Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Titanic: was it all right when it left Belfast?

The "unsinkable" four-funnelled ship the SS Titanic. Part of the White Star Line, Titanic sank off Newfoundland on her maiden voyage to the USA after striking an iceberg (14-15/4/1912). Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The Titanic Ship 401 left Belfast on the 2nd April 100 years ago and to mark this centenary The Titanic Foundation with Titanic Belfast launched 401 balloons into the air with the help of pupils from Victoria College, RBAI and Methody.
Colin Cobb's Titanic Walking Tours. The Thompson graving dock and pump house where the Titanic's hull inspection and propeller work was done

Research by US metallurgists Tim Foecke and Jennifer Hooper McCarty has suggested that Harland and Wolff rivets were at fault for allowing the Titanic’s hull to be ripped apart by the pressure of the impact when it hit an iceberg, causing it to sink.

They claim the use of ‘best’ rivets used in the hull where the iceberg sheered its fatal hole, which contained more impurities or ‘slag’, instead of better quality ‘best best’ iron rivets used elsewhere, contributed to its doom.

The use of the ‘best’ rivets has been branded as a cost-saving exercise but criticism that they were inserted by hand was down to the fact that the hydraulic presses of that era, employed to insert the rivets used in the middle three-fifths of the ship, could not be operated where the curvature of the hull was too acute, like at the bow and stern.

But the allegedly faulty rivets were only part of “a perfect storm” which led to the ship of dreams’ sinking. The absence of binoculars in the crow’s nest, the ship’s high speed despite the iceberg warnings, the radio operators’ tardiness in getting crucial information to officers and the lack of lifeboats all figured; yet, it does beg the question to Slugger O’Toole, that amidst all the hype surrounding the opening of Titanic Belfast: ‘was it all right when it left here?'

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