Its been a 100 years ago today, that the Titanic ran into some trouble. We know the ending of that story, and if you didn't until recently thanks to James Cameron. What did the iceberg damage do and why did it cause the ship to snap into half and fall to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean? Reason is the ship was hit just at the right point for it to suffer such damage.
The CGI video put together by James Cameron and National Geographic is probably the best, most succinct explanation of the Titanic's demise to date. There are also other good explanations and theories, but they don't always agree with one another.
Upon encountering the iceberg, the Titanic attempted to steer around it, but in doing so it scraped up against the iceberg which was more massive underwater than it was above. It ripped a hole towards the front of the ship. And as it attempted to sail on, the ship was then filled with water, causing it to bow dip down into the water. Discovery's recap of the last moments best sum up the tragedy:
At 2.15 a.m. the water had already reached the level of the first funnel. Rumbling, crackling and roaring noises followed. The lighting on board flickered and finally went out. The stern tilted up to a 45 degree angle. The critical load at a point between the third and fourth funnels had been reached and the ship split apart down the middle under its enormous weight. The larger part reared up again by 75 metres and then the ship that had been considered unsinkable went down, bow first. Although a few hundred places were theoretically still vacant, the people in the lifeboats rowed away from those in the water crying for help for fear that their boat would capsize if too many people tried to climb on board. Only lifeboat number four turned round and picked up five people floating in the water, two of whom died in the lifeboat.
The Rough Guides' Greg Ward (who also maintains a pretty comprehensive Titanic blog), says that the Titanic banging into an iceberg was not the issue. It was the fact that the captain tried to steer around the Iceberg in the worst possible way.
The captain ordered the engines to be put into reverse which threw the ship into a skid. The incident is more baffling because the ship would have been fine if it hit the iceberg head on.
Reuters, citing author Louise Patten, says that the ship was steered in the wrong direction, and it was too late to realize it by the time they were going to hit. The captain had the ship attempt to keep sailing which only made it sink faster. Had the ship stopped immediately, it likely would not have sank until everyone was rescued.
The most controversial view of them all is that the Titanic did not break into two pieces as nearly everyone suggests, but three. Experts such as Brad Matsen say that the Titanic was poorly constructed and that its flimsy hull was in no way equipped to handle such an incident.