause the ship to sink within two hours and 40 minutes, with a loss of more than 1,500 lives. The scope of the tragedy, coupled with a detailed historical record, has fueled endless fascination with the ship and debate over the reasons as to why it did in fact sink.
A frequently cited culprit is the quality of the steel used in the ship’s construction. A metallurgical analysis of hull steel recovered from the ship’s wreckage provides a clearer view of the issue.
On the morning of April 10, 1912, the passengers and remaining crew members came to Ocean Dock to the board and viewing the ship for its maiden voyage. The people on board were never expecting the miserable moments coming ahead. They were happy but unaware of Titanic History. However, shortly before noon, the Titanic cast off and scarcely avoided colliding with a docked passenger ship, the New York (which broke its mooring cables due to the surge of water as the huge ship passed), before proceeding down Southampton Water into the Solent and then into the English Channel.
After stopping at Cherbourg, France, on the evening of 10, April 1912, and a second stop at Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, the next morning to take on more passengers and mail, the Titanic headed west on the Great Circle Route toward the Nantucket lightship 68 kilometers south of Nantucket Island off the southeast coast of Massachusetts. The Irish coast was left behind about dusk on April 11.
During the early afternoon of April 12, the French liner, La Touraine, sent advice by radio of ice in the steamship lanes, but this was not uncommon during an April crossing. This advice was sent nearly 60 hours before the fatal collision. As the voyage continued, the warnings of ice received by radio from other ships became more frequent. With time, these warnings gave more accurate information on the location of the ice fields and it became apparent that a very large ice field lay in the ship’s course.
Based on several reports after the accident, it was estimated that the ice field was 120 km long on a northeast-southwest axis and 20 km wide; there is evidence that the Titanic was twice diverted to the south in a vain effort to avoid the fields. The ship continued at a speed of about 21.5 knots. On the moonless night of April 14, the ocean was very calm and still. At 11:40 P.M., Greenland time, the lookouts in the crow’s nest sighted an iceberg immediately ahead of the ship; the bridge was alerted.
The duty officer ordered the ship hard to port and the engines reversed. In about 40 seconds, as the Titanic was beginning to respond to the change in course, it collided with an iceberg estimated to have a massive gross weight of 150,000 – 300,000 tons. The iceberg struck the Titanic near the bow on the starboard right side about 4 m above the keel.
During the next 10 seconds, the iceberg raked the starboard side of the ship’s hull for about 100 m. The iceberg damaging the hull plates and popping rivets, thus opening the first six of the 16 watertight compartments formed by the transverse bulkheads.
Therefore, inspection shortly after the collision by captain Edward Smith and Thomas Andrews, a managing director, and chief designer for Harland and Wolff and chief designer of the Titanic. They revealed that the Titanic had been fatally damaged and could not survive too long. The sad demise happened at 2:20 A.M., on April 15, 1912, when the Titanic sank with the loss of more than 1,500 lives leaves many mysteries.
Titanic History Starts By Sinking
Initial studies of the sinking proposed that a continuous gash in the hull 100 m in length was created by the impact with the iceberg. More recent studies indicate that discontinuous damage occurred along the 100 m length of the hull. After the sinking, Edward Wilding, design engineer for Harland and Wolff, estimated that the collision had created openings in the hull totaling 1.115 m2, based on the reports of the rate of flooding given by the survivors.
This damage to the hull was enough to cause the ship to sink. The computer calculations by Hackett and Bedford using the same survivor’s information but allocating the damage individually to the first six compartments. The total damage area of 1.171 m2, which is a slightly larger area than the estimate by Wilding. At the time of the accident, there was disagreement among the survivors as to whether the Titanic broke into two parts as it sank or whether it sank intact.
Titanic History Uncovered
On September 1, 1985, Robert Ballard found the Titanic in 3,700 m of water on the ocean floor. The ship had broken into two major sections, which are about 600 m apart. Between these two sections is a debris field containing broken pieces of the steel hull and bulkhead plates, rivets that had been pulled out, dining-room cutlery and chinaware, cabin and deck furniture, and other debris.
The only items to survive at the site are those made of metals or ceramics. All items made from organic materials have long since been consumed by scavengers, except for items made from leather such as shoes, suitcases, and mail sacks; tanning made leather unpalatable for the scavengers. The contents of the leather suitcases and mail sacks, having been protected, have been retrieved and restored.
The Steel Composition
During an expedition to the wreckage in the North Atlantic on August 15, 1996. The researchers brought back steel from the hull of the ship for metallurgical analysis. After the steel was received at the University of Missouri-Rolla, the first step was to determine its composition. The first item noted is the very low nitrogen content.
This indicates that the steel was not made by the Bessemer process; such steel would have a high nitrogen content that would have made it very brittle, particularly at low temperatures. In the early 20th century, the only other method for making structural steel was the open-hearth process.
The high oxygen and low silicon content mean that the steel has only been partially deoxidized, yielding semiskilled steel. The phosphorus content is slightly higher than normal, while the sulfur content is quite high, accompanied by a low manganese content.
This yielded a very low ratio by modern standards. The presence of relatively high amounts of phosphorous, oxygen, and sulfur tends to embrittle the steel at low temperatures. Davies has shown that at the time the Titanic was constructed about two-thirds of the open-hearth steel produced in the United Kingdom was done in furnaces having acid linings.
There is a high problem ability that the steel used in the Titanic was made in an acid-lined open-hearth furnace, which accounts for the high phosphorus and high sulfur content. The lining of the basic open-hearth furnace will react with phosphorus and sulfur to help remove these two impurities from the steel.
It is likely that all or most of the steel came from Glasgow, Scotland. Including the compositions of two other sheets of steel, that is used to construct lock gates at the Chittenden Ship Lock between Lake Washington and Puget Sound at Seattle, Washington. Moreover, the composition of modern steel, ASTM A36 and ship lock was built around 1912, making the steel about the same age as the steel from the Titanic.
Standard metallographic techniques were used to prepare specimens taken from the hull plate of the Titanic for optical microscopic examination. After grinding and polishing, etching was done with 2% Nital. Because the earlier work by Brigham and severe banding in a specimen of the steel, specimens were cut from the hull plate in the transverse and longitudinal directions, the microstructure of the steel.
In both micrographs, it is apparent that the steel is banded, although the banding is more severe in the longitudinal section. In this section, there are large masses of MnS particles elongated in the direction of the banding. The average grain diameter is 60.40 mm for the longitudinal microstructure and 41.92 mm for the microstructure in the transverse direction.
In neither micrograph can the pearlite be resolved. There is a micrograph of ASTM A36 steel, which has a mean grain diameter of 26.173 mm. The scanning electron microscopy (SEM) micrograph of the polished and etched surface of steel from the Titanic. The pearlite can be resolved in this micrograph.
The dark gray areas are ferrite. The very dark elliptically shaped structure is a particle of MnS identified by energy-dispersive x-ray analysis (EDAX). It is elongated in the direction of the banding, suggesting that banding is the result of the hot rolling of the steel. There is some evidence of small nonmetallic inclusions and some of the ferrite grain boundaries are visible.
The steel plate from the hull of the Titanic was nominally 1.875 cm thick, while the bulkhead plate had a thickness of 1.25 cm. Corrosion in the saltwater had reduced the thickness of the hull plate so that it was not possible to machine standard tensile specimens from it.
A smaller tensile specimen with a reduced section of 0.625 cm diameter and a 2.5 cm gauge length was used.10 The tensile-test results are given in Table III. These data are compared with tensile-test data for an SAE 1020 steel, which is similar in composition. The steel from the Titanic has a lower yield strength, probably due to the larger grain size. The elongation increases as well, again due to larger grain size.
Charpy Impact Tests
Charpy impact tests were performed over a range of temperatures from –55°C to 179°C on three series of standard Charpy specimens. A series of specimens machined with the specimen axis parallel to the longitudinal direction in the hull plate from the Titanic, a series machined in the transverse direction, and a series made from modern ASTM A36 steel.
A Tinius Olsen model 84 universal impact tester was used to determine the impact energy to fracture for several specimens at the selected test temperatures. A chilling bath or a circulating air laboratory oven was used to prepare the specimens for testing at specific temperatures. The specimens could soak in the appropriate apparatus for at least 20 minutes at the selected temperature.
Pairs of specimens were tested at identical test temperatures. An SEM micrograph of a freshly fractured surface of a longitudinal Charpy specimen tested at 0°C. The cleavage planes, in ferrite, are quite apparent. There are cleavage plane surfaces at different levels that are defined by straight lines. They were connecting parallel cleavage planes; the edges are parallel to the direction.
The crystallographic surfaces of the risers are the plane. In addition, there are curved slip lines on the cleavage planes. Particles of MnS identified by EDAX can be observed. Some of the MnS particles exist as protrusions from the surface. These protrusions were pulled out of the complimentary fracture surface. In addition, there are the intrusions remaining after the MnS particles have been pulled out of this fracture surface.
One of the pearlite colonies lying in the fracture surface is oriented so that the ferrite and cementite plates have been resolved. The fractured lenticular MnS particle that protrudes edge-on from the fractured surface. There are slip lines radiating away from the MnS particle. The plot of the impact energy versus temperature for the three series of specimens.
At higher temperatures, the specimens prepared from the hull plate in the longitudinal direction have substantially better impact properties than for the transverse specimens. At low temperatures, the impact energy required to fracture the longitudinal and transverse specimens is essentially the same.
The severe banding is certainly the cause of the differences in the impact energy to cause fracture at elevated temperatures. The specimens made from ASTM A36 steel have the best impact properties. The ductile-brittle transition temperature determined at an impact energy of 20 joules is –27°C for ASTM A36, 32°C for the longitudinal specimens made from the Titanic hull plate, and 56°C for the transverse specimens.
It is apparent that the steel used for the hull was not suited for service at low temperatures. The seawater temperature at the time of the collision was –2°C. Comparing the composition of the Titanic steel and ASTM A36 steel shows that modern steel has a higher manganese content and lower sulfur content, yielding a higher MnS ratio that reduced the ductile-brittle transition temperature substantially.
Furthermore, the ASTM A36 steel has a considerably lower phosphorus content, which will also lower the ductile-brittle transition temperature. Though, Jankovic has found that the ductile-brittle transition temperature for the Chittenden lock gate steel was 33°C.
The longitudinal specimens of the Titanic hull steel made in the UK and those specimens from the Chittenden lock steel made in the United States have nearly the same ductile-brittle transition temperature.
Shear Fracture Percent
At low temperatures where the impact energy required for fracture is less, a faceted surface of cleaved planes of ferrite is observed, indicating a brittle fracture. At elevated temperatures, where the energy to cause fracture is greater, a ductile fracture with a shear structure is observed.
The plot of the shear fracture percent versus temperature. Titanic steel is better than transverse specimens. However, the bending is more important in the result of the impact energy experiments as compared to with sheer fracture percent.
Final Wording of Titanic History
So, the steel used in the construction of RMS Titanic was perhaps the best plain carbon ship plate available in that period of 1909-1911. But it would not be acceptable at the present standards for construction purposes and particularly not for ship construction. Whether a ship constructed of modern steel would have suffered as much damage as the Titanic in a comparable accident seems problematic.
Moreover, the exit of the navigational aid now that did not exist in 1912. Hence iceberg would be sighted at a much greater distance allowing more time for evasive action. If the titanic had not collided with the iceberg. It could have had a career of more than 20 years as the Olympic had. It was built of similar steel in the same shipyard and from the same design. The only difference was a big iceberg.
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