‘Titanic is unsinkable.’ This phrase strikes a chord in the mind of any Titanic enthusiast and is reiterated in nearly every Titanic story told. These same words are frequently cited as proof of shipbuilder and ship owner’s overconfidence in what they had created, and yet no one ever uttered those exact words. They are quoted inaccurately from a period trade publication The Shipbuilder, which described Titanic and Olympic as ‘practically unsinkable’.
From myth and fact to the mysteries of the ship’s history, Titanic’s story has captured the world’s attention for over a century. It is most often the odd or lesser known tidbits of information that people find the most fascinating. What was the weather like when Titanic departed Southampton on the start of her maiden voyage; how thick were the steel hull plates that formed the ship's skin; why did Titanic have four funnels when only three were required?
Until 1985, the wreck of Titanic was a much sought-after prize that many considered equal to the quest for the Holy Grail. With the discovery of the ship we now have confirmation that she did actually break apart. This fact opened further avenues of research into the events of that tragic night. Only in the last few decades, following the discovery of the wreck, have so many pieces of the puzzle started to fit together, giving us a fuller picture of the ship’s full 101-year history.
Through diligent research, expeditions, documentaries and publications, the fullness of the story has been revealed. The ship itself was the latest in marine technology. Largest in the world, opulent interiors, lavish appointments and facilities such as restaurants, heated pool, gymnasium and Turkish baths, the latter being principally the domain of those traveling first class.
This is not to say that second- or third-class (steerage) passengers’ accommodation, dining rooms and public spaces were in any way lacking reasonable quality and comforts by the White Star Line. A little-known fact is that many passengers who were rich enough to afford a first-class ticket traveled second class by choice because it was less of a hassle. There was no need to change into full dress for supper, for instance!
All wasn’t quite so rosy for third-class passengers on Titanic’s sister ship Olympic though. After breakfast, passengers were often encouraged to go topside or to one of the recreation rooms so that the stewards could clean their rooms. Sometimes this consisted of washing down the decks with a hose. With the fact that there were just two bathtubs for all of third class, this reminds us of how times have changed. But for the most, their shared on-board accommodation was a step up from previous cottages and tenements they’d vacated.
But the story of this magnificent ship isn’t just necessarily about how many rivets were used in the construction nor how many propellers drove the ship across the Atlantic. It is about those that built the ship, the crew and passengers that sailed on her and the rich tapestry of liner travel during the height of the Edwardian era. Those on board were representative of the many different classes travelling beyond Queenstown to New York. For most travelling third class, their decision to immigrate was principally driven by the desire to obtain financial security, the abundant work opportunities available and, of course, the hopefulness of a better life. Nearly everyone that boarded the ship shared a common sentiment; they did so with confidence and expectation of a safe voyage.
From lessons learned following the disaster many new rules and regulations were introduced: ships at sea were to carry lifeboat provisions for all on board; the route from Queenstown to New York was moved further south to avoid icebergs and sea ice; and international sea patrols to monitor the sea lanes were introduced.
The ship today lies more than 12,000ft below the icy waters of the North Atlantic, nothing more than a crumpled and dismembered steel hulk. But the memory of the ship, her crew, passengers, shipyard and builders lives on. One hundred years from now her name and memory will still be remembered: forever linked with heroism, self-sacrifice and tragedy.
Author and Historian
Below is a collection of photos showing interiors of Olympic. As Olympic was nearly identical to Titanic, these photos should give a good approximation of Titanic's interiors.
The photos were generously provided by Daniel Smith.
By Steve Hall
The Olympic-class liners—namely, the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Britannic—represented a 50% increase in size over the Cunard vessels Lusitania and Mauretania, which were the largest and fastest liners in the world at that time. Although the Olympic-class liners would not be as fast as the two Cunard greyhounds, White Star's policy was to emphasize passenger accommodations rather than speed.
To facilitate the construction of these three colossal vessels, Harland & Wolff would be required to make major modifications to its shipyard construction facilities. Two new slips were constructed, covering an area that was originally used to construct three ships. The William Arrol Company Ltd. was contracted to construct these new huge gantries. When completed, they covered an area of approximately 840 ft - 270 ft.
Although the Olympic-class liners were originally conceived by Bruce Ismay managing, director of the White Star Line, and Lord Pirrie, managing director of Harland & Wolff, they were planned and designed by the shipyard's principal architect, Alexander Carlisle. Thomas Andrews was head of the yard's design department and oversaw the creation of the class prototype's plans, but Carlisle took charge of the details. Carlisle resigned from Harland & Wolff in 1911 and took a position with the Welin Davit Company, which manufactured and supplied the lifeboat davits for the Olympic and the Titanic. Throughout all of the stages of design and planning, all drawings and specifications were submitted to Ismay for his approval. Any modifications or suggestions he believed necessary were without doubt carried out. History tells us that all his later suggestions were aesthetically based.
The Olympic and the Titanic were built first, within close temporal proximity of each other, whereas the Britannic was not added to the fleet until the summer of 1914. When completed, the three ships registered in at approximately 45,500 gross tons each (the Britannic would later register at about 50,000 tons) and measured 882 ft, 9 in. long and 92 ft, 6 in. wide at the maximum breadth of the ship. As a comparison to later ships, the German-registered Imperator (1913) was 909 ft. long, and the Queen Mary (1936), which was originally to be named the Queen Victoria, was just over 1,000 ft.
The Olympic-class ships were driven by a triple-screw arrangement. Two giant reciprocating engines drove her port and starboard wing propellers, while a low-pressure turbine drove the centerline shaft. The port and starboard propellers were each three bladed; had a diameter of 23 ft, 6 in.; and weighed a massive 38 tons each. They were of "built-up" construction, having manganese bronze blades bolted onto a cast steel hub. The center propeller had a diameter of 16 ft, 6 in. and weighed 22 tons. It had four blades and was cast as a single piece in manganese bronze. Because the turbine was not equipped to move in "reverse", the center propeller operated only in the "ahead" direction.
The reciprocating engines were of the four-cylinder, triple-expansion, direct-acting inverted type configuration with a high, an intermediate, and two low-pressure cylinder bores of 54-in., 84-in., and 97-in. diameter, respectively, all with a 75-in. stroke. Each of these engines developed 15,000 IHP (indicated horsepower) at 75 rpm. The low-pressure turbine developed around 16,000 SHP (shaft horsepower) at 165 rpm. The exhaust steam drove this center turbine from the two reciprocating engines. Harland & Wolff manufactured all three of the sister’s turbines which were basically the same in general design and in that they operated only in the "ahead" direction. However, the Britannic's turbine could deliver 18,000 horsepower and was the largest marine turbine ever constructed, although it certainly was not the most powerful. This impressive array of machinery was capable of generating up to 51,000 horsepower combined, giving the ships a service speed of 21—21½ knots. The maximum speed of each ship was believed to be 24 knots. The steam required to power all this machinery was provided by 29 huge boilers that comprised 159 furnaces. These furnaces had a heating surface of approximately 144,142 square ft. There were 24 double-ended boilers and 5 single-ended boilers. These boilers provided a maximum steam pressure of 215 psi. To feed these massive boilers, the ship's coal bunkers had a combined capacity of 6,611 tons and, operating at 21—22 knots, could consume 620—640 tons of coal per day, all hand fed by shovel. A further 1,092 tons of coal could be shipped in the reserve bunker hold forward of boiler room number 6.
The frames of the Olympic-class ships were constructed from 10-in. steel channels, which were spaced 36 in. apart amidships, which was gradually reduced to 24 in. forward and 27 in. aft. Attached to these ribs were the hull, or shell, plates. The shell plates were fastened with rivets that were applied both by hand hammering and hydraulic press. It is a common misunderstanding that all of the rivets were hydraulically applied. This is not true. The hydraulic riveting machine had limitations—for example, its jaws could not be worked around more than moderate bends in the plates or get into confined areas. More than half a million rivets were used on the double bottoms of these ships, and the weight of these rivets alone was estimated to be 270 tons. When completed, each ship had about 3 million rivets with an estimated weight of over 1,200 tons.
On average, the shell plates used on these ships were 6 ft wide and 30 ft long and weighed between 2½ and 3 tons each. The largest shell plating used was 36 ft long and weighed 4¼ tons. The thickness of the plates averaged 1 in. amidships and thinned toward the ends but was thicker in other areas depending on the need for extra strength. Each ship was fitted with a cellular double bottom, 5ft, 3in. deep throughout the ship's length, which increased to 6ft, 3 in. in the reciprocating-engine room. This double-bottom structure was divided into 75 separate compartments. These compartments were used for the storage of fresh water, for makeup boiler feed water, for domestic use, and to hold water ballast for trimming the ship.
The hulls were divided into 16 watertight compartments. The forward, or "collision" bulkhead was carried to C deck, whereas those from the forward end of the reciprocating engines and aft were carried to D deck. The remainder of these bulkheads terminated at E deck, with the top of the lowest of these—the bulkhead between boiler rooms 1 and 2—being 10 ft, 9 in. above the maximum-load waterline. This arrangement allowed the Olympic and Titanic to easily withstand a breach of two adjacent compartments amidships, typical of the damage sustained through a collision with other ships. Furthermore, each ship was capable of remaining afloat with all of the first four compartments flooded, providing ample protection if the ship rammed a floating body in her path.
After the sinking of the Titanic, the Olympic and Britannic were fitted with an extra bulkhead in the electric engine room, resulting in a total of 17 watertight compartments. Along with this, five of the bulkheads were extended some 40 ft above the waterline as far up as the bridge deck.
Access through each of these transverse bulkheads was gained by means of watertight doors, which were held in the open position by a friction clutch. The doors could be released by means of a powerful electromagnet that was controlled by a switch on the bridge. These doors could also be closed on site by a releasing lever in the event of a switch failure, or from the deck above. The doors were also coupled to a float-activated switch; in the event that the compartment flooded and the water reached a predetermined level, the doors would close automatically.
The ships had four huge funnels rising 72 ft above the boat deck. Elliptical in section, they measured 24 ft, 6 in. - 19 ft and had a rake of 2 in./ft. The funnels were painted black at the top to mask the accumulation residue caused by the smoke. The fourth funnel was a dummy; however, many artists at the time took some artistic license and often showed smoke pouring from all four funnels. In actuality, the ship's fourth funnel was used for ventilation of the turbine engine room, galleys, and fumes emitted from the turbine engine. It was thought at the time that it would be more aesthetic to have four funnels for such a large ship. This gave the illusion of power and stability, which the public bought into, and also followed the four-funnel arrangement seen on some of the German liners as well as the Cunard liners Lusitania and Mauretania.
Each ship was fitted with two masts, which towered at a height of 205 ft and, like the funnels, had a rake of 2 in/ft. The foremast was fitted with a derrick for lifting heavy items, such as automobiles, into the foreholds. The ladder to the crows nest also was located inside the foremast, and was accessed on C deck.
The Olympic-class liners were each fitted with a cast steel rudder, which weighed 101¼ tons and had an overall length of 78 ft, 8 in. and a width of 15 ft., 3 in. The rudders of these liners were unbalanced and were later believed by some to be too small. It is commonly believed that the size of the rudder was one of the critical flaws that contributed to the Titanic disaster, although this notion was effectively disputed in the discussions following publication of the article "Titanic, The Anatomy of a Disaster: A Report From the Marine Forensic Panel (SD-7)" by William H. Garzke, Jr., et al. In their commentary on page 50 of the article, naval architects Chris Hackett and John Bedford stated that "It must also be remembered that, although the rudder area was lower than we would adopt nowadays, Olympic's turning circles compare favorably with today's standards." Their conclusion was arrived at and based on hard data rather than the speculation and conjecture on which statements to the contrary have been based.
Mounted on both sides of each ship, at the very bottom curve of the hull, was a pair of 300-ft long bilge keels. They were located about amidships and were 25 in. in depth. The bilge keels were used to reduce the rolling motion of the ship in heavy seas. The Olympic-class ships were each fitted with five anchors. The center anchor, called the bower anchor, weighed 15 ¼ long tons and could be lowered by a wire rope through the extra hawse pipe in the ship's stem. This center anchor was stowed in a recessed well immediately abaft the ship's stem at the forepeak. A crane for lowering the anchor over the side was fitted at the centerline of the fo´c’sle deck. Both the port and starboard side anchors weighed approximately 8 long tons each and were connected to 330 fathoms of chain, which had an accumulated weight of approximately 98 long tons. Each anchor had the manufacturer’s name molded (raised) on it, as well as a serial ID number and the weight. On Olympic, the anchors were numbered: center 644, starboard 644s and port 644x. For Titanic: center 617, starboard 617s and port 617x. The numbers on the port and starboard anchors were located inboard as fitted, in other words, not visible once attached to the ship. However, on the center 15 ¼ ton anchor, the ID number & manufacturer’s name were cast on the same side.
The main whistles were located only on the first and second funnels. They were manufactured by Smith Brothers and Co., Nottingham, England. The whistles seen on the third and fourth funnels were dummies, installed for appearance only. Each whistle comprised three separate bells mounted on a common branch piece, the starboard diameter being 9 in., the center diameter 15 in., and the port diameter 12 in. These whistles were electrically operated on the Willett—Bruce system from the ship's bridge. They could be operated either manually or by engaging an electric timer, which would automatically blow the whistles for approximately 10 seconds every minute. This practice was required during fog or inclement weather. Some witnesses said at the time that the whistles were so loud they could be heard 10 miles away when sounded at Southampton when the atmospheric conditions were right.
The ships had eight full steel decks, the uppermost being the ship's boat deck. The deck below the boat deck was designated A deck, and then the decks progressively descended alphabetically down to the ship's lowest level, G deck. Directly below G deck were the final three levels, these being the orlop decks fore and aft, a lower orlop deck forward, and finally, the tank top.
The boat decks of the Olympic and the Titanic were where 18 of the lifeboats were fitted: Sixteen wooden lifeboats were hung beneath Welin double-acting davits, and 2 Engelhardt collapsibles, designated C and D, were secured to the deck itself. There were 2 more Engelhardt collapsible lifeboats, designated A and B, secured to the roof of the officers' quarters forward. The ships were originally planned by Carlisle to carry 64 lifeboats; the double-acting Welin davits were specially designed to launch up to 3 or 4 lifeboats from one location. The number was then decreased to 32. However, sometime between March 9 and March 16, 1910, the number was reduced to 16—the minimum number required by the Board of Trade. By fitting these extra 4 Engelhardt collapsibles, White Star exceeded the Board of Trade requirements for vessels over 10,000 tons by 17%. The required lifeboat capacity, expressed in cubic capacity, set by the Board of Trade for these massive 45,000-ton ships was 9,625 cubic feet; however, the first two Olympic-class liners carried lifeboats with a capacity of 11,327 cubic feet.
The Titanic carried the arrangement of 14 standard (30-ft) lifeboats, 2 emergency cutters (25 ft 2 in), and the 4 Engelhardt collapsibles (27 ft 5 in). These Engelhardt lifeboats were called collapsibles because they had adjustable canvas sides that could be pulled up and snapped taut.
The 14 standard lifeboats and the 2 emergency cutters were all permanently suspended beneath the 16 Welin double-acting davits. The total lifeboat capacity was 1,178 people. The ships carried 48 life buoys and 3,560 life jackets.
The ships were designed with an extensive array of electrically operated equipment. Each liner had more than 200 miles of cable installed to operate the large assortment of machinery: winches and cranes, electric heaters, electrically operated kitchen appliances, a 50-line telephone switchboard, a wireless telegraph set, fans, and ventilators, plus dozens of other electrically operated appliances. Electric passenger elevators—three in first class and one in second class—were installed in the passenger reception areas. In addition, four electric service lifts were provided, one with its terminus in the officers' pantry and another whose terminus was in the restaurant pantry. The service lifts were used between D deck and the bridge deck, to move provisions from the storerooms to the galleys, and for lowering and raising mailbags, stores and supplies. Also fitted to the ships were more than 1,500 electric bell pushes, or service buttons, mostly mounted on wall plates attached conveniently close to the normal lighting switches. Forty-eight clocks were in use, which could all be adjusted simultaneously by two master clocks located in the chart room. All clocks were electrically linked for quick and uniform adjustment.
There were literally hundreds of miles of electrical cable and plumbing pipes running all over these massive ships; the lighting alone was provided by way of approximately 10,000 incandescent lamps. The electrical supply required to operate these "floating cities" was supplied by way of four 400-kilowatt, 100-volt DC steam-operated generators. As a reserve, there were two 30-kilowatt emergency generators, which were situated on the ship's D deck.
The Marconi room, with its 5-kilowatt radio transmitter, was located on the ship's boat deck, adjoining the officers' cabins. The transmitting apparatus for this powerful radio transmitter was connected to four parallel aerial wires, extended between the ship's towering masts. These wires were attached to the very top of the masts by way of light spans that acted as spreaders to keep the wires from touching. From these aerial wires, cables led directly to the radio equipment in the wireless room. The radios consisted of two complete sets of apparatus: one for transmitting and the other for receiving transmissions. The transmitters had a guaranteed minimum range of 400 miles; however, at night or during certain atmospheric conditions, the range of this equipment extended to more than 2,000 miles.
In addition, the ships were fitted with two large electrically operated Morse lamps, which were positioned on the roofs of both the port and starboard side bridge wing cabs and were equipped with a large array of various pyrotechnic signaling rockets.
Each ship had four Lord Kelvin standard compasses. One of these was located on the captain's bridge, with a second one located immediately aft inside the wheelhouse. The third one was located on the stern docking bridge. The fourth compass was installed on a large brass work platform located between the second and third funnels. This elevated platform rose 12 ft above the boat deck so it would be located well above any surrounding ironwork. This allowed accurate compass readings, as the compass was free of any metallic interference.
The luxurious accommodations for the passengers were augmented by the addition of a well-equipped gymnasium that was 45ft, 6in. long and 17ft, 3in. wide, with an impressive 9ft, 6in. high ceiling. The gymnasium was situated on the Boat deck, immediately abaft the forward grand entrance and staircase. It was lighted by the usual electric lighting; however, this was also supplemented by eight large pebbled windows that provided natural light. It boasted such equipment as an electrically driven mechanical horse and camel, two fixed cycling bikes, a weight lifting press, and even a boat rowing machine.
Turkish baths were located on F deck and included such facilities as steaming, shampooing, and cooling rooms as well as an electric bath that was available for women between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and for men between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
There was a heated, 6-ft deep, tiled saltwater swimming pool, with changing-room facilities, 30 ft long and 20 ft wide, located on the starboard side of F deck. The Olympic and the Titanic were not the first ships to have a swimming pool. Other ships had small pools, called plunge baths, but the Olympic-class ships were the first to have large swimming pools.
A squash court, measuring 30 ft long and 20 ft wide, located on G deck, was provided for athletically inclined passengers. The facility also boasted an elevated spectator gallery, located at the after end of the court.
There was a fully equipped hospital and dispensary on D deck, and the ship's surgery was located on C deck. For passengers inclined to take in the sun, deck chairs covered in a White Star blanket could be checked out for the cost of $1. The ships published a daily newspaper called the Atlantic Daily Bulletin, which carried articles such as the daily menus, horse racing results, advertisements for on-board activities, and society gossip.
The passenger capacity for the Olympic-class liners was generally as follows: 735 first class; 674 second class; and 1,026 third, or steerage. The crew numbered approximately 900, 500 of whom—such as cooks, stewards, store and laundry attendants—looked directly after the passengers. There were 320 crewmen actively employed in the mechanical workings of the ship, such as fireman, trimmers, engineers, and electricians.
In addition, there were 65 crewmen who belonged to the navigating department; they comprised lookouts, quartermasters, and able seamen. The captain and his seven deck officers were responsible for the safe navigation and management of the ship. The ships' staff also included two radio operators who were contracted through (i.e., employed by) the Marconi Company and numerous privately employed restaurant personnel and musicians. The ships would eventually be certified safe for the transportation of 3,547 people.
To learn more about the Titanic and her sister ships, find information and plans, see other Titanic projects, and discuss Titanic with others, please have a look at the various Titanic resources, sites and projects listed below.
The White Star Liners Facebook Group
The White Star Liners is a Facebook group for the discussion of the Olympic Class Liners, Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic. If you’re on Facebook, you can join this group, discuss Titanic and her sister ships with others, and share Titanic/Olympic Class-related material with people ranging from the average Titanic fanatic to Titanic researchers and authors of note.
Titanic International Society
Titanic International is a non-profit historical organization founded in 1989 to preserve and perpetuate the memory and history of the RMS Titanic and those who sailed aboard her maiden and last voyage. Through the pages of their quarterly, fully-illustrated journal, Voyage, as well as through frequent membership activities, Titanic International Society disseminates the latest research in the Titanic and her legacy.
Modeling the Olympic Class Facebook Group
A Facebook Group dedicated to the modeling of the Olympic Class Liners, Titanic, Olympic, and Britannic. If you’re on Facebook, you can join the group to share pictures of your own modeling work, look at and comment on the works of others, and discuss modeling with others.
One of the most popular Titanic websites on the net, Encyclopedia Titanica is a vast repository of material on the Titanic, including detailed passenger and crew lists, deck plans, articles, a store, and a forum.
The Art of Ken Marschall
The website of artist Ken Marschall, famous for his many wonderful works of art depicting Titanic, as well as other ships and subjects, and who is of course one of our consultants.
Titanic - Adventure Out of Time at Wordpress
A fanblog for the old game “Titanic - Adventure Out of Time” which posts all kinds of content related to the game, as well as other Titanic-related games/mods, and news.