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Bad Bolts Reportedly Sank Titanic Filed at 4:21 a.m. EST By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Some of the tiniest and least glamorous things about the Titanic may have helped sink the luxury liner: its rivets.

Some of the small metal bolts or pins salvaged from the ship were found to contain high concentrations of slag, which experts say made them dangerously brittle, The New York Times reported today.

The experts examined two wrought-iron rivets retrieved from the hull of the ship, which sank nearly 86 years ago off the coast of Newfoundland.

``We think they popped and allowed the plates to separate and let in the water,'' William Garzke, Jr., told the newspaper. Garzke, a naval architect, heads a team of forensic experts investigating the disaster.

He said, however, that the findings were tentative because of the small number of rivets tested by Timothy Foecke, a metallurgist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md.

The 46,000-ton Titanic was held together by some 3 million rivets, securing steel beams and plates.

A year ago, shipwreck investigators using underwater sonar said they had dispelled the theory that an iceberg slashed a 300-foot gash in the ship's hull. The researchers contend the force of the iceberg caused riveted seams of the hull to pop open in small slits, sending in a rush of icy water.

In a report, ``Metallurgy of the R.M.S. Titanic,'' to be released next year, the researchers say the slag content of the rivets was more than three times as high as is normally found in modern wrought iron, making it more brittle. Slag is the glass residue left over from smelting of metallic ores.

It is unclear whether a higher grade of rivets would have saved the ship, Foecke said. It also is unclear whether such high levels of slag were common when the Titanic was being built, from 1909 to 1912.

Peter Harbinson, a spokesman for shipbuilder Harland & Wolff, said the company had no comment.

The Titanic struck an iceberg during its maiden voyage on April 14, 1912, as it made its way from England to New York. It sank in 2 1/2 miles of water, killing more than 1,500 people.

-- Crystal Smithwick (, January 27, 1998

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