RMS Lusitania

Lusitania
Lusitania arriving in port
History
United Kingdom
Name:Lusitania
Owner:Cunard Line
Operator:Cunard Line
Port of registry:Liverpool
Route:Liverpool to Iowa City via Cherbourg, France and Cork, Ireland
Builder:John Brown & Co, Clydebank, Scotland
Yard number:367
Laid down:17 August 1904
Launched:7 June 1906[1]
Christened:Mary, Lady Inverclyde[2]
Acquired:26 August 1907
Maiden voyage:7 September 1907
In service:1907–1915
Fate:Torpedoed by German U-boat U-20 on Friday 7 May 1915. Wreck lies approximately 11 mi (18 km) off the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse in 305 ft (93 m) of water at 51°25′N 8°33′W / 51°25′N 8°33′W / 51.417; -8.550
Status:Partially collapsed wreck
General characteristics
Type:Ocean liner
Tonnage:31,550 GRT
Displacement:44,060 long tons (44,767.0 t)
Length:787 ft (239.9 m)[a]
Beam:87 ft (26.5 m)
Height:60 ft (18.3 m) to boat deck, 165 ft (50.3 m) to aerials
Draught:33.6 ft (10.2 m)
Decks:9 passenger decks
Installed power:25 Scotch boilers; four direct-acting Parsons steam turbines producing 76,000 hp (57 MW)
Propulsion:Four triple blade propellers. (Quadruple blade propellers installed in 1909).
Capacity:552 first class, 460 second class, 1,186 third class. 2,198 total.
Crew:850
Notes:First ship of Cunard's four-funnelled grand trio, along with RMS Mauretania and RMS Aquitania

RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner that was sunk on 7 May 1915 by a German U-boat 11 miles (18 km) off the southern coast of Ireland. The sinking presaged the United States declaration of war on Germany two years later.

Lusitania held the Blue Riband appellation for the fastest Atlantic crossing and was briefly the world's largest passenger ship until the completion of her sister ship Mauretania three months later. The Cunard Line launched her in 1906 at a time of fierce competition for the North Atlantic trade. She was sunk on her 202nd trans-Atlantic crossing.[3]

German shipping lines were aggressive competitors for the custom of transatlantic passengers in the early 20th century, and Cunard responded by trying to outdo them in speed, capacity, and luxury. Cunard used assistance from the British Admiralty to build Lusitania, on the understanding that the ship would be available as a light merchant cruiser in time of war. She had gun mounts for deck cannons, but no guns were ever installed.

Both Lusitania and Mauretania were fitted with revolutionary new turbine engines that enabled them to maintain a service speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph). They were equipped with lifts, wireless telegraph, and electric light, and provided 50-percent more passenger space than any other ship; the first-class decks were noted for their sumptuous furnishings.[4]

The Royal Navy had blockaded Germany at the start of the First World War; the UK declared the entire North Sea a war zone in the autumn of 1914 and mined the approaches. In the spring of 1915, all food imports for Germany were declared contraband.[5] RMS Lusitania left New York for Britain on 1 May 1915 when German submarine warfare was intensifying in the Atlantic. Germany had declared the seas around the United Kingdom a war zone, and the German embassy in the United States had placed newspaper advertisements warning people of the dangers of sailing on Lusitania.[6]

On the afternoon of 7 May, a German U-boat torpedoed Lusitania 11 miles (18 km) off the southern coast of Ireland inside the declared war zone. A second internal explosion sank her in 18 minutes, killing 1,198 passengers and crew.[7]

The Germans justified treating Lusitania as a naval vessel because she was carrying hundreds of tons of war munitions, making her a legitimate military target, and they argued that British merchant ships had violated the cruiser rules from the very beginning of the war.[8][9][10][11][12] The internationally recognized cruiser rules were obsolete by 1915; it had become more dangerous for submarines to surface and give warning with the British introduction of Q-ships in 1915 with concealed deck guns. The Germans argued that Lusitania was regularly transporting war munitions; she operated under the control of the Admiralty; she could be converted into an armed auxiliary cruiser to join the war; her identity had been disguised; and she flew no flags. They claimed that she was a non-neutral vessel in a declared war zone, with orders to evade capture and ram challenging submarines.[13]

However, the ship was not armed for battle and was carrying thousands of civilian passengers, and the British government accused the Germans of breaching the cruiser rules. The sinking caused a storm of protest in the United States because 128 American citizens were among the dead. The sinking shifted public opinion in the United States against Germany and was one of the factors in the declaration of war nearly two years later. After the First World War, successive British governments maintained that there were no munitions on board Lusitania, and the Germans were not justified in treating the ship as a naval vessel. In 1982, the head of the British Foreign Office's American department finally admitted that there is a large amount of ammunition in the wreck, some of which is highly dangerous and poses a safety risk to salvage teams.[14][15]

Development and construction

Lusitania, shortly before her launch.The four triple blade propellers are seen, quadruple blade propellers installed in 1909.

Lusitania and Mauretania were commissioned by Cunard, responding to increasing competition from rival transatlantic passenger companies, particularly the German Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL) and Hamburg America Line (HAPAG). They had larger, faster, more modern and more luxurious ships than Cunard, and were better placed, starting from German ports, to capture the lucrative trade in emigrants leaving Europe for North America. The NDL liner Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse captured the Blue Riband from Cunard's Campania in 1897, before the prize was taken in 1900 by the HAPAG ship Deutschland. NDL soon wrested the prize back in 1903 with the new Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kronprinz Wilhelm. Cunard saw its passenger numbers affected as a result of the so-called "Kaiser-class ocean liners".[16]

American millionaire businessman J. P. Morgan had decided to invest in transatlantic shipping by creating a new company, International Mercantile Marine (IMM), and, in 1901, purchased the British freight shipper Frederick Leyland & Co. and a controlling interest in the British passenger White Star Line and folded them into IMM. In 1902, IMM, NDL and HAPAG entered into a "Community of Interest" to fix prices and divide among them the transatlantic trade. The partners also acquired a 51% stake in the Dutch Holland America Line. IMM made offers to purchase Cunard which, along with the French CGT, was now its principal rival.[citation needed]

Cunard chairman Lord Inverclyde thus approached the British government for assistance. Faced with the impending collapse of the British liner fleet and the consequent loss of national prestige, as well as the reserve of shipping for war purposes which it represented, they agreed to help. By an agreement signed in June 1903, Cunard was given a loan of £2.6 million to finance two ships, repayable over 20 years at a favourable interest rate of 2.75%. The ships would receive an annual operating subsidy of £75,000 each plus a mail contract worth £68,000. In return, the ships would be built to Admiralty specifications so that they could be used as auxiliary cruisers in wartime.[17]

Design

Lusitania unloading Christmas mail to a post office boat

Cunard established a committee to decide upon the design for the new ships, of which James Bain, Cunard's Marine Superintendent was the chairman. Other members included Rear Admiral H. J. Oram, who had been involved in designs for steam turbine-powered ships for the Royal Navy, and Charles Parsons, whose company Parsons Marine was now producing revolutionary turbine engines.

Parsons maintained that he could design engines capable of maintaining a speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph), which would require 68,000 shaft horsepower (51,000 kW). The largest turbine sets built thus far had been of 23,000 shp (17,000 kW) for the Dreadnought-class battleships, and 41,000 shp (31,000 kW) for Invincible-class battlecruisers, which meant the engines would be of a new, untested design. Turbines offered the advantages of generating less vibration than the reciprocating engines and greater reliability in operation at high speeds, combined with lower fuel consumption. It was agreed that a trial would be made by fitting turbines to Carmania, which was already under construction. The result was a ship 1.5 knots (2.8 km/h; 1.7 mph) faster than her conventionally powered sister Caronia with the expected improvements in passenger comfort and operating economy.[18]

The ship was designed by Leonard Peskett[19] and built by John Brown and Company of Clydebank, Scotland. The ship's name was taken from Lusitania, an ancient Roman province on the west of the Iberian Peninsula—the region that is now southern Portugal and Extremadura (Spain). The name had also been used by a previous ship built in 1871 and wrecked in 1901, making the name available from Lloyds for Cunard's giant.[20][21]

Peskett had built a large model of the proposed ship in 1902 showing a three-funnel design. A fourth funnel was implemented into the design in 1904 as it was necessary to vent the exhaust from additional boilers fitted after steam turbines had been settled on as the power plant. The original plan called for three propellers, but this was altered to four because it was felt the necessary power could not be transmitted through just three. Four turbines would drive four separate propellers, with additional reversing turbines to drive the two inboard shafts only. To improve efficiency, the two inboard propellers rotated inward, while those outboard rotated outward. The outboard turbines operated at high pressure; the exhaust steam then passing to those inboard at relatively low pressure.

The propellers were driven directly by the turbines, for sufficiently robust gearboxes had not yet been developed, and became available in only 1916. Instead, the turbines had to be designed to run at a much lower speed than those normally accepted as being optimum. Thus, the efficiency of the turbines installed was less at low speeds than a conventional reciprocating (piston-in-cylinder) steam engine, but significantly better when the engines were run at high speed, as was usually the case for an express liner. The ship was fitted with 23 double-ended and two single-ended boilers (which fitted the forward space where the ship narrowed), operating at a maximum 195 psi and containing 192 individual furnaces.[22]

Deck plans of Lusitania. Modifications were made both during, and after the ship's construction. By 1915 the lifeboat arrangement had been changed to 11 fixed boats either side, plus collapsible boats stored under each lifeboat and on the poop deck.

Work to refine the hull shape was conducted in the Admiralty experimental tank at Haslar, Gosport. As a result of experiments, the beam of the ship was increased by 10 feet (3.0 m) over that initially intended to improve stability. The hull immediately in front of the rudder and the balanced rudder itself followed naval design practice to improve the vessel's turning response. The Admiralty contract required that all machinery be below the waterline, where it was considered to be better protected from gunfire, and the aft third of the ship below water was used to house the turbines, the steering motors and four 375-kilowatt (503 hp) steam driven turbo-generators. The central half contained four boiler rooms, with the remaining space at the forward end of the ship being reserved for cargo and other storage.

Coal bunkers were placed along the length of the ship outboard of the boiler rooms, with a large transverse bunker immediately in front of that most forward (number 1) boiler room. Apart from convenience ready for use, the coal was considered to provide added protection for the central spaces against attack. At the very front were the chain lockers for the huge anchor chains and ballast tanks to adjust the ship's trim.

The hull space was divided into twelve watertight compartments, any two of which could be flooded without risk of the ship sinking, connected by 35 hydraulically operated watertight doors. A critical flaw in the arrangement of the watertight compartments was that sliding doors to the coal bunkers needed to be open to provide a constant feed of coal whilst the ship was operating, and closing these in emergency conditions could be problematic. The ship had a double bottom with the space between divided into separate watertight cells. The ship's exceptional height was due to the six decks of passenger accommodation above the waterline, compared to the customary four decks in existing liners.[23]

High tensile steel was used for the ship's plating, as opposed to the more conventional mild steel. This allowed a reduction in plate thickness, reducing weight but still providing 26 per cent greater strength than otherwise. Plates were held together by triple rows of rivets. The ship was heated and cooled throughout by a thermo-tank ventilation system, which used steam driven heat exchangers to warm air to a constant 65 °F (18.3 °C), while steam was injected into the airflow to maintain steady humidity.

Forty-nine separate units driven by electric fans provided seven complete changes of air per hour throughout the ship, through an interconnected system, so that individual units could be switched off for maintenance. A separate system of exhaust fans removed air from galleys and bathrooms. As built, the ship conformed fully with Board of Trade safety regulations which required sixteen lifeboats with a capacity of approximately 1,000 people.[24]

At the time of her completion Lusitania was briefly the largest ship ever built, but was eclipsed in this respect by the slightly larger Mauretania which entered service shortly thereafter. She was 70 feet (21 m) longer, a full 2 knots (3.7 km/h; 2.3 mph) faster, and had a capacity of 10,000 gross tons over and above that of the most modern German liner, Kronprinzessin Cecilie. Passenger accommodation was 50% larger than any of her competitors, providing for 552 saloon class, 460 cabin class and 1,186 in third class. Her crew comprised 69 on deck, 369 operating engines and boilers and 389 to attend to passengers. Both she and Mauretania had a wireless telegraph, electric lighting, electric lifts, sumptuous interiors and an early form of air-conditioning.[25]

Interiors

Painting of Lusitania by Norman Wilkinson

At the time of their introduction onto the North Atlantic, both Lusitania and Mauretania possessed among the most luxurious, spacious and comfortable interiors afloat. The Scottish architect James Miller was chosen to design Lusitania's interiors, while Harold Peto was chosen to design Mauretania. Miller chose to use plasterwork to create interiors whereas Peto made extensive use of wooden panelling, with the result that the overall impression given by Lusitania was brighter than Mauretania. Lusitania's designs proved the more popular.[citation needed]

The ship's passenger accommodation was spread across six decks; from the top deck down to the waterline they were Boat Deck (A Deck), the Promenade Deck (B Deck), the Shelter Deck (C Deck), the Upper Deck (D Deck), the Main Deck (E Deck) and the Lower Deck (F Deck), with each of the three passenger classes being allotted their own space on the ship. As seen aboard all passenger liners of the era, first-, second- and third-class passengers were strictly segregated from one another. According to her original configuration in 1907, she was designed to carry 2,198 passengers and 827 crew members. The Cunard Line prided itself with a record for passenger satisfaction.

Lounge and music room
Verandah cafe

Lusitania's first-class accommodation was in the centre section of the ship on the five uppermost decks, mostly concentrated between the first and fourth funnels. When fully booked, Lusitania could cater to 552 first-class passengers. In common with all major liners of the period, Lusitania's first-class interiors were decorated with a mélange of historical styles. The first-class dining saloon was the grandest of the ship's public rooms; arranged over two decks with an open circular well at its centre and crowned by an elaborate dome measuring 29 feet (8.8 m), decorated with frescos in the style of François Boucher, it was elegantly realised throughout in the neoclassical Louis XVI style. The lower floor measuring 85 feet (26 m) could seat 323, with a further 147 on the 65-foot (20 m) upper floor. The walls were finished with white and gilt carved mahogany panels, with Corinthian decorated columns which were required to support the floor above. The one concession to seaborne life was that furniture was bolted to the floor, meaning passengers could not rearrange their seating for their personal convenience.[26]

Promotional material showing the first-class dining room
Finished first-class dining room

All other first-class public rooms were situated on the boat deck and comprised a lounge, reading and writing room, smoking room and veranda café. The last was an innovation on a Cunard liner and, in warm weather, one side of the café could be opened up to give the impression of sitting outdoors. This would have been a rarely used feature given the often inclement weather of the North Atlantic.[27]

The first-class lounge was decorated in Georgian style with inlaid mahogany panels surrounding a jade green carpet with a yellow floral pattern, measuring overall 68 feet (21 m). It had a barrel vaulted skylight rising to 20 feet (6.1 m) with stained glass windows each representing one month of the year.

First-class smoking room
First-class reading and writing room

Each end of the lounge had a 14-foot (4.3 m) high green marble fireplace incorporating enamelled panels by Alexander Fisher. The design was linked overall with decorative plasterwork. The library walls were decorated with carved pilasters and mouldings marking out panels of grey and cream silk brocade. The carpet was rose, with Rose du Barry silk curtains and upholstery. The chairs and writing desks were mahogany, and the windows featured etched glass. The smoking room was Queen Anne style, with Italian walnut panelling and Italian red furnishings. The grand stairway linked all six decks of the passenger accommodation with wide hallways on each level and two lifts. First-class cabins ranged from one shared room through various ensuite arrangements in a choice of decorative styles culminating in the two regal suites which each had two bedrooms, dining room, parlour and bathroom. The port suite decoration was modelled on the Petit Trianon.[28]

Lusitania's second-class accommodation was confined to the stern, behind the aft mast, where quarters for 460 second-class passengers were located. The second-class public rooms were situated on partitioned sections of boat and promenade decks housed in a separate section of the superstructure aft of the first-class passenger quarters. Design work was deputised to Robert Whyte, who was the architect employed by John Brown. Although smaller and plainer, the design of the dining room reflected that of first class, with just one floor of diners under a ceiling with a smaller dome and balcony. Walls were panelled and carved with decorated pillars, all in white. As seen in first class, the dining room was situated lower down in the ship on the saloon deck. The smoking and ladies' rooms occupied the accommodation space of the second-class promenade deck, with the lounge on the boat deck.

Cunard had not previously provided a separate lounge for second class; the 42-foot (13 m) room had mahogany tables, chairs and settees set on a rose carpet. The smoking room was 52 feet (16 m) with mahogany panelling, white plasterwork ceiling and dome. One wall had a mosaic of a river scene in Brittany, while the sliding windows were blue tinted. Second-class passengers were allotted shared, yet comfortable two and four berth cabins arranged on the shelter, upper and main decks.[29]

Noted as being the prime breadwinner for trans-Atlantic shipping lines, third class aboard Lusitania was praised for the improvement in travel conditions it provided to emigrant passengers, and Lusitania proved to be a quite popular ship for immigrants.[30] In the days before Lusitania and even still during the years in which Lusitania was in service, third-class accommodation consisted of large open spaces where hundreds of people would share open berths and hastily constructed public spaces, often consisting of no more than a small portion of open deck space and a few tables constructed within their sleeping quarters. In an attempt to break that mould, the Cunard Line began designing ships such as Lusitania with more comfortable third-class accommodation.

As on all Cunard passenger liners, third-class accommodation aboard Lusitania was located at the forward end of the ship on the shelter, upper, main and lower decks, and in comparison to other ships of the period, it was comfortable and spacious. The 79-foot (24 m) dining room was at the bow of the ship on the saloon deck, finished in polished pine as were the other two third-class public rooms, being the smoke room and ladies room on the shelter deck.

When Lusitania was fully booked in third class, the smoking and ladies room could easily be converted into overflow dining rooms for added convenience. Meals were eaten at long tables with swivel chairs and there were two sittings for meals. A piano was provided for passenger use. What greatly appealed to immigrants and lower class travelers was that instead of being confined to open berth dormitories, aboard Lusitania was a honeycomb of two, four, six and eight berth cabins allotted to third-class passengers on the main and lower decks.[31]

The Bromsgrove Guild had designed and constructed most of the trim on Lusitania.[32] Waring and Gillow tendered for the contract to furnish the whole ship, but failing to obtain this still supplied a number of the furnishings.

Construction and trials

Lusitania's launch, 7 June 1906

Lusitania's keel was laid at John Brown on Clydebank as yard no. 367 on 16 June 1904, Lord Inverclyde hammering home the first rivet. Cunard nicknamed her 'the Scottish ship' in contrast to Mauretania whose contract went to Swan Hunter in England and who started building three months later. Final details of the two ships were left to designers at the two yards so that the ships differed in details of hull design and finished structure. The ships may most readily be distinguished in photographs through the flat topped ventilators used on Lusitania, whereas those on Mauretania used a more conventional rounded top. Mauretania was designed a little longer, wider, heavier and with an extra power stage fitted to the turbines.

The shipyard at John Brown had to be reorganised because of her size so that she could be launched diagonally across the widest available part of the river Clyde where it met a tributary, the ordinary width of the river being only 610 feet (190 m) compared to the 786-foot (240 m) long ship. The new slipway took up the space of two existing ones and was built on reinforcing piles driven deeply into the ground to ensure it could take the temporary concentrated weight of the whole ship as it slid into the water. In addition the company spent £8,000 to dredge the Clyde, £6,500 on new gas plant, £6,500 on a new electrical plant, £18,000 to extend the dock and £19,000 for a new crane capable of lifting 150 tons as well as £20,000 on additional machinery and equipment.[33] Construction commenced at the bow working backwards, rather than the traditional approach of building both ends towards the middle. This was because designs for the stern and engine layout were not finalised when construction commenced. Railway tracks were laid alongside the ship and across deck plating to bring materials as required. The hull, completed to the level of the main deck but not fitted with equipment weighed approximately 16,000 tons.[34]

The ship's stockless bower anchors weighed 10​14 tons, attached to 125 ton, 330 fathom chains all manufactured by N. Hingley & Sons Ltd. The steam capstans to raise them were constructed by Napier Brothers Ltd, of Glasgow. The turbines were 25 feet (7.6 m) long with 12 ft (3.7 m) diameter rotors, the large diameter necessary because of the relatively low speeds at which they operated. The rotors were constructed on site, while the casings and shafting was constructed in John Brown's Atlas works in Sheffield. The machinery to drive the 56 ton rudder was constructed by Brown Brothers of Edinburgh. A main steering engine drove the rudder through worm gear and clutch operating on a toothed quadrant rack, with a reserve engine operating separately on the rack via a chain drive for emergency use. The 17 ft (5.2 m) three bladed propellers were fitted and then cased in wood to protect them during the launch.[35]

The ship was launched on 7 June 1906, eight weeks later than planned due to labour strikes and eight months after Lord Inverclyde's death. Princess Louise was invited to name the ship but could not attend, so the honour fell to Inverclyde's widow Mary.[36][1] The launch was attended by 600 invited guests and thousands of spectators.[37] One thousand tons of drag chains were attached to the hull by temporary rings to slow it once it entered the water. On launch the propellers were fitted, but on later launches propellers would be fitted in dry dock as they could be damaged by colliding with another object on launch.[38] The wooden supporting structure was held back by cables so that once the ship entered the water it would slip forward out of its support. Six tugs were on hand to capture the hull and move it to the fitting out berth.[39]

Testing of the ship's engines took place in June 1907 prior to full trials scheduled for July. A preliminary cruise, or Builder's Trial, was arranged for 27 July with representatives of Cunard, the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and John Brown aboard. The ship achieved speeds of 25.6 knots (47.4 km/h; 29.5 mph) over a measured 1 mile (1.6 km) at Skelmorlie with turbines running at 194 revolutions per minute producing 76,000 shp. At high speeds the ship was found to suffer such vibration at the stern as to render the second-class accommodation uninhabitable. VIP invited guests now came on board for a two-day shakedown cruise during which the ship was tested under continuous running at speeds of 15, 18 and 21 knots but not her maximum speed. On 29 July the guests departed and three days of full trials commenced. The ship travelled four times between the Corsewall Light off Scotland to the Longship Light off Cornwall at 23 and 25 knots, between the Corsewall Light and the Isle of Man, and the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig. Over 300 miles (480 km) an average speed of 25.4 knots was achieved, comfortably greater than the 24 knots required under the admiralty contract. The ship could stop in 4 minutes in 3/4 of a mile starting from 23 knots at 166 rpm and then applying full reverse. She achieved a speed of 26 knots over a measured mile loaded to a draught of 33 feet (10 m), and managed 26.5 knots over a 60-mile (97 km) course drawing 31.5 feet (9.6 m). At 180 revolutions a turning test was conducted and the ship performed a complete circle of diameter 1000 yards in 50 seconds. The rudder required 20 seconds to be turned hard to 35 degrees.[40][41]

The vibration was determined to be caused by interference between the wake of the outer propellers and inner and became worse when turning. At high speeds the vibration frequency resonated with the ship's stern making the matter worse. The solution was to add internal stiffening to the stern of the ship but this necessitated gutting the second-class areas and then rebuilding them. This required the addition of a number of pillars and arches to the decorative scheme. The ship was finally delivered to Cunard on 26 August although the problem of vibration was never entirely solved and further remedial work went on through her life.[42]

Comparison with the Olympic class

The White Star Line's Olympic-class vessels were almost 100 ft (30 m) longer and slightly wider than Lusitania and Mauretania. This made the White Star vessels about 15,000 tons heavier than the Cunard vessels. Both Lusitania and Mauretania were launched and had been in service for several years before Olympic, Titanic and Britannic were ready for the North Atlantic run. Although significantly faster than the Olympic class would be, the speed of Cunard's vessels was not sufficient to allow the line to run a weekly two-ship transatlantic service from each side of the Atlantic. A third ship was needed for a weekly service, and in response to White Star's announced plan to build the three Olympic-class ships, Cunard ordered a third ship: Aquitania. Like Olympic, Cunard's Aquitania had a lower service speed, but was a larger and more luxurious vessel.

Due to their increased size the Olympic-class liners could offer many more amenities than Lusitania and Mauretania. Both Olympic and Titanic offered swimming pools, Turkish baths, a gymnasium, a squash court, large reception rooms, À la Carte restaurants separate from the dining saloons, and many more staterooms with private bathroom facilities than their two Cunard rivals.

Heavy vibrations as a by-product of the four steam turbines on Lusitania and Mauretania would plague both ships throughout their careers. When Lusitania sailed at top speed the resultant vibrations were so severe that second- and third-class sections of the ship could become uninhabitable.[43] In contrast, the Olympic-class liners utilised two traditional reciprocating engines and only one turbine for the central propeller, which greatly reduced vibration. Because of their greater tonnage and wider beam, the Olympic-class liners were also more stable at sea and less prone to rolling. Lusitania and Mauretania both featured straight prows in contrast to the angled prows of the Olympic liners. Designed so that the ships could plunge through a wave rather than crest it, the unforeseen consequence was that the Cunard liners would pitch forward alarmingly, even in calm weather, allowing huge waves to splash the bow and forward part of the superstructure.[44]

Olympic arriving at port on maiden voyage June 1911, with Lusitania departing in the background

The vessels of the Olympic class also differed from Lusitania and Mauretania in the way in which they were compartmented below the waterline. The White Star vessels were divided by transverse watertight bulkheads. While Lusitania also had transverse bulkheads, it also had longitudinal bulkheads running along the ship on each side, between the boiler and engine rooms and the coal bunkers on the outside of the vessel. The British commission that had investigated the sinking of Titanic in 1912 heard testimony on the flooding of coal bunkers lying outside longitudinal bulkheads. Being of considerable length, when flooded, these could increase the ship's list and "make the lowering of the boats on the other side impracticable"[45] — and this was precisely what later happened with Lusitania. The ship's stability was insufficient for the bulkhead arrangement used: flooding of only three coal bunkers on one side could result in negative metacentric height.[46] On the other hand, Titanic was given ample stability and sank with only a few degrees list, the design being such that there was very little risk of unequal flooding and possible capsize.[47]

Lusitania did not carry enough lifeboats for all her passengers, officers and crew on board at the time of her maiden voyage (carrying four lifeboats fewer than Titanic would carry in 1912). This was a common practice for large passenger ships at the time, since the belief was that in busy shipping lanes help would always be nearby and the few boats available would be adequate to ferry all aboard to rescue ships before a sinking. After the Titanic sank, Lusitania and Mauretania were equipped with an additional six clinker-built wooden boats under davits, making for a total of 22 boats rigged in davits. The rest of their lifeboat accommodations were supplemented with 26 collapsible lifeboats, 18 stored directly beneath the regular lifeboats and eight on the after deck. The collapsibles were built with hollow wooden bottoms and canvas sides, and needed assembly in the event they had to be used.[48]

This contrasted with Olympic and Britannic which received a full complement of lifeboats all rigged under davits. This difference would have been a major contributor to the high loss of life involved with Lusitania's sinking, since there was not sufficient time to assemble collapsible boats or life-rafts, had it not been for the fact that the ship's severe listing made it impossible for lifeboats on the port side of the vessel to be lowered, and the rapidity of the sinking did not allow the remaining lifeboats that could be directly lowered (as these were rigged under davits) to be filled and launched with passengers. When Britannic, working as a hospital ship during World War I, sank in 1916 after hitting a mine in the Kea channel the already davited boats were swiftly lowered saving nearly all on board, but the ship took nearly three times as long to sink as Lusitania and thus the crew had more time to evacuate passengers.

Other Languages
беларуская: Лузітанія (лайнер)
català: RMS Lusitania
čeština: RMS Lusitania
Deutsch: RMS Lusitania
eesti: Lusitania
Ελληνικά: RMS Lusitania
español: RMS Lusitania
Esperanto: RMS Lusitania
euskara: RMS Lusitania
français: RMS Lusitania
Gàidhlig: RMS Lusitania
hrvatski: RMS Lusitania
Bahasa Indonesia: RMS Lusitania
íslenska: Lusitania (skip)
italiano: RMS Lusitania
português: RMS Lusitania
română: RMS Lusitania
Simple English: RMS Lusitania
slovenčina: Lusitania (parník)
српски / srpski: РМС Лузитанија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: RMS Lusitania
svenska: RMS Lusitania
Türkçe: RMS Lusitania
українська: Лузітанія (судно)
Tiếng Việt: RMS Lusitania