Forensic analysis of the Titanic’s structural failure prior to sinking

Richard Woytowich, writing at the Huffington Post/Scientific American, is a professor of Computer Engineering Technology at the New York City College of Technology and is a member of the Marine Forensics Committee. Woytowich collaborated with Roy Mengot to analyze the structural failure of the Titanic following its collision with an iceberg.

In our reconstruction, the failure began in the ship’s bottom structure, when the ship was at an angle of about 17 degrees. The failure spread across the breadth of the ship, then upward; it also spread forward and aft, probably along lightly riveted longitudinal seams, forming two separate pieces of the double bottom.

When the ship’s stern section came back down into the water, buoyancy forces took over the job of holding up that part of the ship, so the breakup stopped for a little while. At that point, the two halves of the ship were held together by the uppermost strength decks, and by the double – thickness side shell plating. The outlines of the two double bottom pieces that broke away from the ship are indicated. The deckhouse is shown opening up at the aft expansion joint – but the split in the deckhouse was an effect, not a cause, of the hull break.