Titanic FAQs: A “Bump in Mid-Ocean” … Grounding or Sideswipe?

The “Bump in Mid-Ocean”: A Grounding or Sideswipe?

Question: Is it possible that the Titanic grounded on the iceberg instead of sideswiping it?

Answer: This is an extraordinarily unlikely scenario.

Based upon available evidence, it seems highly unlikely that any damage to the ship’s double bottom caused significant damage that contributed to the Titanic disaster. It has been postulated that because the collision did not feel like a ‘terrible crash’ to many aboard the ship, she must have grounded on a shelf of the iceberg. Grounding on ice is not unheard of. However, there are other explanations for the lack of a strong sensation in the collision: first, the liner had nearly averted a collision, and was only grazing along the berg; second, the widening flare of the hull seems to have very nearly matched the angle of the bow’s turn away from the berg, meaning that light contact could have been maintained; third, much of the actual iceberg damage has been ascertained through sidescan sonar surveys of the hull, and this damage is clearly side damage, not grounding damage.

Indeed, while some have cast doubt on the veracity of the 1996 sidescan sonar surveys, that survey clearly agrees closely with the locations of reported damage seen in the minutes after impact. Indeed, the after segment of the final blow that the ship sustained, which traversed Boiler Room No. 5 into Boiler Room No. 6, is still visible today; this last impact point, which sealed the ship’s fate, and which Fireman Frederick Barrett saw opening up during the collision, was side damage. Click here to see a recent profile collage which shows this iceberg damage along the side hull of the ship.

Recommended Reading:

  • On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic by Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton and Bill Wormstedt
  • Report Into the Loss of the SS Titanic, by Sam Halpern, et al.
  • An Allision With An Iceberg“, by Sam Halpern