James Cameron Creates New Titanic Sinking Simulation

Photo: National Geographic Channel.

Thanks to the National Geographic Channel, I received an early screener of "Titanic: The Final Word," a two-hour "forensic" analysis of the famed disaster hosted by James Cameron. Unlike the many previous television specials covering the doomed ship, this one offers a fresh, roundtable discussion involving engineers, naval architects, artists and historians.

The goal? To come up with the most plausible scenario for how the ship sank after striking an iceberg on the evening of April 14, 1912.

Naturally, the amount of information regarding Titanic's fate has increased over the years following the discovery of the wreck by Dr. Robert Ballard in 1985. Additional dives, sonar mapping, and the aid of computer simulations have all provided clues to what unfolded over the two hours and forty minutes of the ship's sinking.

titanic down

With the 100-year anniversary approaching next week, Cameron and National Geographic decided the timing was right to gather experts, debate the remaining enigmas, and construct a new computer-generated imagery simulation of what may have happened. The result is our best look yet at the frightening demise of one of the world's greatest ships.

Here are some new details regarding the sinking to watch for in the animation:

  • Unlike what was represented in the movie "Titanic," the new theory is that the ship's stern only raised 23 degrees into the air before breaking away from the bow.
  • While Titanic's gentle sinking without capsizing is an extreme anomaly in maritime disasters, the ship did list 9 degrees to port.
  • The Titanic's massive double-keel actually managed to hold the ship together briefly before the bow slipped away.
  • When the stern section sank, it keeled dramatically over to port. This differs substantially from Cameron's film — in fact, he mentions in the special that it's something he wishes he could go back and re-shoot.
  • The force of the bow impacting the ocean floor was so great, that water from inside was actually pushed out, causing the fore cargo hatch to explode off the deck. Watch for it in the animation.
  • While the bow torpedoed to the bottom, the stern actually swirls around violently — shedding materials and becoming barely recognizable by the time it hits the ocean floor.

Have a look at the new simulation below. "Titanic: The Final Word" premieres on the National Geographic Channel on April 8 at 8 p.m. EST. Want more? Check out our gallery of images about the disaster here.