Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive)
Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
ITS OWN LIFEBOAT
J. BERNARD WALKER
Editor of the Scientific American
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
Published, July, 1912
THE QUINN & BODEN CO. PRESS
RAHWAY, N. J.
THE MEMORY OF THE CHIEF ENGINEER OF THE TITANIC,
AND HIS STAFF OF THIRTY-THREE ASSISTANTS,
WHO STOOD AT THEIR POSTS IN THE ENGINE-
AND BOILER-ROOMS TO THE VERY LAST,
AND WENT DOWN WITH THE SHIP,
THIS WORK IS DEDICATED
It is the object of this work to show that, in our eagerness to make the ocean liner fast and luxurious, we have forgotten to make her safe.
The safest ocean liner was the Great Eastern; and she was built over fifty years ago. Her designer aimed to make the ship practically unsinkable—and he succeeded; for she passed through a more severe ordeal than the Titanic, survived it, and came into port under her own steam.
Since her day, the shipbuilder has eliminated all but one of the safety devices which made the Great Eastern a ship so difficult to sink. Nobody, not even the shipbuilders themselves, seemed to realise what was being done, until, suddenly, the world’s finest vessel, in all the pride of her maiden voyage, struck an iceberg and went to the bottom in something over two and a half hours’ time!
If we learn the lesson of this tragedy, we shall lose no time in getting back to first principles. We shall reintroduce in all future passenger ships those simple and effective elements of safety—the double skin, the longitudinal bulkhead, and the watertight deck—which were conspicuous in the Great Eastern, and which alone can render such a ship as the Titanic unsinkable.
The author’s acknowledgments are due to the “Scientific American” for many of the photographs and line drawings reproduced in this volume; to an article by Professor J. H. Biles, published in “Engineering,” for material relating to the Board of Trade stipulations as to bulkheads; to Sir George C. V. Holmes and the Victoria and Albert Museum for data regarding the Great Eastern, published in “Ancient and Modern Ships”; to Naval Constructor R. H. M. Robinson, U.S.N., for permission to reproduce certain drawings from his work, “Naval Construction,” and to Naval Constructor Henry Williams, U.S.N., who courteously read the proofs of this work and offered many valuable suggestions. The original wash and line drawings are by Mr. C. McKnight Smith.
J. B. W.
New York, June, 1912.
|II.||The Ever-Present Dangers of the Sea||19|
|III.||Every Ship Its Own Lifeboat||35|
|IV.||Safety Lies in Subdivision||51|
|V.||The Unsinkable Great Eastern of 1858||69|
|VI.||The Sinkable Titanic||91|
|VII.||How the Great Ship Went Down||116|
|VIII.||Warship Protection Against Ram, Mine, and Torpedo||136|
|IX.||Warship Protection as Applied to Some Ocean Liners||161|
|Stoke-Hole of a Transatlantic Liner||Frontispiece|
|Riveting the Outer Skin on the Frames of a 65,000-Ton Ocean Liner||3|
|Growth of the Transatlantic Steamer from 1840 to 1912||7|
|Receiving Submarine Signals on the Bridge||13|
|Taking the Temperature of the Water||17|
|Fire-Drill on a German Liner: Stewards are Closing Door in Fire-Protection Bulkhead||21|
|Fire-Drill on a German Liner: Hose from Bellows Supplies Fresh Air to Man with Smoke Helmet||25|
|Fire-Drill on a German Liner: Test of Fire-Mains is Made Every Time the Ship is in Port||29|
|The 44,000-Ton, 25½-Knot Lusitania||37|
|Provisioning the Boats During a Boat Drill||43|
|Loading and Lowering Boats, Stowed Athwartships||43|
|The Elaborate Installation of Telegraphs, Telephones, Voice-Tubes, etc., on the Bridge of an Ocean Liner||47|
|Hydraulically-operated, Watertight Door in an Engine-Room Bulkhead||53|
|Diagram Showing Protective Value of Transverse and Longitudinal Bulkheads, Watertight Decks, and Inner Skin||57|
|Closing, from the Bridge, All Watertight Doors Throughout the Ship by Pulling a Lever||63|
|Great Eastern, 1858; Most Completely Protected Passenger Ship Ever Built||71|
|Longitudinal Section and Plan of the Great Eastern, 1858||77|
|Two Extremes in Protection, and a Compromise||83|
|Great Eastern, Lying at Foot of Canal Street, North River, New York||87|
|Fifty Years’ Decline in Safety Construction||93|
|Olympic, Sister to Titanic, reaching New York on Maiden Voyage||97|
|The Framing and Some of the Deck Beams of the Imperator, as Seen from Inside the Bow, Before the Outside Plating is Riveted On||103|
|How the Plating of the Inner Bottom of Such a Ship as the Titanic May Be Carried up the Side Frames to Form an Inner Skin||107|
|Twenty of the Twenty-nine Boilers of the Titanic Assembled Ready for Placing in the Ship||111|
|The Last Photograph of the Titanic, Taken as She was Leaving Southampton on Her Maiden Voyage||117|
|Swimming Pool on the Titanic||121|
|The Titanic Struck a Glancing Blow Against an Under-Water Shelf of the Iceberg, Opening up Five Compartments||125|
|Comparison of Subdivision in Two Famous Ships||129|
|The Vast Dining-Room of the Titanic||133|
|The United States Battleship Kansas||137|
|Plan and Longitudinal Section of the Battleship Connecticut||143|
|Midship Section of a Battleship||149|
|Safety Lies in Subdivision||155|
|The 65,000-Ton, 23-Knot Imperator, Largest Ship Afloat||159|
|Longitudinal Section and Plan of the Imperator||163|
|The Rotor, or Rotating Element, of One of the Low-Pressure Turbines of the Imperator||167|
|The 26,000-Ton, 23½-Knot Kronprinzessin Cecilie, a Thoroughly Protected Ship||171|
Among the many questions which have arisen out of the loss of the Titanic there is one, which, in its importance as affecting the safety of ocean travel, stands out preëminent:
“Why did this ship, the latest, the largest, and supposedly the safest of ocean liners, go to the bottom so soon after collision with an iceberg?”
The question is one to which, as yet, no answer that is perfectly clear to the lay mind has been made. We know that the collision was the result of daring navigation; that the wholesale loss of life was due to the lack of lifeboats and the failure to fill completely the few that were available; and that, had it not been for the amazing indifference or stupidity of the captain of a nearby steamer, who failed to answer the distress signals of the sinking vessel, the whole of the ship’s complement might have been saved.
But the ship itself—why did she so quickly go to the bottom after meeting with an accident, which, in spite of its stupendous results, must be reckoned as merely one among the many risks of transatlantic travel?
So far as the loss of the ship itself was concerned, it is certain that the stupefaction with which the news of her sinking was received was due to the belief that her vast size was a guarantee against disaster—that the ever-increasing dimensions of length, breadth, and tonnage had conferred upon the modern ocean liner a certain immunity against the dangers of travel by sea. The fetish of mere size seems, indeed, to have affected even the officers in command of these modern leviathans. Surely it must have thrown its spell over the captain of the ill-fated Titanic, who, in spite of an oft-repeated warning that there was a large field of ice ahead, followed the usual practice, if the night is clear, and ran his ship at full speed into the zone of danger, as though, forsooth, he expected the Titanic to brush the ice floes aside, and split asunder any iceberg that might stand in her way.
Confidence in the indestructibility of the Titanic, moreover, was stimulated by the fact that she was supposed to be the “last word” in first-class steamship construction, the culmination of three-quarters of a century of experience in building safe and stanch vessels. In the official descriptions of the ship, widely distributed at the time of her launching, the safety elements of her construction were freely dwelt upon. This literature rang the changes on stout bulkheads, watertight compartments, automatic, self-closing bulkhead doors, etc.,—and honestly so. There is every reason to believe that the celebrated firm who built the ship, renowned the world over for the high character of their work; the powerful company whose flag she carried; aye, and even her talented designer, who was the first to pronounce the Titanic a doomed vessel and went down with the ship, were united in the belief that the size of the Titanic and her construction were such that she was unsinkable by any of the ordinary accidents to which the transatlantic liner is liable.