The Sinking Titanic's Great Pumps Finally Fail

The greater fools still partying in the first-class lounge are in denial that even the greatest, most technologically advanced ship can sink.

On April 14, 1912, the liner Titanic, considered unsinkable due to its watertight compartments and other features, struck a glancing blow against a massive iceberg on that moonless, weirdly calm night. In the early hours of April 15, the great ship broke in half and sank, ending the lives of the majority of its passengers and crew.

The usual analogy drawn between the Titanic and our financial meltdown stems from the initial complacency of the passengers after the collision. Some passengers went on deck to play with the ice scraped off the berg, while most returned to the festivities still working their magic as midnight approached. 1%. The book that the... Sharratt, Robert Best Price: $9.93 Buy New $8.99 (as of 02:53 EDT - Details)

The class structure of Edwardian Britain soon came into play, however; as the situation grew visibly threatening, the First Class passengers were herded into the few lifeboats while the steerage/Third Class passengers–many of them immigrants–were mostly kept below decks, sealing their doom.

But there are even more compelling analogies than initial complacency turning to panic. Consider this diagram of the great ship:

The large black rectangles on the lower deck represent the coal bunkers; they were located adjacent to the boilers which powered the engines. Though the ship only scraped against the iceberg, as Titanic explorer Robert Ballard explains, that was enough to pop rivets and open hull plates:

The glancing blow that ruptured the Titanic’s hull over a distance of roughly 250 feet (out of a full length of 882 feet) and admitted water into six of her compartments sealed her fate.

Considerable hullabaloo attended the attempt in the summer of 1996 to raise a piece of the hull from the debris field, but far more interesting was the ultrasound investigation of the area of the bow damaged by the iceberg. These images revealed six small tears or openings affecting the first six compartments. Just as we had surmised in 1986, the great gash was a myth and the actual openings into the ship seem to have been the result of rivets popping and hull plates separating.

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