Titanic: Where is the First Funnel?


When Dr. Ballard explored the wreck of the Titanic he noted that they did not see any of the ship’s funnels. The following expeditions also did not find the funnels. Since those early expeditions, pieces of funnels have been found within the 3 X 5 mile debris field. It has been assumed by some, this funnel wreckage accounts for all four funnels. However, this is most likely not the case.

A note before going too far in this article … . As I said on March 6, 2012, this is the first of a series of articles (within the series of articles) that deals with the sinking and break-up of Titanic. In many respects, this is all inter-related, but I will refrain from getting ahead as much as possible. The Titanic, as we see her today, on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, displays damage from five different phases: 1) brush with the iceberg, 2) during the sinking, 3) after leaving the surface, while on her way to the ocean floor, 4) impact with the ocean floor, 5) damage to the ship due to passage of time. There are no lettered signs on Titanic pointing out which damage came from which phase. However, with close attention to detail, and with the use of forensic methods of research, we will find signs of another kind, which explain the damage on Titanic as we see her today.

There are three main pieces of wreckage within the Titanic debris field: 1) the bow located at 41 degrees 43′ 57″ North, 49 degrees 56′ 49″ West, 2) the stern located at 41 degrees 43′ 35″ North, 49 degrees 56′ 54″ West, 3) a pile of heavier wreckage located at 41 degrees 43′ 32″ North, 49 degrees 56′ 49″ West (note ‘ is pronounced “minutes, and ” is pronounced “seconds”, so the bow is at 41 degrees 43 minutes 57 seconds North).

The heavy wreckage is most likely the remains of the missing section between the bow and stern, which broke apart when the ship broke into two pieces. The accepted theory is that the ship broke on the surface, before the stern left the surface, so this heavy wreckage marks the location of the sinking. It is true this heavy wreckage, unlike the bow and stern, would have plunged straight to the ocean floor (I will explain the bow and stern paths to the ocean floor in a later article). However, the ship did not break into two pieces while the stern was on the surface, but shortly after the stern left the surface (this too will be explained in a later article). What this means is that the heavy wreckage marks the location of Titanic breaking in two, but is south of the sinking location.

We need the location of the sinking to calculate the location where the forward (number one) funnel fell from the ship. Depending on the witness, the forward funnel fell three to five minutes before the ship disappeared. The 1912 Inquiries determined the current the SS Californian was in (and the Titanic too), the Labrador Current, was moving to the south at about .7 knots. The 1992 Inquiry determined the current was moving at about 1.3 knots in a southerly direction (196 degrees true). The Labrador Current is a deep, cold water, ocean current that starts in the Arctic and flows between the Greenland and the Labrador coasts on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. It picks up icebergs from Greenland’s glaciers on the way. So at the time the ship broke in two, the ship would have still been moving in the Labrador Current. Using the longest times, to avoid the possibility of missing the pieces of the forward funnel, we would need to search an area one-quarter of a mile wide and one-half mile long. This area would be one-eighth of a mile on either side of the bow, going north from the bow for one-half mile.

Because the heavy wreckage marks the location of the break-up and not the sinking, and because the funnel fell several minutes before the sinking, the forward funnel cannot be in the area between the bow and the heavy wreckage.

The article next Sunday, March 18, 2012, will be on why Titanic did not break into two pieces on the surface.

Dr. Robert Ballard speaks at Villa Julie Colle...

Dr. Robert Ballard speaks at Villa Julie College DSC_0112 (Photo credit: go mustangs)

zdjęcie przedstawia statek SS Californian.

SS CalifornianImage via Wikipedia

Major North Atlantic currents.

Major North Atlantic CurrentsImage via Wikipedia

Titanic Eisberg

This iceberg most closely matches eyewitness descriptions of the Titanic iceberg Image via Wikipedia

The iceberg suspected of sinking the RMS Titan...

This iceberg had a smudge of red paint near its base the same color as the Titanic's bottom Image via Wikipedia

Sonar Image of Titanic debris field copyright RMS Titanic Inc.

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32 responses to “Titanic: Where is the First Funnel?

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  10. Eric

    Remains of the second, third, et fourth funnels were located in the debris field

    • The History Channel did a special on Titanic after I published this article that revealed this. They had great images of the debris field. There is a link to those images in one of my Titanic articles, but I cannot remember which one right now.

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