British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry


Description of the Damage to the Ship and its Gradual Final Effect

I am advised that the "Titanic" as constructed could not have remained afloat long with such damage as she received. Her bulkheads were spaced to enable her to remain afloat with any two compartments in communication with the sea. She had a sufficient margin of safety with any two of the compartments flooded which were actually damaged. (Wilding, 20286, 93)

In fact any three of the four forward compartments could have been flooded by the damage received without sinking the ship to the top of her bulkheads. (20364)

Even if the four forward compartments had been flooded the water would not have got into any of the compartments abaft of them though it would have been above the top of some of the forward bulkheads. But the ship, even with these four compartments flooded would have remained afloat. But she could not remain afloat with the four forward compartments and the forward boiler room (No. 6) also flooded.

The flooding of these five compartments alone would have sunk the ship sufficiently deeply to have caused the water to rise above the bulkhead at the after end of the forward boiler room (No. 6) and to flow over into the next boiler room (No. 5), and to fill it up until in turn its after bulkhead would be overwhelmed and the water would thereby flow over and fill No. 4 boiler room, and so on in succession to the other boiler rooms till the ship would ultimately fill and sink.

It has been shown that water came into the five forward compartments to a height of about 14 feet above the keel in the first ten minutes. This was at a rate of inflow with which the ship's pumps could not possibly have coped, so that the damage done to these five compartments alone inevitably sealed the doom of the ship.

The damage done in the boiler rooms Nos. 5 and 4 was too slight to have hastened appreciably the sinking of the ship, for it was given in evidence that no considerable amount of water was in either of these compartments for an hour after the collision. The rate at which water came into No. 6 boiler room makes it highly probable that the compartment was filled in not more than an hour, after which the flow over the top of the bulkhead between 5 and 6 began and continued till No. 5 was filled.

It was shown that the leak in No. 5 boiler room was only about equal to the flow of a deck hose pipe about 3 inches in diameter. (Barrett, 2255)

The leak in No. 4, supposing that there was one, was only enough to admit about 3 feet of water in that compartment in 1 hour 40 minutes. (Cavell, 4265) (Dillon, 3811)

Hence the leaks in Nos. 4 and 5 boiler rooms did not appreciably hasten the sinking of the vessel.

The evidence is very doubtful as to No. 4 being damaged. The pumps were being worked in No. 5 soon after the collision. (Barrett, 1961) The 10 inch leather special suction pipe which was carried from aft is more likely to have been carried for use in No. 5 than No. 4 because the doors were ordered to be opened probably soon after the collision when water was known to be coming into No. 5. There is no evidence that the pumps were being worked in No. 4.

The only evidence possibly favourable to the view that the pipe was required for No. 4, and not for No. 5, is that Scott, a greaser, says that he saw engineers dragging the suction pipe along 1 hour after the collision. But even as late as this it may have been wanted for No. 5 only. (Scott, 5602)

The importance of the question of the damage to No. 5 is small because the ship, as actually constructed, was doomed as soon as the water in No. 6 boiler room and all compartments forward of it entered in the quantities it actually did. (Wilding, 20311-4, 20320, 20355)

It is only of importance in dealing with the question of what would have happened to the ship had she been more completely subdivided.

It was stated in evidence that if No. 4 had not been damaged or had only been damaged to an extent within the powers of the pumps to keep under, then, if the bulkheads had been carried to C deck, the ship might have been saved. (20371-4) Further methods of increased subdivision and their effect upon the fate of the ship are discussed later.

Evidence was given showing that after the watertight doors in the engine and boiler rooms had been all closed, except those forward of No. 4 group of boilers, they were opened again, (Dillon, 3738, 3745, 3770) and there is no evidence to show that they were again closed. Though it is probable that the engineers who remained below would have closed these doors as the water rose in the compartments, yet it was not necessary for them to do this as each door had an automatic closing arrangement which would have come into operation immediately had a small amount of water came through the door.

It is probable, however, that the life of the ship would have been lengthened somewhat if these doors had been left open, for the water would have flowed through them to the after part of the ship, and the rate of flow of the water into the ship would have been for a time reduced as the bow might have been kept up a little by the water which flowed aft.

It is thus seen that the efficiency of the automatic arrangements for the closing of the watertight doors, which was questioned during the enquiry, had no important bearing on the question of hastening the sinking of the ship, except that, in the case of the doors not having been closed by the engineers, it might have retarded the sinking of the ship if they had not acted. The engineers would not have prevented the doors from closing unless they had been convinced that the ship was doomed. There is no evidence that they did prevent the doors from closing.

The engineers were applying the pumps when Barrett, leading stoker, left No. 5 boiler room, but even if they had succeeded in getting all the pumps in the ship to work they could not have saved the ship or prolonged her life to any appreciable extent.