The Engineering Failures that Sent Titanic to the Bottom of the Atlantic

The Engineering Failures that Sent Titanic to the Bottom of the Atlantic

The Engineering Failures that Sent Titanic to the Bottom of the Atlantic

When it was unveiled in 1912, the Titanic was one of the biggest engineering wonders of its time. No one could have guessed it would have sunk on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. 

There was so much faith in it that it was nicknamed the unsinkable ship! But even the slightest miscalculation is enough to make a giant “unsinkable” ship sink. 

The Titanic had 16 watertight compartments designed to quickly close in an emergency and to keep the ship afloat for up to 10 hours after a collision, plus it was built with all the latest technologies of its time.

However, the 882-foot (269 m) British luxury passenger liner sank to the bottom of the ocean in just three fateful hours on April 14, 1912. 

After closer inspection, numerous flaws in its design surfaced.

Firstly, the ship was designed to stay afloat after its first four compartments were breached. Unfortunately, the iceberg it hit damaged the fifth compartment. Not a design flaw, just an extremely unlucky circumstance. 

Regardless, the ship was built to slow down the sinking with its 16 watertight compartments. Engineering design flaw #1: These compartments were not tall enough. 

To keep such large amounts of pressured water from spilling into other compartments, the watertight ones should have gone up to the A or even the C deck, but they only went up to the E deck.

The doors separating these compartments were built to close and block the water. They were made of steel and mounted to each other with rivets. The calculations should have considered the amount of stretching that would happen once immense pressure was placed on the doors. Instead, when faced with such a force, the rivets broke off as they couldn’t stretch enough, allowing water to pour through.

The same issue happened to the wrought iron rivets that fastened the hull plates to the ship’s main structure. These also couldn’t handle the water pressure. On top of that, manufacturers used a high amount of sulphur during the Titanic’s hull construction, which in turn made the steel very fragile. Ultimately, this may have led to the hull fracturing more easily.

Tragically, a combination of bad luck and engineering mistakes led to the Titanic’s demise and to over 1,500 people losing their lives on that fateful night. The Titanic’s sister ships were heavily modified using this new knowledge, and engineers worldwide learned valuable lessons on how to build giant ships so that future giant ships wouldn’t sink.