The British liner sank after hitting an iceberg shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912, in a devastating event that left more than 1,500 dead. A formal investigation into the incident has been opened by both the British Board of Trade and the US Senate – neither found negligence on the part of the owner, White Star Liner. But in the last century, many theories have arisen by those who attempt to explain how the “unsinkable” Titanic ended up at the bottom of the North Atlantic.
But engineer Dr Ajay Harish of the University of California at Berkeley detailed how an incredible breakthrough was achieved that inspired a possible explanation.
He wrote in a blog post: “One of the first major scientific information on the sinking of the Titanic was obtained after a 1991 expedition, called Imax, to the wreck of the Titanic.
“This expedition and the research that followed opened up many discussions that uncovered clues as to why the Titanic sank.
“Surprisingly, one of the major discoveries of this expedition included pieces of metal that were once part of the Titanic’s hull.
“These frisbee-sized pieces of steel were about an inch thick with three rivet holes, each 1.25 inches in diameter.
“One of the key pieces in reconstructing the theory as to why the Titanic sank included the pieces of steel that were salvaged.”
Dr Harish explained that, despite Captain Edward Smith’s best efforts, the ship was moving at “mighty speed” when it hit the iceberg.
Although this may have been the start of the Titanic’s fall, the expert believes that the iron rivets in the hull failed to do what is called the “brittle fracture” – the sudden and very rapid breaking. .
He added: “More often than not, for many commonly used structural materials, impact at extremely high velocities results in brittle failure without any sagging.
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“This is a type of catastrophic failure of structural materials, the causes of which include low temperature, high impact load and high sulfur content.
“On the night of the Titanic disaster, all three of these factors were present.
“The water temperature was below freezing, the Titanic was moving at high speed on impact with the iceberg, and the steel in the hull contained high levels of sulfur.
“It was here that the piece of iron discovered during the expedition played a major role in providing the clue that the brittle fracture of the steel in the hull contributed to the disaster.”
Concluding his article, Dr Harish called the revelation “one of the main answers” to why the Titanic sank.
He said: “The condition of the edges of the salvaged piece of steel was jagged, almost broken and sharp during cleaning.
“This fragile fracture of the steel of the hull is probably what disaster survivors then described as a loud noise that sounded like broken porcelain.
“Today, the typical high-grade ship steel is more ductile and warps rather than fractures.
“Surprisingly, the scientists found that the metal parts didn’t show any signs of bending or deformation, they just broke. “