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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Response To David Brown's Theory of Barrett Sinking The Titanic

An article that has been going around in the Titanic circles has caused some controversy.   If you wish to read it, here's the link:


According to the article, Frederick Barrett opened up a valve which caused water to gush in, allowing that bulkhead to flood and allowed that one extra compartment to flood that doomed the Titanic.  According to Brown, he opened it and when he saw the water flooding the room, Barrett ran out of the door.  Brown also said that Barrett was afraid of the stigma from being known as the man that sank the Titanic.

My response is that this is a completely unproven theory.  It shouldn't even be given the label theory.  Hypothesis is a better word.

Barrett said at the United States Inquiry when Senator Smith interviewed him in a boiler room of the R.M.S. Olympic (Titanic's twin sister) that,  "I was standing talking to the second engineer. The bell rang, the red light showed. We sang out shut the doors (indicating the ash doors to the furnaces) and there was a crash just as we sung out. The water came through the ship's side. The engineer and I jumped to the next section. The next section to the forward section is No. 5."

Barrett later included the exact location as 2 feet above the floor plates.  Barrett has not given contradictory evidence in his descriptions of the disaster and I see no reason to disbelieve him.  Therefore, I must encourage my readers to disbelieve this hypothesis as something without .  Fred Barrett did his duty and was a big help in the early sinking.

Mr. Brown said, "The myth is infinitely easier on the brain.  People like to take the path of least resistance."  I personally feel that Brown tried a little too hard on this one.

1 comment:

David G. Brown said...

There are many problems with Barrett's testimony about jumping to safety from boiler room #6 to #5. The biggest is that his claim of the side of the ship opening does not match that of another survivor, stoker Beauchamp. Both men said they were at the after end of the compartment on the starboard side. Barrett claimed he had to jump for his life. Beauchamp stayed in place tending his furnaces, then raking out the fires for another 20 minutes after impact. He only saw water coming over the stoker plates as he departed boiler room #6.

Barrett also claimed he yelled instructions to his stokers about shutting dampers and such. Beauchamp reported hearing those exact instructions, even identifying the man who issued them as the leading stoker of Boiler Room #6 who was Barrett.

After #6 was abandoned, Barrett went to boiler room #5 where he participated in a variety of activities. Among these was lifting a manhole so engineers could get to plumbing below the stoker plates. No such work could have been done if #5 had been flooding from an opening in the shell plating of a bunker. But, the flooding witnessed by Beauchamp matches what would be expected from a small area of open seam. So, the actual flooding of the boiler rooms as recalled by both men contradicts Barrett's story about escaping from #6 to #5 during impact. The flooding bunker was not in #5, but in #6.

Which takes us to the sudden “rush” of water into boiler room #5 described by Barrett. It came just after engineer Shepherd broke his leg falling into that open manhole. He was assisted by the other engineers, meaning there was a lapse of command. Suddenly, whoosh! The compartment floods. This comes on the heels of the engineers working on the plumbing in Barrett's testimony. Our man is the only one to survive. Controls for operating the valves in the bilge eduction system were on the E deck level so they could be operated even if the compartment was flooded. If Barrett was at those valves, and if he opened one improperly (or, if the engineers had not done all their preparations on the tank top level because of Shepherd's injury), then a 10-inch geyser of water under about 35 feet of head pressure would have “rushed” into boiler room #5.

By the way, we know that rush was not a broken bunker door because bunkers were not designed to be air tight. They were built to have air flow to vent “fire damp” (methane gas) from the coal to prevent bunker fires. This meant they were not watertight, either. And, Barrett's “rush” wasn't downflooding from E deck. He was specific that water was not overtopping the bulkhead at that time.

So, what do you think happened?

– David G. Brown