DESIGNING THE TITANIC
In the early 1940's White Star ran a regular transatlantic service, from Southampton to New York, with the Teutonic, Oceanic, and Adriatic. Teutonic, White Star's fastest ship, was averaging just over 21 knots. Unfortunately, White Star's vessels could not compare to the speed of Cunard's much faster fleet, which were averaging speeds of 26 knots. For White Star to increase their speed they would be forced to restrict passengers and cargo, clearly an uneconomical move. Instead, White Star Line opted for a different option - they would construct a fleet of massive ocean liners whose voluminous accommodations and breathtaking luxury would prove irresistible to passengers. First class passengers would experience a level of ambience and opulence aboard the Titanic that they never expected to experience, except at a few of the finest hotels around the world. Furthermore, the steerage, 3rd class, would travel in far better facilities than they are used to, especially on other transatlantic liners.
In 1907, Lord Pirrie and Bruce Ismay, backed by American finances, sat down and began to design the world's largest ocean vessels. The massive liners stretched to a length of over 850 feet, over 100 feet longer than Cunard's longest ship, and they weighed in at over 46,000 tons, approximately 15,000 tons heavier than Cunard's. White Star had planned on the three majestic ocean liners revolutionizing transatlantic travel, and indeed they did. White Star emphasized elegance and, above all, safety in their new Olympic, Titanic, and Gigantic. White Star implemented new safety protocols, which included watertight doors, multiple hull compartments, and triple screw enforcement. The improvements made to the design of the three ocean liners would make them the safest ships in the Atlantic, an achievement which White Star was notably proud of. Between the years of 1902 and 1912, White Star carried over 2,179,594 passengers, of whom only two died; White Star Line hoped that the new trio (Olympic, Titanic, Gigantic) would help continue their excellent reign of safety.
Their appeared to be only one flaw with these ships, no dockyard was large enough for their construction. Pirrie, who was not to be discouraged, built two new specially designed slipways at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. Meanwhile, a team of engineers and designers, led by Lord Pirrie's brother-in-law and Harland & Wolff's general manager, Alexander Carlisle, drew detailed blueprints of the new liners. Alexander, who also designed the second Oceanic, expanded the hull design of the Oceanic to compensate for the new vessels larger size and weight. After the design was complete, Alexander was responsible for the ships' interiors and equipping them with the proper life-saving equipment. The design was presented to Bruce Ismay and White Star Management on July 29, 1908, when Ismay was visiting Belfast. He eagerly gave his approval and signed a contract with Harland & Wolf to begin construction on the first two ships. Alexander Carlisle retired in 1910, and was replaced with another one of Pirrie's relatives, his nephew Thomas Andrews.
Both the Titanic and Olympic had four huge funnels, were triple screw steamers, powered by two sets of reciprocating engines, each driving a wing propeller, and a 420-ton low pressure turbine driving the center propeller by reusing steam from the main engines. The extra 16,000 horse power produced by the center turbine engine allowed the Titanic to reach a top speed of 24 to 25 knots. The steam came from 29 boilers separated, into six watertight boiler rooms, each with their own pumping equipment. The boilers were fueled by coal from assorted bunkers, which had a total capacity of 8,000 tons. The bunkers were designed and organized to reduce the handling of coal and maintain the ships balance. The ships steam generating plant, coal-bunkers, and propelling machinery occupied almost the entire space below the upper E deck. Of the ships four funnels, the foremost three were dedicated to the to the boiler rooms, and the fourth was used for ventilation.
A series of illuminating telegraphs, linking the starting platform and the various boiler rooms, allowed communication below decks. This enabled the engineer on duty to issue orders with speed and efficiency. The ships structure consisted of a series of vertical frames joined together by horizontal and criss-crossed beams, girders, and pillars. At the bow the frames were two feet apart, and increased towards the stern, to two feet three inches. As a safety feature, both ships had double hulls, a larger (1-inch thick) outer steel shell enclosed a thinner (.75-inch) steel shell. The idea was that if the outer skin got pierced, the water would be kept at bay by the inner skin. The double bottom was separated far enough that a man could walk upright the length of the ship.
To reduce rolling in heavy seas, a pair of 25inch deep bilge keels were installed along 300 feet of the mid-ship on both sides of the bottom. Special steel castings, supplied by the Darlington Forge Company, were made to brace the stern and to support the three propellers and the cast-steel rudder. The six pieces of the rudder, which measured 78 feet 8 inches long and 15 feet 3 inches wide, together weighed more than 101 tons.
The beams of the bridge, shelter, saloon, and upper decks amidships were supported by four longitudinal girders, which in turn were supported by solid round pillars spaced 9 feet apart. The two decks forming the superstructure of the ship and the navigating bridge were built to ensure a high degree of rigidity. At the sides, they were supported on built-up frames in line with the hull frames, but at wider intervals. The deckhouses were specially stiffened by channel-section steel fitted in the framework. In certain areas, particularly where there were passengers rooms, heavy brackets were introduced to ensure a smoother passage through choppy water. To all intents and purposes, the Titanic was watertight. In addition to the double bottom, she was divided into 16 watertight compartments, formed by 15 watertight bulkheads running across the hull. Six of these reached up to D deck, eight went up to E deck and the other one rose only as far as the F deck. Each bulkhead was equipped with automatic watertight doors. These were held in the open position by a friction clutch that could be released instantly by a powerful electric magnet controlled from the captains bridge. In the event of an accident, the captain could move the electric switch and close all doors to make the ship 100 per cent watertight. As a further precaution, floats were provided beneath floor level. Should water enter any of the compartments, these floats would automatically lift and close the doors opening into that compartment if the captain had not already dropped them. It was also claimed the ship could float with any two compartments flooded and since nobody could envisage anything worse, the Titanic was deemed unsinkable.
Designing: Lifeboat Regulations
The provision of enough lifeboats would turn out to be one of the most contentious issues in the wake of the Titanic disaster. The hopelessly outdated regulations of the British Board of Trade had not been amended since 1894, when the largest vessel afloat was the 12,950-ton Campania from Cunard. So no allowance had been made for the massive increase in ship size in recent years. Under the regulations, all British vessels of more than 10,000 tons had to carry 26 lifeboats with a capacity of 5,500 cubic feet, plus sufficient rafts and floats for 75 percent of the capacity of the lifeboats. Consequently, a ship of 46,000 tons such as the Titanic was not required by law to carry any more lifeboats than one of 10,000 tons, even though it would undoubtedly be carrying many more passengers and crew. These regulations meant the Titanic had to carry boats for only 962 people when she had a capacity for 3,547. Clearly it was a ridiculous and potentially deadly situation.
It is significant that at the planning stage, between four and five hours were devoted to discussing décor and fittings, but no more than 10 minutes was given over to lifeboat capacity. To his credit, Alexander Carlisle apparently had misgivings about the regulations. German and American rules already required a greater proportion of lifeboats than Britain, and Carlisles original plan incorporated 64 boats, sufficient for everyone. But as discussions proceeded between builders and owners, Carlisle was obliged to modify the numbers first to 40, then 32, and finally to 16 30-foot-long boats, plus four Englehardt collapsible boats. It seemed that the money-men preferred to utilize the deck space, which boats would take up, for larger promenades. In a tragic case of mistaken priorities, this was all part of the mission to provide the ultimate in luxury shipping. The rules stipulated that Titanic had to carry boats for 962 people and her 16 lifeboats comfortably met the requirements with a seating capacity of 980. And White Star was proud that its designers had added the four collapsible, with seating for 196 people, to raise the seating capacity to 1,176, well in excess of official needs. Even so, this represented only 53 per cent of the ships total capacity.
Each pair of manually operated Welin davits was capable of lowering three boats in succession and could have been adapted to increase this number to four. Eight pairs of davits were fitted on either side of the ship, the foremost on each side being permanently swung out and carrying an emergency cutter that doubled as a lifeboat. A and B collapsibles were stowed on either side of the roof of the officers house; C and D were placed on each side of the forward end of the officers promenade on the boat deck. To make them easy to stow the collapsibles had shallow wooden bottoms and canvas sides. Ironically, the Welin Davit and Engineering Co. Ltd. of London, made a big deal of the fact that they had supplied the Titanic and took out advertisements in the run-up to the launch.