107 #54: Titanic sank more rapidly because her watertight doors were opened again after the collision

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FALSE. It is true that most of Titanic’s watertight doors were opened about an hour after the collision by the engineers, in order to bring pipes from the powerful pumps in the stern to bear at the bow where seawater was flooding in fast. These were never closed again:

5599: ‘And you left all those doors open?’

‘All those doors open.’

The Commissioner: ‘Then all the watertight doors aft of the main engine room were opened?’

5600: (The Attorney-General) ‘Yes. (To the Witness) And, so far as you know, as I understand it, they never were closed?’

‘No. Why they opened them was they had to go down the last tunnel but one and get a big suction- pipe out, which they used for drawing the water up out of the bilges.’

5601: ‘That tunnel is the one before you get to the last watertight door where they went to get a big suction pipe?’

‘Yes, it takes four men to carry it. I think I saw four men coming through with it. They took it to the stokehold. What they did with it I do not know.’ The Commissioner: ‘Will you get what time this was?’

5602: (The Attorney-General, to the Witness) ‘What time was it?’

‘About a quarter to one.’

5603: (The Commissioner) ‘That is about an hour after the collision?’


5604: (The Attorney-General) ‘When you came back to the main engine room did you see whether the watertight doors forward of the main engine room were open?’

‘They must have been, because they could not take a suction pipe out to the stokehold if they were not.’

However, this did not have a significant impact upon the amount of time Titanic stayed afloat, as all her watertight doors had floats which made the doors shut automatically on contact with water:

Mr. Laing [counsel questioning greaser Frederick Scott]: ‘May I interpose here and say that these watertight doors are fitted with a float so that if any material quantity of water comes the float automatically releases the door and it comes down again by itself.’

Titanic’s watertight doors were capable of closing against a full inrush of water, as they did in the case of Olympic’s collision with HMS Hawke, as Wilding testified:

20445: ‘I think your model is sufficient. In the first place, you have spoken of the descending door. Supposing that water was gaining access into the compartment on one side of the door in volume, so that there was water flowing along rapidly, would that stop the door descending?’

‘It would not; we have had proof that it would not.’

20446: ‘You have had proof?’


20447: ‘In what way?’

‘In the case of the Olympic accident. A stoker was standing by the door in O bulkhead in the tunnel in the aftermost section of the tunnel, forward of the propeller here. (Pointing on the model.) It was put in evidence at the Olympic trial, and can be turned up therefore, that he saw the ram come through, and as the ship drifted out he saw the water come in with a rush; the automatic release from the bridge had not yet been worked, and he took the hand lever, standing on the fore side of the door, and released that door, and it fell and closed properly, but during the time it took to do so sufficient water had come through the door to bring about 3 feet of water into the next forward section of the tunnel—some 300 or 400 tons of water had come through. The door closed, and the water was pumped out; so that it closed against the rush of water.

Indeed, Titanic’s watertight doors were so heavy that they could even cut through coal, if necessary, in order to close, and a suction pipe would not have prevented them sealing:

20438: ‘Supposing at the bottom there was a little bit of coal or something which prevented it getting quite down?’

‘The door is falling; it is falling freely until it overlaps that place, and the door would smash through any small thing. This is not a very big model, but it will smash through a lead pencil if I let it go.’

20439: ‘Supposing the door, having overlapped the step at the bottom still nevertheless is prevented by some little obstacle from getting down quite as far as is intended?’

‘As this is falling with a rush, until the wedges actually press it home, the distance through which there is contact is only a matter of an inch or so – except just during that last inch when the door is stopped—the weight of the door would be sufficient to clear any obstacle.

20440: ‘Overcome anything like a piece of coal?’ ‘Yes; it would simply knock it out of the way. Some of the big doors weigh, I think, 15 cwt., three-quarters of a ton, so that it would want a pretty substantial obstacle.’

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