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Admiral_Thrawn_1

Could Battleships Survive Ice Berg Collisions?

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After revisiting the Titanic disaster recently I started to wonder if some of the famous “ unsinkable Battleships” could survive collisions like Titanic suffered with an iceberg? Especially when the Titanic had also been deemed unsinkable...

BBs I’m wondering about would be Bismarck class, Yamato class, Iowa Class, Queen Elizabeth Class, King George V Class, and what ever other BBs anyone wants to use as an example. 

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I imagine yes just based on much different compartmentalization and advances in technology. Battleships have much better internal compartmentalisation designed to withstand/resist battle damage.

Also armoured belts, Titanic is a passenger liner. I wouldn't have the foggiest of the physics behind iceberg vs belt armour but icebreaker ships exist with ships having reinforced bows so I imagine that armour would dramatically reduce damage.

IIRC Titanic had a crucial flaw in her compartments being that the top of each section was not water tight so as one filled it could overflow into the next, it was a major flaw that was then rectified in future ship designs. I could be wrong I'm drawing this from memory of books as a kid.

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6 minutes ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

After revisiting the Titanic disaster recently I started to wonder if some of the famous “ unsinkable Battleships” could survive collisions like Titanic suffered with an iceberg? Especially when the Titanic had also been deemed unsinkable...

BBs I’m wondering about would be Bismarck class, Yamato class, Iowa Class, Queen Elizabeth Class, King George V Class, and what ever other BBs anyone wants to use as an example. 

Simple fact..

  • If the Titanic would've RAMMED into the Ice berg bow on (head on), the worst case would be its ice cubes for the first class passengers. Then who knows what would happen to her in her long career.
    • Instead, She's is a watery reminder of who rules the seas.
  • Her crew sink the Titanic... The ship her self, fought to stay above water until she couldn't fight anymore... Tragic for both ship and mankind.

On the American BBs, I think the bow would've held up in a head on collision. I think all BBs would've Survived in ice barge encounter..

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13 minutes ago, Meatshield_No13 said:

I imagine yes just based on much different compartmentalization and advances in technology. Battleships have much better internal compartmentalisation designed to withstand/resist battle damage.

Also armoured belts, Titanic is a passenger liner. I wouldn't have the foggiest of the physics behind iceberg vs belt armour but icebreaker ships exist with ships having reinforced bows so I imagine that armour would dramatically reduce damage.

You're right about reinforced bows on BBs, but icebreakers work quite differently. Their bows are designed to ride up on top of the ice and then use the weight of the ship to bust through the ice. They're not cutting through it with the bow like a knife. This is also why you can't use BBs as true icebreakers (though I imagine 50K armored tons with that amount of HP behind it does at decent job to a point).

Belt armor is of course going to be better than whatever liner hulls are made of, but remember the armor belt doesn't extend that far below the waterline. You'd have to look at individual depths for each belt, but I suspect the iceberg would hit under the main belt on most BBs. But on most BBs, certainly by WWII, that would be right on the torpedo defense system, which is designed to deal with situations exactly like that. There's a ton of compartmentalization there, so even gashed for a good portion of the ship's length I imagine the TDS would be be able to handle it, especially with active damage control. And beyond that watertight integrity had to be much better on a warships than a liner, so I imagine it would be manageable. 

Also remember that warships also have much much better active damage control. I have no idea what Titanic's ability was to effect repairs, pump out, seal compartments, and counterflood, but I'm betting most warships are better equipped and better trained at it. As we saw in WWII, especially in the Pacific, good damage control training makes the difference between losing the ship and patching it up to keep on fighting. I think Titanic was doomed anyway, but good active damage control would be another layer a warship would have is such a scenario.

13 minutes ago, Meatshield_No13 said:

IIRC Titanic had a crucial flaw in her compartments being that the top of each section was not water tight so as one filled it could overflow into the next, it was a major flaw that was then rectified in future ship designs. I could be wrong I'm drawing this from memory of books as a kid.

Yeah, the main hull compartments weren't sealed on top, so once enough were flooded they overflowed and filled the rest, which is generally not great for staying afloat. Remember though that shipbuilding on that scale was just starting though, so lessons were learned. That also doesn't make this quite a fair comparison. HMS Dreadnought, the first of what we consider modern BBs, was only 6 years earlier. WWI and WWII era ships had a lot of time to learn and experiences such as Titanic's to learn from. I guess what I'm saying is it would be kind of scary if shipbuilders didn't learn from Titanic and later ships weren't able to survive that kind of collision.

So yes, to answer OP's question, those modern BBs most likely (can never say for certain of course) would survive a Titanic style collision, in part because of lessons learned from Titanic.

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1 hour ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

After revisiting the Titanic disaster recently I started to wonder if some of the famous “ unsinkable Battleships” could survive collisions like Titanic suffered with an iceberg? Especially when the Titanic had also been deemed unsinkable...

BBs I’m wondering about would be Bismarck class, Yamato class, Iowa Class, Queen Elizabeth Class, King George V Class, and what ever other BBs anyone wants to use as an example. 

The short answer is "probably".  Titanic had 16 watertight compartments, a Battleship like Iowa had over 1,000.  This is discussed by the curator of the Battleship New Jersey.

 

 

43 minutes ago, Navalpride33 said:

If the Titanic would've RAMMED into the Ice berg bow on (head on), the worst case would be its ice cubes for the first class passengers.

The Titanic's boilers are forward facing, if Titanic came to a sudden stop, the boilers would expel it's extremely hot contents onto to the stokers and engulf the ship in flames.

2MewsiB.jpg

A good half the ship will be consumed in fire.

Pic-T01b3.jpg

Edited by Sventex

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Plus, don’t forget damage control. Titanic had no damage control team to speak of, and a small crew for such ships. A battleship with its numerous crew would react faster to control the flood.

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US Battleships do not have an 'Ice-Breaker Bow'.  A direct collision would result in something like the USS Washington / USS Indiana collision bow crush.

USS Washington and USS Indiana Collide, 1 February 1944 (ibiblio.org)

A glancing hit would have a lot less impact.
If the ice could dig into the torpedo blister, it would spill a lot of oil, but wouldn't have that much operational impairment.

USSWashington.thumb.jpg.d5314b5264a195ca727ddae4cec57edc.jpg

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1 hour ago, AVR_Project said:

US Battleships do not have an 'Ice-Breaker Bow'.  A direct collision would result in something like the USS Washington / USS Indiana collision bow crush.

USS Washington and USS Indiana Collide, 1 February 1944 (ibiblio.org)

A glancing hit would have a lot less impact.
If the ice could dig into the torpedo blister, it would spill a lot of oil, but wouldn't have that much operational impairment.

USSWashington.thumb.jpg.d5314b5264a195ca727ddae4cec57edc.jpg

To think, this is just a battleship ramming another battleship, not a solid mass with jagged edges. Lets also not forget the time USS Wisconsin rammed a Fletcher class destroyer.

C-20-USS-Wisconsin-BB-64-Collision.jpg.60ac0af8576fda006fb9d716fe2834e3.jpg

Honestly I am on the fence on this one, battleship are more compartmentalized but an iceberg is unpredictable. It could just as very much rip you up from the bottom like a can opener, which was a theory in Titanic's demise until disproven when they found the sections of hull in that one James Cameron expedition. Similar ides of hitting the bottom were used to disable the Tirpitz during a daring submarine raid, and that pretty much took her out of the war till she was sunk by Tallboys. Towards the end of WW2 we developed the strategy just to hit one side of a ship with torps so they couldn't counterflood, an iceberg pretty much does that, so Yamato probably wouldn't stand much of a chance.

The closest thing to a modern day Titanic was Costa Concordia, in terms of drive boat really fast into an immovable object. The Missouri is probably the only battleship in her career to do something like that, the only difference was she didn't run into rocks, just a sand bank. She ended up in dry dock with three ruptured fuel tanks and a few buckled plates after spending two weeks on a shoal.

Edited by Fallschirmfuchs
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2 hours ago, Sventex said:

The Titanic's boilers are forward facing, if Titanic came to a sudden stop, the boilers would expel it's extremely hot contents onto to the stokers and engulf the ship in flames.

Considering the physics of the HUGE Titanic and a wall of solid water mass as the ice berg. Titanic would've made it (especially if its at slow speeds as the main report indicate)... 

This would've been the equivalent of me backing up with my car and hitting a post @10mph.


From all accounts, Titanic had a very strong bow... In that accord Titanic lives no question.

The fire on the other hand as you mentioned... That is also bad... Begs the question... Do you want to burn to death or drown...

Yikes.

Edited by Navalpride33

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12 minutes ago, Navalpride33 said:

Considering the physics of the HUGE Titanic and a wall of solid water mass as the ice berg. Titanic would've made it (especially if its at slow speeds as the main report indicate)... 

This would've been the equivalent of me backing up with my car and hitting a post @10mph.


From all accounts, Titanic had a very strong bow... In that accord Titanic lives not question.

The fire on the other hand as you mentioned... That is also bad... Begs the question... Do you want to burn to death or drown...

Yikes.

More mass coming to a sudden violent stop means the destruction would be vastly more violent.  Just imagine the moon colliding with the Earth at 10 miles per hour, it would still be an extinction level event.
I remember from the SS Andrea Doria collision with MS Stockholm, passenger Linda Morgan was thrown out of her bed and onto the other ship's deck, that's how violent for the passengers the deceleration could be, and that's with smaller ships that float and can be pushed around.  That iceberg would have stopped the Titanic instantly.

Andrea_Doria_sinking_2.jpg

Stockholm_following_Andrea_Doria_collisi

Edited by Sventex

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27 minutes ago, Sventex said:

More mass coming to a sudden violent stop means the destruction would be vastly more violent.  Just imagine the moon colliding with the Earth at 10 miles per hour, it would still be an extinction level event.
I remember from the SS Andrea Doria collision with MS Stockholm, passenger Linda Morgan was thrown out of her bed and onto the other ship's deck, that's how violent for the passengers the deceleration could be, and that's with ships that float and can be pushed around.  That iceberg would have stopped the Titanic instantly.

Stockholm_following_Andrea_Doria_collisi

Well yeah It was an example (The car hitting the post) in context... The de-acceleration IMO wouldn't have done much DMG then say at the same speed with slowing down or speeding up when it hit the object/ice berge... 

I think that is where inertia comes into play... It would've done massive DMG with violence and vengeance however, its at the middle and last phase of impact... It wouldn't be in the beginning or at point of impact.. The crushing/twisting of the steel as the mass moves forward into the bow... That would be scary but also amazing... 

In this scenario, the force is the factor... How much force was there in the collision? I say a lot but not at impact...

Edited by Navalpride33

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1 minute ago, Navalpride33 said:

In this scenario, the force is the factor... How much force was there in the collision? I say a lot but not at impact...

I remember @Lert trotting out a calculation of the force Titanic would have had in a head-on collision with the iceburg, but that was years ago.

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Just now, Sventex said:

I remember @Lert trotting out a calculation of the force Titanic would have had in a head-on collision with the iceburg, but that was years ago.

I don't remember doing that. I do like the theory that if Titanic had just gone full reverse thrust and aimed to hit the iceberg dead on the forward two, three compartments would've acted as crumplezones. The ship would've sustained extensive damage - I doubt such a sudden and violent deceleration would be good for the boilers, engines and other machinery - but it might've saved a ton of lives. Ships can be repaired.

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2 minutes ago, Lert said:

I don't remember doing that. I do like the theory that if Titanic had just gone full reverse thrust and aimed to hit the iceberg dead on the forward two, three compartments would've acted as crumplezones. The ship would've sustained extensive damage - I doubt such a sudden and violent deceleration would be good for the boilers, engines and other machinery - but it might've saved a ton of lives. Ships can be repaired.

I am with the cat on this one... @Sventex...

I really think the nuance of the ship created enough negligence in her crew, to sink her...

Its a tragic event.

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8 minutes ago, Lert said:

I don't remember doing that. I do like the theory that if Titanic had just gone full reverse thrust and aimed to hit the iceberg dead on the forward two, three compartments would've acted as crumplezones. The ship would've sustained extensive damage - I doubt such a sudden and violent deceleration would be good for the boilers, engines and other machinery - but it might've saved a ton of lives. Ships can be repaired.

They sighted the iceberg with only 30 seconds to react.  It takes the Titanic engine room 2 minutes to get the engines from full ahead to full astern (if crew were at maneuvering stations, which they were not), so the Titanic's propellers would probably still be providing full ahead or at least half-ahead power on impact.

Edited by Sventex

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11 minutes ago, Sventex said:

They sighted the iceberg with only 30 seconds to react.  It takes the Titanic engine room 2 minutes to get the engines from full ahead to full astern (if crew were at maneuvering stations, which they were not), so the Titanic's propellers would probably still be providing full ahead or at least half-ahead power on impact.

The action of the props is less the point I was aiming for, the rudder direction - and thus impact point on the iceberg - more so. But that's all hindsight. Had I been the officer in command I'd have ordered evasive as well.

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7 hours ago, Navalpride33 said:

Simple fact..

  • If the Titanic would've RAMMED into the Ice berg bow on (head on), the worst case would be its ice cubes for the first class passengers. Then who knows what would happen to her in her long career.
    • Instead, She's is a watery reminder of who rules the seas.
  • Her crew sink the Titanic... The ship her self, fought to stay above water until she couldn't fight anymore... Tragic for both ship and mankind.

On the American BBs, I think the bow would've held up in a head on collision. I think all BBs would've Survived in ice barge encounter..

Ramming the iceberg head on would have caused Titanic extensive structural damage, and possibly sunk her anyway if her hull buckled enough. There's also the matter of what equipment comes loose when she hits. She also has far larger compartments than a warship, so there's structural weakness to be found there as well. Unlike warships, Titanic is only built survive ocean conditions and weather, not battle damage and the like. She was build very well for a commercial ship, but far too lightly to be a warship.

Titanic was 52,310 tons doing 21 knots at the time she hit the iceberg. That's a lot of ship trying to crash to a halt in a very short amount of time. The bow may stop instantly, the heavier items like the boilers and engines not so much.

As far as battleships surviving hitting an iceberg, it depends on which era of battleship we're talking about.

Pre-dreadnoughts and early WWI dreadnoughts would get sliced open just like Titanic from a glancing blow as their watertight integrity wasn't much better. Hitting head on might actually be the better option for early battleships as they are cruising slower than Titanic, are significantly lighter, and are far more heavily constructed. If they were build with an actual ram bow, all the better. 

Once you get to faster, more modern battleships with a TDS of some kind, they're always better off taking a glancing blow, as they have compartmentation to absorb the damage, large pumping capacities, and the ability to counterflood. Depending on the speed, a head on impact starts looking nearly as bad as any impact in Titanic, as the ship is potentially traveling faster than Titanic and can be of comparable mass. On the plus side, it's almost a given that the boilers and engines are lighter than Titanic's and better secured. 

One thing to think about when comparing ships colliding with each other v/s hitting an iceberg: The ship getting hit will absorb some of the energy, and be moved by the impact. An iceberg can have enough mass that it's more like ramming mountain.

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2 hours ago, SgtBeltfed said:

Titanic was 52,310 tons doing 21 knots at the time she hit the iceberg. That's a lot of ship trying to crash to a halt in a very short amount of time. The bow may stop instantly, the heavier items like the boilers and engines not so much.

No question the force behind that speed with an immediate deceleration, would've caused havoc in her bowls like an upset stomach with tapeworms.

I contend with her massive water tight compartments in the middle and aft of the ship.. She would've lived... With a serious ICU type injuries non-the -less not as tragic IMO.


BTW

Was the Titanic going that fast with it hit the berg?? I mean she was fast for her era but you lose a lot when turning and applying the brakes...

No way she hit it at that speed...

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8 minutes ago, Navalpride33 said:

No question the force behind that speed with an immediate deceleration, would've caused havoc in her bowls like an upset stomach with tapeworms.

I contend with her massive water tight compartments in the middle and aft of the ship.. She would've lived... With a serious ICU type injuries non-the -less not as tragic IMO.


BTW

Was the Titanic going that fast with it hit the berg?? I mean she was fast for her era but you lose a lot when turning and applying the brakes...

No way she hit it at that speed...

The real problem is, she doesn't have time to kill power in the time between when the iceberg was spotted, and when she hit, much less reverse her engines.

The iceberg was spotted less than a minute before impact, and it took a couple seconds for the engine order telegraph to be thrown into full reverse. Once the order is understood by the engineers in the engine room, valves have to be thrown to cut the steam from the engines. The process takes a couple minutes on a good day which she didn't have.

Watertight integrity will be an issue, as the hull will try and accordion on impact, especially with the weight of the boilers, engines and thrust from the screws. It doesn't take much leakage to overcome her pumping capacity, It may take longer for her to sink, but odds are, she will sink. That's assuming the carnage in the boiler rooms from the impact doesn't burn the ship down first.

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10 minutes ago, SgtBeltfed said:

The real problem is, she doesn't have time to kill power in the time between when the iceberg was spotted, and when she hit, much less reverse her engines.

The iceberg was spotted less than a minute before impact, and it took a couple seconds for the engine order telegraph to be thrown into full reverse. Once the order is understood by the engineers in the engine room, valves have to be thrown to cut the steam from the engines. The process takes a couple minutes on a good day which she didn't have.

Watertight integrity will be an issue, as the hull will try and accordion on impact, especially with the weight of the boilers, engines and thrust from the screws. It doesn't take much leakage to overcome her pumping capacity, It may take longer for her to sink, but odds are, she will sink. That's assuming the carnage in the boiler rooms from the impact doesn't burn the ship down first.

A pretty nice description.. An addendum from my OP, what way you wanted to die? Death incineration or by the freezing temp drowning in the Atlantic...

Its tragic but If you or I would've bet which scenario would save the must lives... I would say the bow on collision and take my chances with the fire... :Smile_glasses:

Edited by Navalpride33

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On 6/11/2021 at 12:02 PM, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

After revisiting the Titanic disaster recently I started to wonder if some of the famous “ unsinkable Battleships” could survive collisions like Titanic suffered with an iceberg? Especially when the Titanic had also been deemed unsinkable...

BBs I’m wondering about would be Bismarck class, Yamato class, Iowa Class, Queen Elizabeth Class, King George V Class, and what ever other BBs anyone wants to use as an example. 

you are comparing two entirely different types of ships.

One is a civilian liner, the other is a combat warship.

The liner is built specifically for passenger comfort. While ice is a known hazard, the liners were designed primarily to sail on the North Atlantic runs. They were built to fight against the North Atlantic weather and seas.

A Battleship is a warship, designed to fight other warships. They were expected to take damage during battle, and remain afloat. As they were constructed by the Navy, the Navy had them built to survive damage and flooding to a certain point.

Between the two ship types, the Battleship is more robust, stronger, more sub-divided and likely would not sink from the damage that sank Titanic. Now I'm not saying the BB is unsinkable. In the right circumstance a collision  can and has sank battleships/armor vessels. But when the watertight doors are set, it is very unlikely.

 

On 6/11/2021 at 12:49 PM, Sventex said:

The Titanic's boilers are forward facing, if Titanic came to a sudden stop, the boilers would expel it's extremely hot contents onto to the stokers and engulf the ship in flames.

 

A good half the ship will be consumed in fire.

 

Wrong and just silly.

There is no way for a ships boiler to expel its burning contents unless the enter ship is literally up ended, and if it is it's likely already lost and sunk.

 

Also the Titanic's boilers didn't only face forward. Per the below website, she had double ended boilers, boilers serviced and fired from both sides. Only in boiler room 1 were the single end boilers. When the ship broke in two, it is these single ended boilers that are found in the debris field.

https://titanic.fandom.com/wiki/Boiler

Quote

The Titanic had 29 Scotch-type boilers, there were 24 double-ended and 5 single-ended, with 3 furnaces at each end. A total of 159 coal burning furnaces heated the water and sent the steam to the reciprocating engines. They were spread out over 6 Boiler Rooms, numbered from the Engine Room.

 

 

On 6/11/2021 at 3:36 PM, Sventex said:

More mass coming to a sudden violent stop means the destruction would be vastly more violent.  Just imagine the moon colliding with the Earth at 10 miles per hour, it would still be an extinction level event.
I remember from the SS Andrea Doria collision with MS Stockholm, passenger Linda Morgan was thrown out of her bed and onto the other ship's deck, that's how violent for the passengers the deceleration could be, and that's with smaller ships that float and can be pushed around.  That iceberg would have stopped the Titanic instantly.

Andrea_Doria_sinking_2.jpg

Stockholm_following_Andrea_Doria_collisi

MS Stockholm also had a raked ice breaking bow, which meant she penetrated deeper into Andrea Doria (40 feet) then a more traditional liner bow would have.


In an odd note, in looking up info, I discovered that the missing 30ft of Stockholm's bow has been located near the Andrea Coria wreck in September 2020.
 

Quote

In September 2020, New Jersey-based Atlantic Wreck Salvage ship Tenacious confirmed the discovery of the ship's bow and anchors. The divers made the confirmation based on the presence and unique style of both anchors, internal bow reinforcements, accordion-style crumpling on the wreckage in the same pattern as seen in photos of Stockholm after the collision, and the location of the wreckage near Andrea Doria's final resting place.

The MS Stockholm is still currently afloat as well, operating under the name of the MV Astoria. She was rebuilt in the 1990s, and thus no longer looks as she did that day. She is currently out of service due to COVID, and other issues.

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22 hours ago, Navalpride33 said:

A pretty nice description.. An addendum from my OP, what way you wanted to die? Death incineration or by the freezing temp drowning in the Atlantic...

Its tragic but If you or I would've bet which scenario would save the must lives... I would say the bow on collision and take my chances with the fire... :Smile_glasses:

If the fire can be contained and the leakage isn't too bad, she might survive until morning, which would be when help arrives That would be a best case, and everyone that isn't killed by the conflagration in the boiler room is likely to survive.

If the conflagration in the boiler room is more catastrophic, she might be in a situation where she'd launch even fewer lifeboats than she historically did. 

It's a coin toss, and less predictable than what actually happened.

In any case, it's probably death by hypothermia.

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9 minutes ago, Lord_Slayer said:

There is no way for a ships boiler to expel its burning contents unless the enter ship is literally up ended, and if it is it's likely already lost and sunk.

Why?

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11 minutes ago, Sventex said:

Why?

The design of the boiler. Not to mention the design and material in the boiler rooms.

Each boiler on the Titanic had three openings where the black gang would be shoveling coal. These openings could be closed off rather quickly, preventing anything from inside coming out.

Remember, these ships operated on the open sea. The ships would roll with the waves and pitch forward and back depending on the sea state.

 

The biggest danger in the boiler room was simply the boilers themselves if they ran low on water, or if water flooded a boiler room while the boilers were still hot. 

 

 

I should also point out: During the Titanic's voyage, there was a fire burning in one of her coal bunkers. It remained in that bunker and did not spread. There are some theories that this fire contributed to her loss in that the metal was weakened by the fire.

 

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3 minutes ago, Lord_Slayer said:

The design of the boiler. Not to mention the design and material in the boiler rooms.

Each boiler on the Titanic had three openings where the black gang would be shoveling coal. These openings could be closed off rather quickly, preventing anything from inside coming out.

Remember, these ships operated on the open sea. The ships would roll with the waves and pitch forward and back depending on the sea state.

But they would have to be closed.  With only 30 seconds from sighting to the ice burg to impact, the firemen might never have gotten the order in time to close the boiler doors.  The pitch of the ship would be nothing compared to a ship deaccelerating from 22kts to 0 instantly.  Ships colliding with each other were enough to throw passenger into the air and that's with ships that are capable of repelling each other in the water, per Newton's law.

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