I am wondering how much longer the RMS Titanic could have remained afloat if the crew had allowed the ship's anchor and anchor chain to fall to the bottom of the ocean immediately after the ship had hit the iceberg. (I am not even sure if a ship's anchor chain can be unfastened from a ship, but let's just say for the sake of this question that it can be unfastened.)

The combined weight of Titanic's anchor and anchor chain was approximately 116 tons according to this Wikipedia article:

"...In 1911, the company manufactured the anchors and chain for the ocean liner RMS Titanic. The largest of the anchors weighed 15.5 tons and on completion was drawn through the streets of Netherton on a wagon drawn by 20 shire horses.[15] The chain and fittings for the anchors weighed around 100 tons..." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N._Hingley_%26_Sons_Ltd

Since the Titanic went down bow first, and the anchor and chain was located in the bow section, immediately getting rid of 116 tons in the bow section would have increased the time it had remained afloat before it sank.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How much did the rest of the bow weigh? The whole boat was around 50,000 tons, so 116 tons is a very small proportion... $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanRSwift, I'm not sure about that and I don't think I could calculate that information unless I had the manufacturing/materials data on Titanic. $\endgroup$
    – user57467
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ The problem was not the weight, but no solid bulkheads between compartments. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ "Unfastened" is hardly the word for it. If the brakes on the anchor windlass can't stop the chain payout, the anchor and its chain will be lost. The bitter end of the chain is commonly connected to a bulkhead in the chain locker by a link designed to break if the chain is just let go. Near the end of the chain there are link(s) painted a distinct color. OPNAVINST 5100.19F says "When first red chain link appears on deck and the brake fails to hold, clear the immediate area." The end of the chain is about to come flying up out of the chain pipe. $\endgroup$
    – stretch
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ @stretch, that's very interesting, thanks for pointing that out. $\endgroup$
    – user57467
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 13:14

2 Answers 2


A Negligible difference

If the anchor and chain weighed 116 tons...

Compare to the weight of the unflooded Titanic: 52,310 tons

So the anchor & chain was 116/52310 = .22% of the total weight of the vessel. Considering that once water starts pouring in, the percentage only gets less, so getting rid of the chain would have no measurable effect on the sinking.


The ship began to flood immediately, with water pouring in at an estimated rate of 7 long tons (7.1 t) per second. This means 116/7.1 = 16.33 second delay in sinking. But of course releasing the anchor also reduces the water pressure, so it can be more.

  • $\begingroup$ How would releasing the anchor have reduced pressure, particularly in that situation? $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ Releasing the anchor would have reduced the ship's draft and hence the water current. This may mean additional seconds. $\endgroup$
    – Kiss Gabor
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 23:03

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