Titanic Just One of 3 Sister Ships of Doom (photos)

Apr 2, 2015

Final work on the Titanic in preparation for her upcoming maiden voyage was completed April 2, 1912, but even before that ill-fated journey was launched a week later, her makers already knew she was anything but “unsinkable.”  

The gargantuan luxury liner’s predictable and catastrophic sinking, therefore, represented not only the worst peacetime maritime disaster on record, but one of the grossest cases of negligent homicide the world has ever known.

And that doesn’t take into account the death tolls of her other two deadly sisters.

Olympic Fleet Was Triple Trouble

A titanic fail

Despite the hype and outlandish claims, from a shipbuilding perspective there was nothing extraordinary about White Star Line’s luxurious “Olympic” fleet of three, of which the Titanic itself was but just one troubled triplet.

They were huge, that’s all. And it was the very size of the colossal class of ocean cruisers which ultimately undermined their seaworthiness, while at the same time convincing awestruck passengers -- and the press -- that they were simply “too big to fail.”

Moreover, due to competitive deadlines and the amount of resources required to build such peerless giants, some materials were discovered, after the fact, to be subpar, with various shortcuts taken so costly decorative elements could otherwise be afforded.

Sadly, one of the manufacturer’s actionable omissions also included skimping on the number of lifeboats and vests needed in the “unlikely” event of a disaster.

Every other aspect of the oversized trio’s design was noted to be either standard for the era, or, as in the case of their propulsion mechanisms, even outmoded.

Propellers of death

The first inkling that bigger wasn’t going to be better occurred during the initial launching of Titanic’s murderous sister, the Olympic.

On September 20, 1911, as she departed from port, her enormous propeller blades created so much suction that she vacuumed up a neighboring ship in her wake, chewing a hole into the stern of the HMS Hawke and devouring a few of its crew members as well.

The smaller vessel then sank, of course, and Olympic herself was also damaged in the deadly collision.

Investigators found that, in light of her unprecedented dimensions and monstrous propellers, she had left the dock much too swiftly, even though, ironically, she hadn't been built to go fast but to go far.

In fact, in those early days of the 20th-century race for transoceanic supremacy, White Star Line execs had deliberately opted for unparalleled size and luxury, instead of speed, to rule the waters.

Speeding, nevertheless, would play another important role in the next, and worst, of the company’s fatal accidents.

Not safe at any speed

There were so many mishaps during the construction and testing of White Star’s Olympic liners that both shipbuilders and shipmates alike began to fear the flamboyant fleet was somehow cursed.

Indeed, Titanic’s own illustrious captain, Edward Smith, was the same lead-footed one who’d previously plowed the HMS Hawke and its hapless sailors to the bottom of the sea.

However, on April 15, 1912, just five days after he merrily set sail with thousands of Titanic’s unwitting passengers onboard, the hasty man would collide with something far bigger than any ordinary vessel.

A floating object even mightier than his own highly-touted, titan-sized cruise ship … and truly unsinkable.

Titanic fail

Damn the torpedoes (and icebergs and minefields)

While disregarding a slew of reports about a slew of icebergs -- and speeding -- was key to disaster for sister ships Titanic and Olympic, the spectacle of their other sibling’s demise a couple years later would prove to the public what the fleet’s culpable creators already privately knew.

That the engineering of their identical triplets was just hopelessly flawed.

By that time, Britannic was no longer the biggest boat afloat on the globe, and it wasn’t transporting civilians to vacation destinations or new lives in America, either. It was a Red Cross hospital, assigned to transporting soldiers wounded in the Great War.

Britannic had also undergone some major modifications in view of her sisters’ earlier fiascos. Most significantly, deep within the hull, where numerous floodgates had all been heightened to well above the deck line that Titanic’s killer iceberg had struck.

Regardless, when the ship lumbered into a German-infested barrier off Kea Island on November 21, 1916, and hit an obscured underwater mine, it sank in less than one hour.

That’s because none of the newly-installed watertight doors were actually closed at the moment of the explosion, so the flooding of Britannic’s lower compartments was three times faster than that of the more severely damaged Titanic.

By contrast though, there were plenty of lifeboats this time around. Except, once these were filled and lowered into the sea, the liner’s gigantic propeller blades sucked in the tiny crafts like bath toys, churning them and their helpless occupants into a splintery soup of wood, bones, flesh and blood.

Approximately 30 souls who had exited near those still-spinning props perished in this horrifying manner. But, thankfully, Britannic had been unable to board the majority of its injured patients at the previous port, or its sinking would’ve been, without a doubt, a tragedy to rival the Titanic’s.

Several years after that notable maritime disaster left it forever submerged in water shallower than it was itself long, Britannic’s sole surviving and rusted-out sister of death, Olympic, was quietly dismantled and sold as scrap iron.


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