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ARTICLE – DESIGN PROCESS

How the Titanic Tragedy in 1912 Has Shaped Our Enginuity Process in 2022

 

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April 15, 2022 marked the 110th anniversary of the tragic ending to the S.S Titanic’s maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York. Only a few days into their journey, the luxury liner struck an iceberg just off the coast of Newfoundland. In under 3 hours, the Titanic met its watery grave at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean shortly after midnight .

While most of us are familiar with James Cameron’s depiction of a forbidden romance aboard a White Star Ocean Liner’s maiden voyage, the true essence of the story is the tragedy was caused by major failures in both engineering and project management.

Let’s quickly recount the timeline of events that lead to this tragedy as well as the construction specifications of the vessel for a better understanding of how this could have been avoided. 

Titanic leaving Belfast. Photo Credit: Anton Ivanov Photo – stock.adobe.com 

All references in this article are from the official “Titanic Disaster Report” from the United States Senate (Report No. 806) that was released to the public upon conclusion of the investigation on May 28, 1912. If you’re interested in reading the full report, it can be accessed by following this link: TitanicReport.pdf (senate.gov). 

THE OWNERS:

The ship itself was owned by Oceanic Steam Navigation Co., of England, however, the stock of that company was owned by International Navigation Co (Ltd.) of England and the stock of that company was owned by the International Mercantile Marine Co. (owned White Star Line) which was an American corporation based in New Jersey. This is why the US Senate investigated this disaster and ultimately changed the building standards for vessels.

S.S TITANIC’S CONSTRUCTION SPECIFICATIONS:

Construction of the Titanic started on March 31, 1909, in Belfast, Ireland by Harland & Wolff who were told there was no budgetary limits to the construction of the vessel. The total cost for the fully equipped luxury liner totaled $7.5 million, in today’s market, this equates to roughly $250,000,000.

The Titanic was fitted with 15 transverse, water-tight bulkheads that divided the ship into 16 water-tight compartments, extending above the water-line . It was designed so that any two of the compartments could be completely filled with water and not impact the safety of the ship in any form. In the official Titanic Disaster Report (1912), a testimony shows that the first 5 compartments were flooded almost immediately after impact, and it was then known that the “water-tight” compartments were in fact not at all water-tight.

S.S Titanic’s Ship Specifications:

                                                                                                

  • Weight: 46,328 tons
  • Length: 882.6ft
  • Breadth: 96.2ft
  • Boat Deck & Bridge: 70ft above waterline
  • Capacity Limits: 2,599 passengers and 903 crew members

Titanic under construction in Belfast. Photo Credit: nyiragongo 

TIMELINE OF EVENTS:

Click the dates below for a quick summary of each event that lead to the Titanic tragedy:

MONDAY, APRIL 1, 1912

Only 6-7 hours were spent performing trial tests in Belfast before the Titanic’s departure. During this trial, the vessel was reported to have only made a few turning circles, adjustments to the compasses, only steamed for a short time and was not operated at its full speed. 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3, 1912

Immediately after the sea trial, Mr. Thomas Andrews (superintended the build), accompanied a partial crew as they sailed the Titanic from Belfast to Southampton. They arrived shortly after midnight on April 3rd and remained docked until April 10th. 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10, 1912

According to a History Channel article, Sarah Pruitt (2018) explains, on April 10th at 8am the civil servant who inspected the Titanic in Southampton before its official launch, Maurice Clarke, recommended that the vessel carry fifty per cent more lifeboats than were installed, before its maiden voyage. His recommendations were ignored by the ships owners as they wanted to ensure the ship proceeded with its scheduled departure date and likely – to cut costs. Handwritten documents from Clarke that were hidden for a century were released that indicated he was threatened to keep quite about the failed compliance. 

Following the inspection, the Titanic left the port in Southampton, England at 12:15pm on her maiden voyage to New York.  

SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 1912

Approximately 11:46pm:

The Titanic Disaster Report(1912) shows that Frederick Fleet, one of the lookouts on duty yelled, “Iceberg right ahead!” ringing the alarm bell three times to indicate something directly in the ship’s path. This prompted the bridge, under the command of First Officer, William Murdoch, to respond with the command Full Astern, Hard a Starboard’.  Shortly after this proclamation, the ship struck the iceberg at its maximum speed of 22 knots, tearing the 3” steel plating above the turn of the bilge – the area on the outer surface of a ship’s hull where the bottom curves to meet the vertical sides. The impact was not violent enough to disturb the passengers or the crew. 

The report shows that the first evidence of damage came from the hissing of the overflow pipe to the forepeak tank which would indicate an escape of air from the tank from a sudden inrush of ocean water. 

MONDAY, APRIL 15, 1912

(Approximately 12:47am): 

The Titanic had fully descended into its final resting spot at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland.  

(Approximately 4:10am): 

Captain Rostron and crew of the ship Carpathia arrived at the Titanic’s last known coordinates at 4am following the distress call hours earlier. First lifeboat was rescued at 4:10am with the last survivor boarding his ship at 8:30am. Of the 2,223 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, only 706 survived leaving 1,517 people lost. 

In the 1997 movie Titanic, James Cameron produced a memorable rescue scene where the life boats oars were unable to properly move due to an abundance of frozen bodies floating after the wreckage. According to this report, Captain Rostron (Carpathia) and Captain Lord (Californian, a second nearby ship) remained in the vicinity of the wreckage for an additional three hours searching for survivors and stated there were no additional bodies to be found.  

US Senates Committee Structural Recommendations: 

Titanic survivors winched to safety on the Carpathia.
Photo credits: Archivist – stock.adobe.com

On Page 18 & 19 of the report: “As required by any ocean-going passenger steamers construction after (May 28, 1912): The committee finds that this accident clearly indicates the necessity of additional legislation to secure safety of life at sea:

  • All steel ocean ships carrying 100 or more should have a water-tight skin inboard of the outside plating extending not less than 10% of the load draft above the full-load waterline eiother in the form of an inner bottom or of longitudinal water-tight bulkheads, and this construction should extend from the forward collision bulkhead over not less than two-thirds of the length of the ship. 
  • All steel ocean and coastwise seagoing ships carrying 100 or more passengers should have bulkheads so spaced that any two adjacent compartments of the ship may be flooded without destroying the floatability or stability of the ship. 
  • Water-tight transverse bulkheads should extend from side to side of the ship, attaching to the outside shell. The transverse bulkheads forward and aft the machinery spaces should be continued water-tight vertically to the uppermost continuous structural deck. The uppermost continuous structural deck should be fitted water-tight. 
  • All water-tight bulkheads and decks should be proportioned to withstand, without material permanent deflection, a water pressure equal to 5 feet more than the full height of the bulkhead. Bulkheads of novel dimensions or scantlings should be tested by being subjected to actual water pressure. 

 

summary:

The lessons to be learned from this tragedy, are to not rush a process to meet an unattainable launch date by setting realistic deadlines. Possible unforeseen delays should always be accounted for during the production of your product and added to the desired timeline.  

The Titanic disaster is a prime example of why you should NEVER skip extensive product testing before launching – especially true when it comes to sending a luxury liner carrying 2,223 people across the Atlantic Ocean without enough lifeboats!

At Enginuity, we believe that more lessons come from failure than from success. Fail fast, learn and iterate quickly, this is the premise of our ‘Get Shit Done’ mantra. Failure during testing provides the opportunity to redesign a product or process with the lessons learned that not only exceeds expectations but also provides our clients with an “unsinkable” end result.    

Our client centric approach allows us to fully submerse our team into your project. Within the discovery stage of our partnership, we bring in a few of our experts who question everything, so you don’t have to!

Once we have a thorough understanding of your challenges, goals and your anticipated timelines we will assess your projects viability through the lens of engineering principles with our team of multidisciplinary experts. This team includes creative engineers, designers, technologists, researchers and strategists who provide exceptional results in tackling complex technical problems with fit-for-purpose solutions. These teams are as unique as your problem and rarely consist of the same experts, as we only assign a team member with the right expertise to deliver the best results! This whole process ensures that we methodically evaluate the feasibility and the sustainability of your idea.

Questions you may be asked during this phase could be:

                                                                                               

  • Who will interact with or buy the product or process? How will they interact? 
  • Can it be designed, prototyped, and manufactured? Who will make it? Will it scale? 
  • What are the funding milestones? What do we need to show investors and when? 
  • What are the success indicators and risk factors? 
  • What is the timeline and what “gates” will we pass through along the way? 
  • How does this project fit into your overall strategy? 

We pride ourselves on providing you with realistic expectations on timelines, feasibility and the sustainability of your concept by also outlining the possible complications that could occur before we even begin your project. We maintain constant communication and updates with our clients for a mutually beneficial relationship – you always know the status of your project and we know what you like/don’t like before we’ve gone too far!   

Our goal is to deliver lean, creative and innovative results that you can rely on without having to coordinate or wonder about project details – we have that covered!  

References: 

Bennett, C.G, & Rose, H.M (May 29, 1912) “Titanic Disaster Report,” Washington Government Printing Office, Report No. 806: https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/pdf/TitanicReport.pdf  

Pruitt, S. (April 12, 2018 – updated April 20,2021), Why did the Titanic Sink, History.com Online, https://www.history.com/news/why-did-the-titanic-sink  

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