Over fifteen hundred people died when the "unsinkable" Titantic sank in 1912, just days into the passenger steamship's first trip from Southampton, England to New York City. Collision with an iceberg undisputedly
caused the tragedy, but recent news has raised the possibility that human error also played a role in the accident.
Suspicions and possibilities floated to the surface last week as news sources reported on Louise Patten's claim that her grandfather, Charles Lightoller, second officer on the Titanic's only trip, claimed to have had reports from the captain and first officer that a steering mistake had turned the ship into the iceberg rather than away from it. The mistake, if indeed it happened that way, may be attributed to a change in steering systems at that time, a move away from the "tiller" system (where you push right to go left and vice versa) to a system more like modern cars—you turn the way you want to go.
While Patten reportedly told his wife his account of what happened after the tragedy, he never revealed the possibility of human error in his meetings with investigators. Most likely, the truth will never be known for certain. But the news offers ground for speculation, and it's at the heart of a new novel by Patten.
The following projects might be smooth sailing for those interested in hydrodynamics and curious about events that may have coincided to down the famed ship:
- How Much Weight Can Your Boat Float? (Difficulty: 4)
- Rocking the Boat (Difficulty: 4-5)
- Making It Shipshape: Hull Design and Hydrodynamics (Difficulty: 5-8)
- Archimedes Squeeze: At What Diameter Does an Aluminum Boat Sink? (Difficulty: 4-5)