The Wreck

    In the moments after the Titanic disappeared, the surface of the Atlantic was troubled, and over everything hung a grey mist. Every few seconds a bubble of air released from the wreck welled up from below, or more wreckage and debris popped to the surface including baulks of timber, solid wood doors, sections of paneling and furniture, heavy deck chairs, and large chunks of cork; this upwelling continued for some minutes as the field of wreckage began to spread out across the surface of the sea.

Far below, things disintegrated rapidly on the wreck as it plunged to the bottom of the ocean.  The people who had huddled at the Titanic‘s stern in the last minutes of her life were quickly swept away.  With the possible exception of some passengers and crew–the French and Italian restaurant staff still locked in their cabins on E Deck, or the gallant engineers–trapped below decks, the ship was deserted.  Powerful forces now took hold of the wreck as it began its long descent to the bottom of the North Atlantic.

The flow of water around the hull began to force the bows onto a more or less even keel.  The pressure bent the hollow foremast back across the bridge, while the second funnel was torn from its mountings.  All the while the huge pocket of air trapped in the Titanic‘s stern kept trying to lift the hull back into a vertical position.  A fierce elemental battle raged between air and water for some seconds until the hull of the Titanic, which had been distorted and partially broken in two during her incredible headstand just before she went under, gave way.  Between the third and fourth funnels, at the after bulkhead of Boiler Room 1,  just forward of where the engines were mounted, the keel buckled and the ship jackknifed, the stern bending up at nearly 90 degrees to the rest of the ship.  The decks of the forward section at the break collapsed on one another like a bellows, the keel sheared away and the bow and stern separated.

As they parted huge pieces of machinery spilled out of the break.  The forward cylinders of the reciprocating engines broke off their casings and plummeted to the bottom, along with the five single-ended boilers from Boiler Room No. 1, followed by a shower of coal from the ruptured bunkers.

The water-filled bow section drifted off serenely into the depths, gliding down on a more or less even keel.  Seven and a half minutes after the Titanic had vanished below the surface of the North Atlantic, the great bow ploughed into the silt of the ocean floor.  A huge mound, some fifty feet high, of rocks, mud, and boulders was pushed up by the prow, and the wreck’s momentum caused the hull to buckle just forward of the bridge as it settled.

The stern fared far worse.  Unlike the bow, the after section was subjected to an instantaneous inrush of seawater when the wreck broke apart.  The trapped air pocket was forced out of the hull with almost explosive violence, splitting sections of plating and ripping decking away from the poop.  Cargo cranes, deck fixtures, large sections of hull plating, even the entire fourth funnel, were all flung away from the shattered stern.  Slowly spinning like a falling leaf, the stern section sped to the bottom, impacting there some minutes later with enough force to bury the three screws, causing the broken structure of the Titanic‘s stern to collapse even further on itself.
For the next few hours, debris from the wreck continued to settle around and between the two halves of the wreck.  The Titanic would remain unseen and undisturbed for the next seventy-three years.

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