Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Battle of Tsushima and the Titanic: same shipbuilding mistake?

A reader of "Professor Krylov's Navy" posted a question on Amazon: "Krylov was involved in the Russia's biggest naval failure in Port Arthur and Tsushima battles in 1904-1905. Russia's loss was 4,380 dead, 5,917 people captured and 21 ships sunk.
It will be interesting to know what "Naval Architect" Krylov said about these events in his memoir.

A short answer is "He tried but failed to prevent it. After the Battle of Tsushima, he was assigned to restore the Russian Navy, implementing the principles for which he fought before it."

(The battleship Orel)

A longer answer calls for discussion of how Russian inertia and bureaucracy  doomed the Russian battleships at Tsushima in 1905 by neglecting the same principles, ignoring which doomed the Titanic in 1912.

Krylov's approach to protecting the ships:
  1. Compartments do not protect a ship from sinking. The ship reserve buoyancy does it. 
  2. Reserve buoyancy is the volume of the above-water part of the ship, bounded by the upper watertight deck. 
  3. Partitioning of the hold into compartments is one way to utilize reserve buoyancy.
  4. Besides buoyancy, it is necessary to provide for the ship stability. This is achieved by coordinating partitioning of the above-water parts with partitioning of the hold and by arranging appropriate system of flooding the compartments to right the ship. 
  5. The principle of partitioning should be that buoyancy is lost prior to stability—in short, that the ship sinks without capsizing.
The idea was novel and counter-intuitive: have sufficient reserve buoyancy and deal with a hole not by pumping water out of the damaged compartments (all but impossible in the iron or steel ship) but by flooding additional compartments.

Krylov advocated proper partitioning and systems for  quick flooding. He even prepared tables showing the effect of flooding the compartments on the ship list, trim, and stability.  In 1903, he hand-delivered the tables to the squadron ships in Port Arthur.  No reaction.

Then the Battle of Tsushima happened. One ship followed Krylov's recommendation:
On the Orel, knowledgeable and talented naval engineer Kostenko sailed as a hold mechanic and, on his own initiative, arranged the system of righting with resources available on the ship. Although the Orel received the same damages in the Battle of Tsushima as the ships of the same class, Aleksandr III, Borodino, and Suvorov, she remained afloat while the other three ships capsized and sank.
In 1908, Krylov was made the chairman of the the Naval Technical Committee and tasked with restoring the navy. At an enormous cost, the lesson was finally learned, at least by the Russian Navy.

In 1912, the Titanic sank. She did not have sufficient reserve buoyancy, and her sixteen compartments were too large and not watertight.  The ship was doomed.

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