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THE TI­TANIC

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Contents - Text by Rachel Ma­son

AR­GUABLY THE WORLD’S most iconic ship­wreck, the Ti­tanic has, for over 100 years, cap­ti­vated the pub­lic con­scious­ness, its story hav­ing been told count­less times. Hailed as the “unsinkable ship”, not only was it the largest pas­sen­ger liner of its time, it was the largest man-made ob­ject on Earth.

COL­LID­ING WITH AN ICE­BERG in the North At­lantic Ocean, the Ti­tanic was sunk in the early hours of April 15, 1912 on her maiden voy­age from Southamp­ton to New York City. In just three hours, the ship went down, and more than 1,500 of the 2,224 pas­sen­gers and crew per­ished, mak­ing it one of the dead­li­est peace­time mar­itime dis­as­ters in re­cent his­tory.

THE WRECK OF THE TI­TANIC was fi­nally dis­cov­ered on September 1, 1985, by a team led by Dr Robert Bal­lard, us­ing a re­mote deep-sea sub “Argo”. It was found 640 kilo­me­tres off the coast of New­found­land at a depth of 3,840 me­tres. As it sank, the ship di­vided for­ward of the third fun­nel. The bow and stern (now al­most un­recog­nis­able) sit 600 me­tres apart in a de­bris field es­ti­mated to spread over around 400 hectares.

THERE HAVE BEEN MANY THE­O­RIES pub­lished over the years that might ex­plain why a ship de­signed to be unsinkable was lost in less than three hours. In 2012, long for­got­ten pho­to­graphs of the ship sur­faced, taken by the Ti­tanic’s chief elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer, John Kemp­ster, ap­pear­ing to pro­vide new ev­i­dence. IT HAS AL­WAYS BEEN known that a fire had been burn­ing for days in­side one of the three­story-high coal­bunkers, but per­haps it had made a much greater con­tri­bu­tion to the Ti­tanic’s fate than was orig­i­nally thought.

IN A NEW DOCUMENTARY, jour­nal­ist Se­nan Molony, who has spent more than 30 years re­search­ing the sub­ject, uses the re­cently dis­cov­ered pho­to­graphs and tran­scripts from the Bri­tish in­quiry as ev­i­dence, to as­sert that the strength of the bulk­head where the fire had raged was cat­a­stroph­i­cally com­pro­mised. When the Ti­tanic be­gan tak­ing on wa­ter, a bulk­head breach would have had a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect, flood­ing neigh­bour­ing com­part­ments.

OTHER LEAD­ING TI­TANIC ex­perts have pub­lished a de­tailed re­but­tal of the the­ory, but lessons learned from the dis­as­ter have in­formed stan­dards of ship­build­ing today and im­proved safety reg­u­la­tions. As­ton­ish­ingly, the Ti­tanic only had suf­fi­cient life rafts to ac­com­mo­date 1,178 of the 2,224 pas­sen­gers and crew it was car­ry­ing. It was only after so many per­ished that night that it was made a manda­tory re­quire­ment for a ves­sel’s lifeboat ca­pac­ity to equal the num­ber of pas­sen­gers and crew.

ON THE 100TH AN­NIVER­SARY of her sink­ing, the Ti­tanic be­came a UNESCO un­der­wa­ter cul­tural her­itage site.

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