CAUSES OF ENGINEERING FAILURES
I can't help but imagine how Robert Hichen's felt during his desperate attempt to steer the Titanic away from the iceberg. Two thousand two hundred and forty people were on board of the most commemorated liner taking its maiden voyage across the Atlantic. For a first class ticket, you would have paid an average of $4,350.00 which is equivalent to over $100,000.00 today (ALTT, 2016). A whopping $100,000.00 for a 5-day journey. More than 15,000 lives were lost that cold night. Among them were celebrities, Olympians, wealthy business owners, engineers, and also people who were not as fortunate and were merely attempting to migrate to America for a better life. They called the Titanic "the ship of dreams", and with it ... died many dreams.
Putting the engineering failure aspects to the side, there were other factors that contributed to this colossal loss. According to Ian Robertson, the real damage was being punctured below the waterline. The engines room were flooding; one after the next; the damage was irreversible.
R.M.S. Titanic is not the only maritime disaster that we've all heard about. The Lusitania is sure to ring a bell... if you were paying attention in your middle school history class. The Lusitania was a British luxury cruise ship "a floating palace" they called it. The Lusitania departed from NY heading to England, and like Ian Robertson mentioned in the video; there were warning signs along the pier advising passengers, that they were boarding at their own risk. The British Admiralty was aware that the Lusitania was going to sail through U20 territory (German Navy U-boat) in the midst of a World War.
The Lusitania, like the Titanic, was also an R.M.S. liner; which means they were contracted to carry British royal mail. You would think they would have this floating palace protected by the British Navy, but she sailed alone, and that was a huge mistake. If that wasn't enough, America was transporting ammunition to Britain... it only took one torpedo to cause a secondary explosion within the liner and she went down in twenty minutes (I. Robertson) (RMS faq) The Lusitania departed from the Chelsea piers here in NYC May 1, 1915, and was torpedoed by the Germans on the 7th of May, taking 1,912 souls. Although these were not engineering disasters, they were lessons to be learned.
Back to the Titanic... Numerous factors contributed to her demise.However, some were completely out of their control. There have been new studies indicating that the moon contributed to the location of those huge icebergs. Of course, we can't blame the moon for the sinking of the Titanic because the primary cause was the collision itself.
Every month, as the Moon circles the Earth its distance from the Earth varies. At perigee (its closest approach to Earth), it is 14 percent closer than at apogee, and when the Moon is simultaneously at perigee and in line with the sun, as happens at full moon and new moon, it produces the greatest tides. (Servi NASA) Researchers at Texas State have confirmed that such event actually took place 3 months prior; placing those icebergs within the Titanic's path. This is a perfect example of how mammoth natures influence can be.
Design failures, now that was avoidable. The Titanic had 16 "watertight" compartments, However, these vertical compartments walls were not tall enough, and allowed water to flow over to the next room once it reached a certain height. The 300 ft gash on the side of the Titanic let so much water in that in less than 3 hours; the Titanic filled with water and rapidly sank (National Geographic, 2012)
After the underwater collision, the fate of this beauty was doomed. But it did not necessarily have to be as tragic as it turned out. There was a steamer less than 10 miles from the Titanic as it began to sink. The crew on the Titanic sent distress signals, that were ignored by those in the Californian steamer; assuming that the fireworks were just for show (I. Robertson). If they would have acknowledged the signals earlier, many more people could have been saved.
Three million steel rivets held the Titanic together. The demand for skilled riveters was scarce (IVSR 2008). Because of the pressure put on Harold and Wolff to finish the ship, they settled with less quality steel. We learned in the case of the Challenger failure, that the rubber ring changed its property due to the cold weather, making it almost glass like. It is the same situation with the metal on the Titanic. The cold weather (-2.2°C) made the steel on the hull less ductile, had it been in warmer weather; it is possible that it could have merely been a dent (Xplain Science Quest). The rivets recovered from the Titanic revealed high levels of slag. Slag is a consolidation of mineral products that weaken steel, increasing it's level of sulfur and phosphorus; making it even more brittle. (NY Times 1998) So the weather and the material was surely a recipe for disaster. "The steel popped open like a soda can" in the words of Ian Robertson.
Our professor mentioned a few methods of steel making in his lab videos. He mentioned a method called "acid lined open hearth" steelmaking. This method uses the heat of combustion of gaseous or liquid fuels to convert a charge of scrap and liquid blast-furnace iron to liquid steel (Britannica Tech) In the acid line process the remaining oxide can be reduced and utilized to produce more iron, except with S and P which is not reduced decreasing the effectiveness of the steel (D. Halada)
This wouldn't be ideal for steel making, as bridges because they have to sustain a massive amount of pressure taking into consideration all the weight placed on them, and wind velocities and any weather conditions they may experience. The thought of making steel with acid lined open-hearth process just sounds like havoc. Professor Halada gives a perfect example when he compared material to an oak tree and a palm tree; where you want it to be able too to adapt to the energy being endured like the palm tree that does not break even in the midst of a hurricane. While an oak is overall stronger but will snap faster than you can say "givemeanA" (inserts crying emoji).
The testing done on the materials can give us a better understanding of how they failed because it lets us know how much one material varies from the next. Having this comparison we are able to use the appropriate materials to execute whatever it is we are working on. What endures more energy? What is more flexible? etc. Professor Halada used the Charpy impact test, which contained a 30lb hammer that swang and detected the amount of energy the material tested absorbed before it snapped. In the case of the Titanic, this helped reinforce the idea that the rivets were not as efficient as they should have been, if in warmer temperature. (Titanic Material Testing 5)
As I was looking for other types of impact test, I came across on how engineers test how structures respond during an earthquake. They do this using a "shaking table" the table itself is composed of reinforced concrete, and is held by actuators that can stimulate earthquakes (KQED Science).
Tests like this have paved the path to the creation of energy dissipation devices that separate the ground from the actual foundation of the building disengaging the motion between the two and lessening the damage. Man, if that isn't progress, I don't know what is.
We are seeing natural disasters more than ever, and this is a very helpful tool to help engineers come up with more resistant structures. Not only has this method given us a better understanding of material durability, but it has also helped with developing and enforcing building codes that can help structures be more resistant to earthquakes (STU)
Due to the longevity of this essay, I will save you from reading a cheesy quote. But I will not spare you on Assignment 4.