British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry


Description of the Damage to the Ship and its Gradual Final Effect
Effect of Additional Subdivision on Flotation

Watertight decks. - It is in evidence that advantage might be obtained from the point of view of greater safety in having a watertight deck. (Archer, 24424)

Without entering into the general question of the advantage of watertight decks for all ships, it is desirable to form an opinion in the case of the "Titanic" as to whether making the bulkhead deck watertight would have been an advantage in the circumstances of the accident, or in case of accident to ships of this class.

I am advised that it is found that with all the compartments certainly known to have been flooded, viz., those forward of No. 4 boiler room, the ship would have remained afloat if the bulkhead deck had been a watertight deck. If, however, No. 4 boiler room had also been flooded the ship would not have remained afloat unless, in addition to making the bulkhead deck watertight, the transverse bulkhead abaft of No. 4 boiler room had been carried up to D deck.

To make the bulkhead deck effectively watertight for this purpose it would have been necessary to carry watertight trunks round all the openings in the bulkhead deck up to C deck.

It has been shown that with the bulkhead abaft No. 5 boiler room carried to C deck the ship would have remained afloat if the compartments certainly known to have been damaged had been flooded. (Scarrott, 518)

I do not desire to express an opinion upon the question whether it would have conduced to safety in the case of the "Titanic" if a watertight deck had been fitted below the water line, as there may be some objections to such a deck. (Archer, 24426) There are many considerations involved, and I think that the matter should be dealt with by the Bulkhead Committee for ships in general.

Longitudinal Subdivision. - The advantages and disadvantages of longitudinal subdivision by means of watertight bunker bulkheads were pointed out in evidence. (Wilding, 20209-37, 20284-98, 25297-8)

While not attempting to deal with this question generally for ships, I am advised that if the "Titanic" had been divided in the longitudinal method, instead of in the transverse method only, she would have been able, if damaged as supposed, to remain afloat, though with a list which could have been corrected by putting water ballast into suitable places.

This subject is one, however, which again involves many considerations, and I think that for ships generally the matter should be referred to the Bulkhead Committee for their consideration and report.

Extending double bottom up the sides. - It was shown in evidence that there would be increased protection in carrying the double bottom higher up the side than was done in the "Titanic," and that some of the boiler rooms would probably not then have been flooded, as water could not have entered the ship except in the double bottom. (20350-1)

In the case of the "Titanic" I am advised that this would have been an advantage, but it was pointed out in evidence that there are certain disadvantages which in some ships may outweigh the advantages.

In view of what has already been said about the possible advantages of longitudinal subdivision, it is unnecessary further to discuss the question of carrying up the double bottom in ships generally. This matter should also be dealt with by the Bulkhead Committee.

Watertight doors. - With reference to the question of the watertight doors of the ship, there does not appear to have been any appreciable effect upon the sinking of the ship caused by either shutting or not shutting the doors. There does not appear to have been any difficulty in working the watertight doors. They appear to have been shut in good time after the collision.

But in other cases of damage in ships constructed like the "Titanic," it is probable that the efficiency of the closing arrangement of the watertight doors may exert a vital influence on the safety of the ship. It has been represented that in the future consideration should be given to the question "as to how far bulkheads should be solid bulkheads, and how far there should be watertight doors, and, if there should be watertight doors, how far they may or may not be automatically operated." This again is a question on which it is not necessary here to express any general opinion, for there are conflicting considerations which vary in individual cases. The matter, however, should come under the effective supervision of the Board of Trade much more than it seems to come at present, and should be referred to the Bulkhead Committee for their consideration with a view to their suggesting in detail where doors should or should not be allowed, and the type of door which should be adopted in the different parts of ships.

S.S. "Titanic"

[Click on image for larger copy]

The vertical letters signify the different decks.
The horizontal letters signify the watertight bulkheads.
The heavy line shows the top of the watertight bulkheads.
The crosshatched compartments are those opened to the sea at the time of the collision with the iceberg.