Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


The Titanic's Ruin

Rust may have sent ship and passengers to an early grave.

By Fenella SaundersAugust 1, 2001 5:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Yet another theory about why the "unsinkable" Titanic went down in 1912: The ship was a victim of rust, says Robert Baboian, the retired director of Texas Instruments' corrosion lab. The Titanic was held together by 3 million rivets made with a different type of iron than the hull plates, he notes. And once the hull was finished, the ship sat in seawater for a year while the inside was furnished. The dissimilar metals of the hull and rivets, bathed in electrically conductive seawater, might have created a circuit that slowly flecked away and weakened the rivets. One of the last photos taken before the ship's maiden voyage shows a pattern that suggests the rivets were rusting faster than the hull plates, says Baboian.

The Titanic's collision with the iceberg could have popped the weakened rivets, which would explain a clinking sound reported by survivors. The hull did not rip open, but a long opening just an inch wide between the hull plates could have sunk the ship. Video of the wreckage shows a narrow opening in the unburied part of the bow, Baboian says: "It is about at the level where the iceberg would have struck, and it is right where rivet popping could occur. I think that caused the Titanic to sink."

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In