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Sideswipe or Grounding?. Titanic's Impact With the Ice and Its Immediate Aftermath PART 1 OF 2 by Samuel Halpern. Drawing done by S. P. Skidmore, April 15, 1912, aboard S.S.Carpathia . . Revised, Wednesday, 22 August 2007. PRESENTATION OVERVIEW. Some observations Ice in the well deck

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Sideswipe or grounding

Sideswipe or Grounding?

Titanic's Impact With the Ice and Its Immediate Aftermath


by Samuel Halpern

Drawing done by S. P. Skidmore, April 15, 1912, aboard S.S.Carpathia.

Revised, Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Presentation overview

  • Some observations

  • Ice in the well deck

  • Center of Buoyancy, Center of Gravity, and Metacenter

  • The impact force vector

  • Sideswipe or grounding?

  • Underwater contact sequence

  • Calculating maximum impact forces

  • The initial list to starboard

  • Down by the head - a sequence in time

A titanic myth
A Titanic Myth

"The vessel took the blow of a deadly, underwater, projecting shelf of ice, on her starboard bow near the bridge, and before she swung clear, the mighty ram of the iceberg had torn its way through plating and frames as far aft as amidships, opening up compartment after compartment to the sea." - Scientific American, April 27, 1912.

Grounding on a submerged shelf of ice article from the sphere 27 april 1912
Grounding on a Submerged Shelf of Ice?Article From The Sphere 27 April 1912

Sideswipe or grounding

Some Observations

Passenger Jack Thayer

"I wound my watch-it was 11:45 PM-and was just about to step into bed, when I seemed to sway slightly. I immediately realized that the ship had veered to port as though she had been gently pushed. If I had had a brimful glass of water in my hand not a drop would have been spilled, the shock was so slight."

Leading Fireman Frederick Barrett

"The water came through the ship's side...about 2 feet above the floor plates, starboard side...She was torn through No. 6 and also through 2 feet abaft the bulkhead in the bunker at the forward head of No.5 section."

Fireman George Beauchamp

"Water was coming in on the plates when we were drawing the fires...coming through the bunker door and over the plates...coming through the bunker like."

A 25 ft pressure head would produce a stream that reached as far as 15 ft across before falling on stokehold plates 2 ft below. Drawing shown is to scale.

Sideswipe or grounding

A Few More Observations

Lookout Reginald Lee

"The ship seemed to heel slightly over to port as she struck the berg...Very slightly over to port, as she struck along the starboard side."

Lookout Frederick Fleet

"She listed to port right afterwards...a slight list...just afterwards [of striking the berg]...[Did it seem that the blow came beneath the surface of the water that caused her to shift over to port?] Yes."

AB Seaman William Lucas

"I had just left the mess room...It very nearly sent me off my feet."

Passenger Major Peuchen

"I had only reached my room and was starting to undress when I felt as though a heavy wave had struck our ship. She quivered under it somewhat. If there had been a sea running I would simply have thought it was an unusual wave which had struck the boat."

Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall

"She was doing Full Speed and it didn’t break my step."

Sideswipe or grounding

Ice in the Well Deck

Lookout Reginald Lee

"As she struck on the starboard bow there was a certain amount of ice that came on board the ship. That was the forewell deck. It seemed as if she struck just before the foremast."

Sideswipe or grounding

Deriving Heights of Center of Buoyancy, Center of Gravity, and Metacenter on Titanic for April 14, 1912

Six degrees of freedom
Six Degrees of Freedom and Metacenter on

  • Three translations of the ship’s center of gravity (G) in the

  • direction of the x-, y-, and z-axes:

    • SURGE in the longitudinal x-direction, positive forwards

    • SWAY in the lateral y-direction, positive to port side

    • HEAVE in the vertical z-direction, positive upwards

  • Three rotations about these axes:

    • ROLL about the x-axis, positive right turning

    • PITCH about the y-axis, positive right turning

    • YAW about the z-axis, positive right turning

The impact force vectors heave sway and negative surge
The Impact Force Vectors and Metacenter on Heave, Sway, and Negative Surge

Impact forces alongside bulkhead c
Impact Forces Alongside Bulkhead and Metacenter on C

Resultant force shown acting perpendicular to side plating in bilge area.

For resultant contact force vector shown, heave component is about 1.7 times sway component.

  • The resultant force of impacting ice must be on a line that passes over the Center of Gravity longitudinal axis (+) to cause the ship to heel to port. A sideswipe only impact ~25 ft below the waterline would produce a heel to starboard.

Sideswipe or grounding
Calculating Maximum Impact Forces Due To and Metacenter on Side Impact ComponentContacting an Immovable, Smooth, Unbreakable Object

[Ref: S. Zhang, "The Mechanics of Ship Collisions," Dept. of Naval Architecture and Offshore Engineering, Tech. University of Denmark, 1999.]

  • Calculation Assumptions

  • Approach speed 38 ft/s (22.5 knots); Heading 0°

  • Impact at t = 22.5 sec after "Hard-starboard" order

  • Speed at impact 33 ft/sec; Heading -11°

  • Angle of impact relative to centerline  = 12°

  • Titanic's displacement 14 Apr = 48,300 tons

  • Impact kinetic energy = 1,830,000,000 ft-lbs

  • Point of max impact force taken abeam bulkhead B

  • Center of gravity (CG) of ship taken at amidships

  • Coefficient of friction steel-on-ice  0.03; set to 0

  • Coefficient of restitution  0 (hull deformation only)

  • Mass of iceberg  

  • Calculation Results

  • Energy loss from collision = 27,530,000 ft-lbs

  • Percent of energy lost = 1.5%

  • Impact impulse = 8,100,000 lbs-sec  3,600 ton-sec

  • Average sway force over 6 sec = 600 tons*

  • Added rotational velocity imparted = 0.93° per sec

  • Velocity of ship after collision = 32.3 ft/sec

  • Sway velocity after collision = 1.3 ft/sec

  • Center of percussion (CP) ~ 569 ft aft of bow

  • * Average force = impulse/time; peak forces can be much greater. Highest forces probably across Holds 1, 2, and 3.

Model for side pressure vs time

Assume side component contact with berg over area of 8 ft X 40 ft = 320 sq-ft.

Force impulse is 3600 ton-sec; Pressure impulse = 11.25 ton-sec/sq-ft

Model For Side Pressure Vs. Time

Assume a Rayleigh contact distribution over time with peak force at t=2 sec.

Sway Force = 3600*t/4*exp{-1/2*t2/4} tons

Pressure = Force/320 sq-ft

Peak sway force = 1092 tons

Peak sway pressure = 1092/320 = 3.4 tons/sq-ft

Sideswipe or grounding

moment arm 40 ft = 320 sq-ft.

L  4 ft







F=1180 tons


1020 tons


600 tons


sin  = F x L = 1180 x 4 = 0.037   2°

Disp. x GM 48300 x 2.63

Estimating How Far She Heeled to Port During Contact

From impulse analysis considering side impact only, we found an average sway component ~ 600 tons. To cause observed heel to port, heave component was shown to be ~1.7 times sway near bulkhead C. Assuming resultant force as shown, moment arm L  4 ft. Heel angle would be given by formula shown below.

4/12 displacement = 48,300 tons (B&H)

4/12 draft = 32' 3'' (B&H)

GM = 2.63' (B&H)

sway component = 600 tons average over 6 seconds

heave  1.7 sway = 1020 tons

Resultant force F = 1180 tons  (sqrt [600^2 + 1020^2])

Sideswipe or grounding

+ 40 ft = 320 sq-ft.




Underwater Contact — Sideswipe or Grounding?

  • Some Observations

  • A pure sideswipe (sway component force) would cause the ship to heel to starboard, not to port, during the allision.

  • A pure grounding (heave component force) just along the bottom of the hull would not likely produce what was observed in the forward boiler rooms as the ship's double bottom extended around the turn of the bilge in those spaces.

  • The most probable contact appears to be an allision along the bilge area on the forward starboard side of the ship producing heave, sway and slight negative surge components to the forces of impact.



Continued in part 2
CONTINUED IN PART 2 40 ft = 320 sq-ft.