What the Wreck Revealed about the History of the Titanic
Before researchers found the wreck, the world knew far less about the Titanic and her sinking than it does now. Examining the wreck of the Titanic help solve mysteries and answer questions.
The Titanic did break in two
For years, historians and even survivors believed that the Titanic went down intact. Yet there were eyewitness reports as early as a month after the sinking that the ship broke in two in its final death throes. The question must be asked: How could the people in the boats have missed the horrific sight of the Titanic breaking in half?
At any rate, the 1985 discovery of the Titanic wreck proved definitively that the ship did break in two. And Dr. Robert Ballard, the researcher who, on a joint mission with IFREMER (the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea), discovered the wreck of the Titanic, had the photographs and video to prove it.
A tear, a puncture, or a dent?
Did the iceberg tear a 300-foot-long gash in the side of the Titanic? Or did it simply poke holes in the hull? Or did it cause a massive dent that popped the hull plates and caused the flooding?
The damage that was done to the ship by the iceberg was long a matter of contention among everyone from survivors and historians to ship designers and the ship’s crew members. But no one knew with certainty just how the hull had been damaged. Even the ship’s chief designer, Thomas Andrews, and Captain Edward J. Smith didn’t know. By the time they went to look, the damage was underwater, and they couldn’t inspect it.
Harland and Wolff’s Edward Wilding, who was an assistant to Thomas Andrews, testified that the total damage couldn’t have been more than 12 square feet. His opinion was dismissed. For decades people thought that the iceberg had, as J. Kent Layton (author of the 2007 book, Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography of the Ship of Splendor [Lulu.com]), described, disemboweled the ship.
After analyzing the exact nature of the damage and calculating the results, it turns out that the total damage to the Titanic’s hull from the collision with the iceberg was approximately 12 square feet. Edward Wilding had been right all along.