The Titanic was the most well-known passenger liner of all time. Some promoted it as the “unsinkable ship,” despite engineers claiming it was probably unsinkable. It was the largest passenger ship globally when it sailed for its maiden voyage with an impressive length of 882’, the height of 175’, and width of 92’. But how much did the Titanic weigh?
How Much Did the Titanic Weigh?
The Titanic’s total weight was 52,310 tons or 47,454.834 metric tons. Due to its sheer size, it needed 6,000 tons of coal daily to keep the ship moving. The coal was loaded into the Titanic’s furnaces by groups of 170 workers. The Titanic produced 100 tons of ash daily, which was dropped into the North Atlantic Ocean.
What Was the Displacement?
Since the RMS Titanic weighed 52,310 tons, it would have a mean draught of 34’ 7”. The seawater weight that a ship displaces is an estimate of actual weight compared to enclosed space. The Titanic was cited to be 66,000 tons, but this is inaccurate.
The actual displacement is a bit more because of the larger beam and other modifications made to the design, as well as the actual weight of 52,310 tons.
Displacement and buoyancy are two of the most important factors when designing a ship. You must always consider weight as it affects displacement in water and how the ship floats. If any of these measurements are out, it affects the vessel.
The Weight of the Iceberg
The massive iceberg that is responsible for the sinking of the infamous vessel on April 15, 1912, was estimated to weigh 75 million tons. Professor Grant Bigg estimated it to be 100,000 years old, if not more. During this era, no legal requirements dictated that the ship needed enough lifeboats for every passenger, nor were there any established safety measures as we know them today.
The Titanic was transporting 1,317 guests at the time of its sinking. It didn’t have enough lifeboats to safely evacuate all passengers. Since the ship was considered “unsinkable,” no one thought the emergency vessels would be needed.
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However, the pressure put on the ship during its first voyage cost people their lives. The captain increased the speed to get ahead of schedule. He was convinced the ship could handle it and wanted the publicity that would result if they arrived at their destination, not just on time, but sooner than expected. What could go wrong?
“Iceberg ahead!” was the answer to that question. However, the ship’s speed wasn’t the only factor that led to its demise. Well, not entirely, anyway.
What Contributed to the Titanic Disaster?
Speed was just one of the issues that caused the ship to sink. Everyone thought that the Titanic could handle anything the sea could throw at it. However, there were several flaws in the methodology.
Going Too Fast
People frequently blamed Captain E.J. Smith for sailing the ship at 22 knots through an area they were told hours before was laden with icebergs. Some believed Captain Smith wanted a better crossing time. However, further evidence suggests that they may have been trying to control a fire in the ship’s coal bunker.
Dismissed Iceberg Warning
The SS Californian radioed another ship in the area an hour before the Titanic hit the iceberg, indicating an ice field was ahead. Since the warning didn’t have the prefix MSG (Master’s Service Gram) requiring the Captain to acknowledge the receipt, the radio operator considered the warning non-urgent. He never passed it along.
Louise Patten, the granddaughter of Charles Lightoller, who was the highest ranking surviving officer on the Titanic, wrote in her book that the crew may have panicked when hearing a hard-a-starboard turn, which would have cleared the iceberg. Since ships operate on different steering systems, they may have been confused and made a wrong turn.
When the Titanic was located in 1985, investigators discovered that the ship had not been intact when it sank after striking the iceberg. It was broken apart on the surface, possibly due to using subpar rivets to hold together the steel plates of the hull.
The rivets were examined and had a high concentration of smelting residue that splits metal. It may have weakened the hull, which broke the vessel apart after it hit the iceberg.
So, What Does This Have to Do With Weight?
If displacement and buoyancy were factors, this might explain the weakening of the ship, since both these factors are essential to safety. Furthermore, if what was discovered about the rivets was true, it was far from an unsinkable ship. However, the designers may not have known this at the time.
Despite these possible contributing factors, we know that the Titanic sank at least in part because of its fast speed and lack of maneuverability. A large ship needs more time and slower speed to maneuver around an obstacle and avoid hitting it at full speed. Had the Titanic been equipped with the propellers that are on modern cruise ships, the vessel would have probably tried to reverse.
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A massive, weighty object like a cruise ship travelling at full speed would find it difficult to avoid an iceberg if it wasn’t given plenty of warning. It takes a long time to turn a ship the size of the Titanic because of the weight and the engines that lack today’s technology.
The massive weight of the Titanic was highly impressive for the era, but the “unsinkable” ship was obviously flawed. It appears a combination of poor engineering and navigating decisions combined with the laws of physics led to its ultimate demise.