Titanic Rivets May Have Been Liner's Weak Link?

Substandard iron used to produce low grade rivets is being put forth as a major contributor in the fast sinking of the Titanic.

Among items retrieved from the HMS Titanic's wreckage was a sampling of the ship's rivets for testing.

A blacksmith put them through a battery of stress tests that determined the cheap rivets failed, popping their heads at 60 per cent of the load a qood quality rivet should have withstood.

Titanic's Rivets
Titanic, left, and Olympic sit next to one another in a double gantry while under construction. Smithsonian Photo
According to a story in the New York Times this month, the builder of the Titanic and its sister ship, the Olympic and a third vessel was under pressure to get these three ships out to sea.

To do it they needed millions of rivets for each ship and as a result ramped up the riveters and the rivets they would need from additional suppliers, some of whom were not producing the quality required.

Among the 48 rivets brought up from the wreck, several were found to be inferior iron instead of the stronger steel rivets.

According to the Times article, scientists who tested the surviving rivets found that slag concentrations were at 9 percent when they should have been 2 to 3 percent.

Timothy Foecke, co-author of the new book, "What Really Sunk The Titanic" told the Times, "You need the slag but you need just a little to take up the load that's applied so the iron doesn't stretch," He explained "The iron becomes weak the more slag there is because the brittleness of the slag takes over and it breaks easily."

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