107 #51: If Titanic had had longitudinal bulkheads, these would have contained the water and stopped the ship from sinking

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FALSE (probably). Cunard’s Mauretania and Lusitania were built with government subsidy on the understanding that they could be used as troop transport ships in wartime and were therefore fitted with the longitudinal watertight bulkheads which military ships were required to have, as well as transverse bulkheads like Titanic’s.

Longitudinal bulkheads would theoretically have saved Titanic, but having them would also have meant she would have developed a severe list to starboard. Wilding calculated that Titanic’s damage would have caused the Mauretania to list by 22 degrees. This would not necessarily have sunk the Mauretania, but it is interesting to note that this list would have rendered 50% of the lifeboats carried by either ship unusable—which is precisely what happened when the Lusitania was sunk by a torpedo in 1915. A list might also, in some situations, make flooding worse. As Wilding pointed out at the British Enquiry, if the vessel lists, this brings the top of the transverse bulkheads closer to the waterline and therefore increases the danger of letting water in:

20420: ‘As I understand, the danger indicated there is that if the vessel lists, among other things, that will reduce at the side the height of the transverse watertight compartment?’

‘Reduce at the side the height of the top of the transverse bulkheads above water.’

20421: ‘It might bring it below the waterline?’

‘Yes, and thus let the water get along the deck.’

It was therefore considered that in most situations longitudinal bulkheads would be more harmful than helpful. Indeed, as First Class passenger Grace Scott Bowen testified at the Limited Liability Hearings into the disaster in 1915, many portholes were left open as Titanic sank and this would have increased the speed at which she sank had she been fitted with longitudinal bulkheads, as these would have increased her initial list and brought more portholes under water more quickly:

Q: ‘Did you notice anything about the portholes as your boat went down, or after it got in the water?’

‘After we got in the water I noticed many were open.’

Q: ‘Did you notice any circular portholes open?’


Q: ‘Square ones, also?’

‘I think so.’

Q: ‘How many lines of portholes did you notice when your boat got into the water?’


Q: ‘Were any of those submerged after you got in the boat?’

‘Gradually this one line disappeared.’

Q: ‘You saw the water going in?’


Q: ‘Were a few of them open, or many open?’

‘I should say a great many.’

If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1


  1. Considering how cold it was that night, why would many of the portholes be open when it went down?

    1. Hi Paul. Longitudinal bulkheads would have caused Titanic to list and roll over before sinking. They would have speeded her demise and rendered half of her lifeboats useless.

      Some passengers opened their portholes to try and see what the ship had struck.

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