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What Really Sank the Titanic: New Forensic Discoveries Hardcover – February 26, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jennifer Hooper McCarty completed her master s and doctoral degrees in Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, specializing in the characterization of historic materials. Her dissertation formed the first complete analysis of the metallurgy of the Titanic rivets. Following her graduate research at both the Smithsonian Institution and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, she worked as a researcher at Oxford University. She lives in Portland, Oregon.


Tim Foecke earned his Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Minnesota, specializing in fracture of metals. Since 1991, he has been a staff materials scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and since 2001 has also been an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He has performed failure analysis and forensic studies on the Titanic, USS Arizona, CSS Hunley, and the World Trade Center collapse, among other disasters. He resides in Damascus, Maryland. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel; 1 edition (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806528958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806528953
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on March 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Far too often, books dealing with the sinking of RMS Titanic contain little more than old information covered with groundless speculation. "What Really Sank the Titanic: New Forensic Discoveries" is entirely different. Both McCarty and Foecke have doctorates in Materials Science, and both have long been engaged with testing metal samples recovered in the past two decades from the Titanic wreck site. Although in passing they examine various previously discussed facts and theories (such as the speed of the vessel on the fatal night, a fire in a coal bunker, and the variability of witness testimony), the heart of their book revolves around the testing and analysis of rivets used to hold together the ship's steel hull plates. I suppose that the ideal audience for this book is a Titanic buff with a technical background (I qualify on both grounds), and although I found myself reflecting back to my single college metallury course, I think it written lucidly enough for any intelligent reader. The authors present a convincing case that many of the rivets used in the Titanic's construction were of inferior material and many probably not optimally installed. The result was that, under stress from the glancing blow against the iceberg, too many rivets failed and allowed the seams between some of the hull plates to open, admitting water and causing the ship to sink before any help could arrive. Along the way, McCarty and Foecke refute the formerly popular theory that the hull plate material itself was overly brittle and failed during the collision.
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Format: Hardcover
The authors did a superb job on assessing the quality and workmanship issues regarding the steel and rivets used in the construction of the Titanic and her sister ships. I especially liked the way they explained some of the complexities of steel making and the riveting process in the early part of the 20th century. All the explanations of technical matters were written so that someone without a technical background is able to appreciate and understand them. I especially liked the many analogies that are used throughout the book, and some of the sidebar issues that were brought up. The authors did an excellent job in assessing the claims of others, and in presenting their own assessment of the various issues involved and work that they did in the search for answers. They fully supported their conclusions, and made a very clear and logical case for what contributed to the sinking of this great ship.
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Format: Hardcover
I have a few minor nits here and there (including a too brief and too simplistic overview of rusticle biology); but not even all of them put together are of such magnitude as to preclude a five-star rating. Even the sidebars (or long foot notes) are not only must reading on this subject, but fascinating reading as well. New data are presented requiring, among other things, a re-examination of questions surrounding the coal bunker fire, and whether or not the steel was sufficiently damaged at a critical bulkbead to make any difference in the rate of the ship's sinking - or even to determine whether or not she floated through the crisis altogether.

Just when you thought there was nothing really new or interesting (or sane) to be written about the Titanic, Hooper and Foecke come along.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is really hard to know how many stars to give this. When it is good, it is very, very good indeed, but when it is bad....

Foecke is a prominent materials scientist who was called upon to participate in the forensic examination of the Titanic remains but fell out with the leadership over research and publication issues. Hooper McCarty did a PhD dissertation (JHU, 2003) in materials science entitled "Analysis of the Rivets from the RMS Titanic Using Experimental and Theoretical Techniques." Together they have done about all the work that has ever been done on the analysis of the wrought iron and steel rivet material from the wreck. If you want to understand the materials issues in these rivets, they are the authorities.

Unfortunately they are not quite so authoritative on the implications. One useful additional piece is provided by Richard Woytowich, "Riveted Hull Joint Design in RMS Titanic and Other Pre-World War I Ships," Marine Technology 40, No. 2 (Apr 2003): 82-92 (whose timing unfortunately that they could not make use of Woytowich's work, and vice-versa). Woytowich is a professor of mechanical/marine engineering and knows much more than Hooper McCarty and Foecke show any evidence of about how ships were put together, and is better able to show clearly what the implications of rivet problems were.

Unfortunately, the work of Woytowich never got integrated with that of Hooper McCarty and Foecke. If you don't have a fairly good engineering background (and access to Woytowich's paper) it might be tricky to fill in the gaps.

The amount of wrought iron rivet material recovered from the wreck site is small.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is really hard to know how many stars to give this. When it is good, it is very, very good indeed, but when it is bad....

Foecke is a prominent materials scientist who was called upon to participate in the forensic examination of the Titanic remains but fell out with the leadership over research and publication issues. Hooper McCarty did a PhD dissertation (JHU, 2003) in materials science entitled "Analysis of the Rivets from the RMS Titanic Using Experimental and Theoretical Techniques." Together they have done about all the work that has ever been done on the analysis of the wrought iron and steel rivet material from the wreck. If you want to understand the materials issues in these rivets, they are the authorities.

Unfortunately they are not quite so authoritative on the implications. One useful additional piece is provided by Richard Woytowich, "Riveted Hull Joint Design in RMS Titanic and Other Pre-World War I Ships," Marine Technology 40, No. 2 (Apr 2003): 82-92 (whose timing unfortunately that they could not make use of Woytowich's work, and vice-versa). Woytowich is a professor of mechanical/marine engineering and knows much more than Hooper McCarty and Foecke show any evidence of about how ships were put together, and is better able to show clearly what the implications of rivet problems were.

Unfortunately, the work of Woytowich never got integrated with that of Hooper McCarty and Foecke. If you don't have a fairly good engineering background (and access to Woytowich's paper) it might be tricky to fill in the gaps.

The amount of wrought iron rivet material recovered from the wreck site is small.
Read more ›
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