Lusitania´s second explosion

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Karl Heidenreich
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Lusitania´s second explosion

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Mar 29, 2007 10:44 pm

One very important naval fact is the sinking of Lusitania, which begin with the process of the US to go into WWI.
But there is this quite strange problem:
The captain of U-20 and his crew swear that they only fired one torpedo that hit the liner beneath the bridge.
Seconds after the first explosion there was a second detonation, which has been the cause of many controversies about what could had been it´s origin. Was there an ilicit weapon cargo as the actual owner of the wreck mantains? Or was Ballard´s "coal explosion theory" right? A boiler?
Maybe the origin of that second explosion is the turning point of XX Century History.
Any ideas?
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Post by tommy303 » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:33 pm

Hi Karl,

I tend to agree with Ballard' conclusions. The torpedo hit was far enough from any storage area reserved for dangerous cargo to, if not exclude, at least label as unlikely that any of the contraband cargo was involved. The most likely cause was coal dust, which is quite highly explosive in certain circumstances. The torpedo struck at a point where the initial gases vented into the forward longitudinal bunker, as well as part of the cargo hold. The bunkers themselves were nearly empty as the ship was at the end of a cross ocean voyage, and large quantities of dust would have been raised in the bunkers by the shock of the explosion and it would have taken only a spark to set it off. The fact that the cover to the forward ventilator servicing the bunker was blown off by the second rumbling explosion would indicate that the bunker had sustained a second explosion of some sort---one which was aduibly different from the first.

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Post by Admiral-scheer » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:41 pm

Hello Karl,

I am not an expert on this but I believe that the ship was carrying small arms ammunition.

Some people think the coal thoery would not work because the coal was damp and could not be sent into the air in explosive concentrations.

I am correct (please correct me if I am wrong) I believe the torpedo hit one of the coal bunkers, flooding it with water.

Some think that possibly a failure came from not the boiler room but when the steam lines sent steam to the turbine engines.

Anyway as for the sinking I don't think the second explosion would be nessecary for the ship to sink as the flooding was pretty bad (correct me if I am wrong).


I hope this helps in some way.
Best regards

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tommy303
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Post by tommy303 » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:57 pm

The ship was carrying, among other things several million rounds of 303 ammunition under consignment from UMC Co. However these were stored much farther forward and small arms ammunition does not usually explode like that. Also one has to remember that the coal bunker would have taken some time to flood out and the second explosion occurred within seconds of the torpedo detonation. It is probable that flash from the torpedo warhead started the combustion of coal dust within the bunker itself.

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And saved the sum of things for pay.

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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Fri Mar 30, 2007 12:06 am

The small arms amunition explosion doesn´t sound... solid to me. It´s more likely that it was the coal or the steam. The coal theory sounds weak to me because it may be damp. The steam sounds a little better.
But, as far as I know, Lusitania, in opposition to Olimpic Class liners as Titanic, had traverse bulkheads and longitudinal bulkheads. The Lusitania captain ordered all the hatches and bulkheads sealed after he was warned that U-Boats were operating around the British Isles. So, if the Bulkheads were closed how the coal, or the steam could have been compresed by the torpedo explosion? Or was it that the bulkheads disintrigrated by the torpedo?
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Post by marcelo_malara » Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:52 am

Which is the theory of the steam explosion? The torpedo blast rupturing a high pressure pipe?

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Post by tommy303 » Fri Mar 30, 2007 4:56 pm

The longitudinal bulkhead on each side of the ship were an Admiralty specification since the ships were intended, during war time, to fulfill military functions--namely as transports or AMC's. The wing compartments formed by the bulkheads were the primary coal bunkers. The explosion of the torpedo vented directly into the forward starboard bunker.

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Post by tommy303 » Fri Mar 30, 2007 5:16 pm

Coal, when shipped aboard a vessel, either as cargo or as fuel, was normally wetted down in order to prevent the formation of hydrogen-sulfide gas and to lessen the chances of spontaneous combustion as iron pyrite in the coal decomposed. However, damp coal can cause a release of small amounts of methane, necessitating keeping the bunker well ventilated. The act of passing air through the bunker tends to dry out the coal as the bunker is emptied during a voyage, consequently there is a fair amount of coal dust which will be present. In the case of the Lusitania, several hundred pounds of TNT will most certainly not only stir up the coal particles, but also provide a very sufficient ignition source.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood and Earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned these defended;
And saved the sum of things for pay.

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