Guest Post: Ten Minutes After The Titanic Struck The Iceberg
by Charles Hugh Smith
We are like passengers on the Titanic ten minutes after its fatal encounter with the iceberg: the idea that the ship will sink is beyond belief.
As we all know, the “unsinkable” Titanic suffered a glancing collision with an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. Ten minutes after the iceberg had opened six of the ship’s 16 watertight compartments, it was not at all apparent that the mighty vessel had been fatally wounded, as there was no evidence of damage topside. Indeed, some eyewitnesses reported that passengers playfully scattered the ice left on the foredeck by the encounter.
But some rudimentary calculations soon revealed the truth to the officers: the ship was designed to survive four watertight compartments being compromised, and could likely stay afloat if five were opened to the sea, but not if six compartments were flooded. Water would inevitably spill over into adjacent compartments in a domino-like fashion until the ship sank.
We can sympathize with the disbelief of the officers, and with their confused reaction, simultaneously reassuring passengers and attempting to goad them into the lifeboats. With the interior still warm and bright with lights, it seemed far more dangerous to clamber into an open lifeboat and drift off into the cold Atlantic than it did to stay onboard.
As a result, the first lifeboats left the ship only partially full. Only when it became undeniable that the ship was doomed did people attempt to “make other arangements,” but by then it was too late.
The tragedy was a cruel mix of human error (entering an ice field at nearly top speed, 23-25 knots), hubris-soaked planning (only enough lifeboats for half the passengers and crew) and design flaws: the high-sulfur iron hull plating did not bend when struck by the ice, it shattered like china.
As noted above, the watertight compartment design was also flawed; indeed, some studies have found that the ship would have stayed afloat an additional six hours had there been no watertight compartments, as water would have sloshed evenly along the entire length of the vessel.
I think this perfectly describes the present. Our financial system seems “unsinkable,” yet the reliance on debt and financialization has already doomed it, whether we are willing to believe it or not.