British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry
The vessel was built throughout of steel and had a cellular double bottom of the usual type, with a floor at every frame, its depth at the centre line being 63 in., except in way of the reciprocating machinery, where it was 78 in. For about half of the length of the vessel this double bottom extended up the ship's side to a height of 7 ft. above the keel. Forward and aft of the machinery space the protection of the inner bottom extended to a less height above the keel. It was so divided that there were four separate watertight compartments in the breadth of the vessel. Before and abaft the machinery space there was a watertight division at the centre line only, except in the foremost and aftermost tanks. Above the double bottom the vessel was constructed on the usual transverse frame system, reinforced by web frames which extended to the highest decks.
At the forward end the framing and plating was strengthened with a view to preventing panting, and damage when meeting thin harbour ice.
Beams were fitted on every frame at all decks, from the Boat deck downwards. An external bilge keel, about 300 ft. long and 25 in. deep, was fitted along the bilge amidships.
The heavy ship's plating was carried right up to the Boat deck, and between the C and B deck was doubled. The stringer or edge plate of the B deck was also doubled. This double plating was hydraulic riveted.
All decks were steel plated throughout.
The transverse strength of the ship was in part dependent on the 15 transverse watertight bulkheads, which were specially stiffened and strengthened to enable them to stand the necessary pressure in the event of accident, and they were connected by double angles to decks, inner bottom, and shell plating.
The two decks above the B deck were of comparatively light scantling, but strong enough to ensure their proving satisfactory in these positions in rough weather.
Watertight Subdivision. - In the preparation of the design of this vessel it was arranged that the bulkheads and divisions should be so placed that the ship would remain afloat in the event of any two adjoining compartments being flooded, and that they should be so built and strengthened that the ship would remain afloat under this condition. The minimum freeboard that the vessel would have, in the event of any two compartments being flooded, was between 2 ft. 6 in. and 3 ft. from the deck adjoining the top of the watertight bulkheads. With this object in view 15 watertight bulkheads were arranged in the vessel. The lower part of C bulkhead was doubled, and was in the form of a cofferdam. So far as possible the bulkheads were carried up in one plane to their upper sides, but in cases where they had for any reason to be stepped forward or aft, the deck, in way of the step, was made into a watertight flat, thus completing the watertightness of the compartment. In addition to this, G deck in the after peak was made a watertight flat. The Orlop deck between bulkheads which formed the top of the tunnel was also watertight. The Orlop deck in the forepeak tank was also a watertight flat. The electric machinery compartment was further protected by a structure some distance in from the ship's side, forming six separate watertight compartments, which were used for the storage of fresh water.
Where openings were required for the working of the ship in these watertight bulkheads they were closed by watertight sliding doors which could be worked from a position above the top of the watertight bulkhead, and those doors immediately the inner bottom were of a special automatic closing pattern, as described below. By this subdivision there were in all 73 compartments, 29 of these being above the inner bottom.
Watertight doors. - The doors (12 in number) immediately above the inner bottom were in the engine and boiler room spaces. They were of Messrs. Harland and Wolff's latest type, working vertically. The doorplate was of cast iron of heavy section, strongly ribbed. It closed by gravity, and was held in the open position by a clutch which could be released by means of a powerful electro-magnet controlled from the captain's bridge. In the event of accident, or at any time when it might be considered desirable, the captain or officer on duty could, by simply moving an electric switch, immediately close all these doors. The time required for the doors to close was between 25 and 30 seconds. Each door could also be closed from below by operating a hand lever fitted alongside the door. As a further precaution floats were provided beneath the floor level, which, in the event of water accidentally entering any of the compartments, automatically lifted and thus released the clutches, thereby permitting the doors in that particular compartment to close if they had not already been dropped by any other means. These doors were fitted with cataracts which controlled the speed of closing. Due notice of closing from the bridge was given by a warning bell.
A ladder or escape was provided in each boiler room, engine room, and similar watertight compartment, in order that the closing of the doors at any time should not imprison the men working therein.
Ship's Side Doors. - Large side doors were provided through the side plating, giving access to passengers' or crew's accommodation as follows: -
On the saloon (D) deck on the starboard side in the forward third class open space one baggage door.
In way of the forward first class entrance, two doors close together on each side.
On the upper (E) deck, one door each side at the forward end of the working passage.
On the port side abreast the engine room, one door leading into the working passage. One door each side on the port and starboard sides aft into the forward second class entrance.
All the doors on the upper deck were secured by lever handles, and were made watertight by means of rubber strips. Those on the saloon deck were closed by lever handles but had no rubber.
Accommodation Ladder. - One teak accommodation ladder was provided, and could be worked on either side of the ship in the gangway way door opposite the second class entrance on the upper deck (E). It had a folding platform and portable stanchions, hand rope, etc. The ladder extended to within 3 ft. 6 in. of the vessel's light draft, and was stowed overhead in the entrance abreast the forward second class main staircase. Its lower end was arranged so as to be raised and lowered from a davit immediately above.
Masts and Rigging. - The vessel was rigged with two masts, and fore and aft sails. The two pole masts were constructed of steel, and stiffened with angle irons. The poles at the top of the mast were made of teak.
A look-out cage, constructed of steel, was fitted on the foremast at a height of about 95 ft. above the waterline. Access to the cage was obtained by an iron vertical ladder inside of the foremast, with an opening at C deck and one at the lookout cage. An iron ladder was fitted on the foremast from the hounds to the masthead light.