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City Tech Prof Re-examines Titanic Tragedy

BROOKLYN — On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, marine forensics expert Richard Woytowich will present a paper reinterpreting the statements made by survivors during the 1912 official inquiries into the disaster.  

Woytowich, a professor of computer engineering technology at New York City College of Technology (City Tech), will take into account what engineers and other technologists now know about how the ill-fated passenger liner broke apart on April 15, 1912. He will be presenting his research on April 4 at the International Marine Forensics Symposium, to be held at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

Woytowich, a Staten Island resident, has been studying how the ship sank since 1998. In 2007, working with technical historian Roy Mengot, he developed a computer model showing that the breakup of the ship could have started in the bottom structure rather than at the uppermost decks, as was widely assumed. They wrote an article on this research, titled “The Breakup of Titanic: A Progress Report from the Marine Forensics Panel (SD-7),” which was published in the January 2010 issue of Marine Technology.

That work, in turn, was prompted by the release of photographs taken by an expedition to the wreck, in which the fractured edges of two pieces of the ship’s bottom were shown. “When I saw the edges of the actual bottom pieces of the ship, I immediately felt that I was looking at the parts that failed first, not the parts that failed last,” Woytowich notes.

He was motivated to re-evaluate the testimony of many of the Titanic survivors because their statements seemed to support this model better than the popular top-down breakup (depicted in the movie Titanic).

“Once we changed our mental image of the breakup, it might be possible to resolve the apparent conflicts in the survivors’ testimony — especially the conflict between those who said that the ship broke in two and those who said that the ship went down intact,” Woytowich says.

Backed by forensic evidence, Woytowich hopes to help restore the credibility of the majority of the survivors, who testified that the ship broke in two. While they were not believed by the official inquiry, they were vindicated when the wreck was discovered lying in pieces on the sea floor in 1985.

As Woytowich put it, “It’s been 100 years since the sinking; it’s time to set the record straight.”

New York City College of Technology (City Tech) of The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest public college of technology in New York state. Located at 300 Jay St. in Downtown Brooklyn, the college enrolls more than 16,000 students in 62 baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs.

March 23, 2012 - 4:21pm


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