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History of Titanic - Work began

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The ship



RMS Titanic was built in Belfast, Ireland, by Harland and Wolff Shipbuilders. Nearly the length of three football fields she was, at the time, the largest moving object ever created by man. She was also one of the most lavishly appointed ships ever built.

It all began in 1907 when J. Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star Line, met with Lord James Pirrie, a partner in Harland and Wolff. They decide to build three ships that will be the largest ships the world had seen thus far. In fact, size was of such importance that even though Titanic only required three smokestacks, a dummy (#4) would be added, since it was feared the public might perceive ships like Cunard's four stack ships Mauritania and Lusitania to be more powerful. They would also be so lavish in their appointments that they would rival the worlds finest hotels. Work would begin on the first two ships and upon their completion the third would be built.

Titanic was the middle ship of the three new super-liners. Her older sister, Olympic, served as a reliable member of the White Star fleet until she was scrapped in 1935 after striking and sinking the famous Nantucket lightship off the eastern cost of the United States. Her younger sister, Britannic, met a fate similar to that of Titanic during World War I when she struck a German mine off the coast of Greece and sank in less than an hour. Britannic was originally to be named Gigantic, but further reference to size in the wake of the Titanic disaster was thought by White Star to go against public sentiment.

Work began on Olympic and Titanic during 1908-1909. On October 20, 1910 Olympic is successfully launched. Titanic's hull is launched on May 31, 1911 and ten months of fitting out begin. Less than one month later Olympic leaves on her maiden voyage.
On September 20, 1911 Olympic, under the command of Captain Edward J. Smith, collides with HMS Hawke, a Royal Navy cruiser. Olympic suffers major damage and is returned to Harland and Wolff for repairs. These repairs delay Titanic's fitting out by one month.
In January, 1912 Titanic was fitted out with her lifeboats. British Board of Trade regulations at the time required sixteen lifeboats for ships of 10,000 tons or more. Written in the late 1800's, the authors of the regulations never envisioned a ship larger than that. One must remember that at the same time that these mammoth iron steamers were appearing on the scene, many ships were still made of wood and powered by sail.

Click to enlarge

Click picture to enlarge.

The 46,000 ton Titanic actually had twenty lifeboats on board; fourteen regular wooden lifeboats, two smaller wooden boats which were kept swung out on either side of the bridge so they could be launched quickly for rescue work, and four Englehardt collapsible boats, which were stored on top of the officer's quarters. So, Titanic actually had four more boats than the law required.
Titanic and Olympic had actually been designed to carry forty-eight lifeboats. However, plans to add the additional boats were rejected by White Star because they made the boat deck appear too cluttered. Alexander Carlisle, Chief Draughtsman at Harland and Wolff, did not argue the point. This was presumably because the ships exceeded the Board of Trade regulations with the twenty boats they carried.

On March 31 Titanic's outfitting is complete and she undergoes her sea trails in Belfast Lough on April 2. Titanic's sea trials, perfunctory at best, lasted only half a day. Only one test was conducted to see how fast the huge ship could stop. At 18 knots, with both engines in reverse, it took three minutes and fifteen seconds and covered a distance of 3,000 feet.
More than just a ship, Titanic was a virtual floating palace; more of a hotel than an ocean liner. White Star did not give the job of building ships to the lowest bidder. In fact, Titanic and her sisters were built on a cost plus arrangement. Harland and Wolff would build the ships and charge White Star their cost plus an agreed upon mark-up. And no expense was spared when it came to Titanic's appointments. The first class smoking room, for instance, with its hand carved mahogany woodwork with inlaid mother of pearl and dark green leather upholstery on the furniture, could make one forget they were on a ship at all. The palm courts, with their white wicker furniture and vine covered trellises, and the Cafe´ Parisian, a replica of a french sidewalk cafe, all served to complete the illusion.

Titanic was thought to be unsinkable by some, though she was never actually advertised that way by either Harland and Wolff or White Star. In fact, White Star advertised Titanic and Olympic simply as the 'largest and finest steamers in the world'. Titanic was divided into sixteen watertight compartments by means of fifteen watertight bulkheads which contained electric doors that could could be closed from the bridge. In June 1911 this system of bulkheads and doors was described in Shipbuilder magazine as making the ship 'practically unsinkable'.
In truth, only twelve doors (about a third) could be closed that way. The rest had to be closed by hand. The night Titanic sank not all of the doors were closed. Many of the electric doors, which were in the very bottom of the ship, were reopened to make it easier to rig the pumps.
It probably wouldn't have mattered if all the doors had been closed. Titanic was designed so that she would float with any two adjoining compartments flooded. She would even float with any three of the first five or all of the first four compartments flooded. The problem was that the first five compartments flooded. As they filled with water the bow of the ship sank deeper and deeper, allowing the water to spill from one compartment into the next. This eventually sank the ship.

Most of the watertight bulkheads only went up as far as 'E Deck', ten feet above the waterline. The first two and last five actually went to 'D Deck'. This was thought sufficient because, at the time, the worst thing anyone could imagine happening to a ship was a collision in the area of one of the bulkheads. Or possibly ramming head-on into something. No one ever envisioned a ship scraping against a solid object for nearly 300 feet.
Titanic was of British registry, even though her owners, the White Star Line, were owned by the International Mercantile Marine (IMM), which was owned by American millionaire J.P. Morgan, Jr. A case could be made for the argument that Titanic was not actually a British ship, but rather, an American ship. Mr. Morgan was supposed to be on Titanic for her maiden voyage, but citing poor health, cancelled at the last minute.
In 1995 a book was published called 'The Titanic Conspiracy' which alleged that Titanic was switched with her nearly identical sister, Olympic, in an insurance scam prior to Titanic's maiden voyage. This seems unlikely though, since Harland and Wolff would stamp the hull number of each ship they built into all of its major components. Exploration of the wreck site has revealed several parts of the ship which bear the number '401', the Harland and Wolff hull number for Titanic.
Titanic today lies in two main sections more than 12,000 feet below the surface of the North Atlantic. She was discovered in 1985 by an expedition led by Dr. Robert Ballard. Since then the ship has been visited numerous times to be explored and photographed.
In 1987 RMS Titanic, Inc. <http://www.titanic-online.com> is formed by an international group of businessmen. They are interested in seeing Titanic's remains preserved and are headed up by American millionaire George Tulloch. They were granted slavor-in-possession rights to the wreck by a United States Federal Court order in 1994, which was reconfirmed in 1996. The court order gives the group the exclusive rights to own objects recovered from the wreck site and the exclusive rights to photograph Titanic. With the cooperation of the French National Institute for Research and Exploration of the Sea (IFREMER) research and recovery missions were conducted in 1987, 1993, 1994 and 1995. Approximately 5,000 artifacts were removed from the debris field and have become part of a traveling exhibition that has visited both the United States and Europe. Thus far they claim to have removed articles from the debris field only. The debris field is an area between the stern and bow sections where debris landed after falling from the ship as it broke-up at the surface.
Titanic is slowly disintegrating. Many scientists predict that within a few years the hull will begin to collapse in upon itself. The wreck shows a slow, but steady, progression of deterioration since she was discovered in 1985. Soon, the ship, like many of the passengers and crew who went down with her, will exist only in our hearts and minds



SHIP STATISTICS

Built by

Harland and Wolff, Belfast, Ireland

Hull Number

British Board of Trade Registry Number

Length

Width

Height from keel to bridge

Gross Tonnage

46,328 tons

Number of Decks

9 - Boat Deck, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, Orlop Deck

Watertight Compartments

Number of Engines

3 - Two reciprocating 4-cylinder, triple expansion, direct action, inverted engines and one Parsons (low pressure) turbine

Horsepower

Reciprocating - 30,000 hp at 75 rpm
Parsons turbine - 16,000 hp at 165 rpm




Number of Boilers

Number of Propellers

3 - Center: 16' and Left/Right Wings: 23'

Lifeboats

20 Total
2 'Emergency Boats', Capacity 40
14 Regular Wooden, Capacity 65
4 Collapsible, Capacity 47

Total Lifeboat Capacity

People Rescued from Titanic Lifeboats

Ship Capacity (passengers and crew)

Over 3,000

Souls On-Board April 14, 1912

Approximately 2,228

Captain

Edward J. Smith

Chief Officer

Henry F. Wilde

First Officer

William M.Murdoch

Second Officer

Charles H. Lightoller

Third Officer

Herbert J. Pitman

Fourth Officer

Joseph G. Boxhall

Fifth Officer

Harold G. Lowe

Sixth Officer

James P. Moody



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