#45907, "RE: Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron..... What do you think?" In response to In response to 0
I watched the NGS James Cameron Titanic documentary with great interest, as questions about the mode of the hull breakup during the sinking has long intrigued me. I thought Cameron and his panel of experts presented a very visually impressive analysis, but I think they too readily dismissed (or simply missed) some important pieces of evidence.
First, I question their treatment of the Funnel 3 Dechouse debris chunk, found near the two double-bottom pieces a significant distance northeast of the stern section. Their explanation that the two double-bottom pieces were there close together is plausible enough, although not especially compelling (the panel concluded that the two double-bottom pieces tore off the stern section after the hull broke in two, remained attached to one another during much of their descent, and hydroplaned to the northeast, then broke apart before reaching the ocean floor close together). But what about the nearby Funnel 3 Deckhouse debris chunk, which the panel agreed was hardly a shape to do any hydroplaning? The best they could come up with was that the deckhouse piece had torn loose from the stern as it spiraled down to the bottom and had been conveniently thrown off in the same direction of the double-bottom pieces -- quite a remarkable coincidence (although Cameron had earlier jokingly said that there are no coincidences).
Second, the panel wholly ignored the implications of the lightweight debris field patterns (I speak particularly of the coal). Robert Ballard's 2004 "Return to Titanic" book contained an excellent debris map that showed the coal to be found in two separate fields to the south of the main debris. The southern location has an obvious explanation (being lightweight, the coal fell slowly and currents pushed it southwards), but why in two separate areas? The "western" coal section is several hundred yards south (and a litle west) of where the boilers were found, generally taken to best mark the actual point of hull breakup. The "eastern" coal field lies the same distance and direction relative to the area of the double-hull and Funnel 3 deckhouse pieces. There is a significant pattern here: two ocal debris fields connected with two different regions of heavyweight debris.
From this evidence, I conclude that the hull breakup occured in two stages. First, the hull bottom failed under compression, causing the two double bottom pieces to split off (from the area of Boiler Room No 1 below Funnel 3) and fall to the ocean floor. This permitted the stern section to bend backwards until it was supported by the water, although the bow remained attached to the stern with the B and C deck area acting as a "hinge". This required the superstructure above B Deck to gape open, causing Funnel 3 to collape and tearing the surrounding deckhouse structure away and permitting it too to fall to the ocean floor. As the same time, this partial rupture of the hull dumped much coal from the Boiler Room No. 1 bunkers into the sea (eventually forming that "eastern" coal debris field).
The still-connected stern and hull remained afloat on the surface for a few minutes longer, drifting slowly to the southwest, while water poured into the hull through the partial hull rupture.
The weight of this new influx of water into the center of the ship created enough shear to tear the bow completely from the stern, allowing the bow to sink and hydroplane somewhat to the north, while the stern filled and sank more or less straight down. This final and complete hull rupture dumped the boilers and much else into the ocean, icnluding more coal to then form the "western" coal debris field.
I will note that the "western" coal field contains substantial amounts of dinnerware, plaster, and tiles, indicating that it was associated with a total rupture of the hull. The "eastern" coal field evidently did not have substantial amounts of plaster and tiles (although there was dinnerware, probably from the officers' mess at the base of Funnel 3 and/or the Third Class galley just above Boiler Room No 1), indicating that the hull had not yet been fully torn open.