Had the “Titanic” been running under a slow bell, she would probably have been afloat to-day.
The Fatal Blow.
There were the usual lookout men at the bow and in the crow's nest, and officers on the bridge were straining their eyes for indications of the dreaded ice, when the cry suddenly rang out from the crow's nest, "Berg ahead,” and an iceberg loomed up in the ship's path, distant only a quarter of a mile. The first officer gave the order "Starboard your helm." The great ship answered smartly and swung swiftly to port. But it was too late. 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.
Thus, at one blow, were all the safety appliances of this magnificent ship set at naught! Of what avail was it to close water-tight doors, or set going the powerful pumps, when nearly half the length of the ship was open to the inpouring water. It must have taken but a few minutes' inspection to show the officers of the ship that she was doomed.
Left: A very stout electrically operated bulkhead of the general type installed in the Titanic. Right: All the watertight doors could be closed automatically from the bridge. Credit: Scientific American, April 27, 1912
Half Speed Would Have Saved the Ship.
And yet that underwater blow, deadly in its nature, would scarcely have been fatal had the ship been put, as she should have been, under half speed. For then the force of the reactive blow would have been reduced to one-fourth. The energy of a moving mass increases as the square of the velocity. The 60,000-ton "Titanic," at 21 knots, represented an energy of 1,161,000 foot-tons. At 10 knots, her energy would have been reduced to 290,250 foot-tons. Think of it, that giant vessel rushing on through the ice-infested waters, was capable of striking a blow equal to the combined broadsides of the twenty 12-inch guns of the “Delaware” and “North Dakota,” each of whose guns develops 50,000 foot-tons at the muzzle!
Work of One Million Foot-tons of Energy.
Little wonder is it that the ripping up of the frail 3/4-inch or 7/8-inch side plating and the l0-inch frames of the "Titanic" had little retarding effect upon the onward rush of the ship. So slight, in proportion to the enormous total energy of the vessel, was the energy absorbed in tearing open the hull or the bottom, or both, that the passengers were scarcely disturbed by the shock.
Newton's first law of motion "will be served."
But had the speed been only one-half and the energy one-fourth as great, the ship might well have been deflected from the iceberg before more than two or three of her compartments had been ripped open; and with the water confined to these, the powerful pumps could have kept the vessel afloat for many hours, and surely until a fleet of rescuing ships had taken every soul from the stricken vessel.
There is remarkable unanimity of testimony on the part of the survivors as to the slight nature of the shock; and this, coupled with the universal confidence in the unsinkability of the vessel, and the perfect quiet of both sea and ship, contributed no doubt to the marvelous absence of panic among the passengers.
The Call for Help.
The wireless again, as in the case of the "Republic," proved its inestimable value. The collision occurred at 11:40 Sunday night in latitude 41.16 north, longitude 50.14 west. The call for help was heard by several ships, the nearest of which was the "Carpathia," which caught the message at 12:35 A.M. Monday, when she was 58 miles distant from the "Titanic." Setting an extra watch the captain crowded on all speed, reaching the scene of the disaster by 4 A.M.