Titanic Branson Education Guide - Science - Buoyancy

Have students define buoyancy. Ask them why sailing vessels float? (They are supported by the weight of the water beneath them). Ask students why ice floats? (Ice is a crystal that, when it forms, forces the water molecules apart, resulting in very few water molecules per cubic inch. In liquid water, water molecules are very close together, so there are many water molecules per cubic inch; therefore, liquid water is heavier than ice.) Ask students why Titanic sank. (Added to the weight of the ship and its passengers, the weight of the water it took on caused it to weigh more than the water underneath it.)

To demonstrate how the Titanic sank, have students make a boat out of aluminum foil. Put the foil boat into a plastic tub of water. Have students fill the boat with pennies one at a time and keep adding them until the boat sinks. Have students count the number of pennies it took to sink the boat. Why did the aluminum boat sink after students added these pennies? (The weight of the pennies was greater than the weight of the water beneath the boat.)


The temperature of the water was -2.2 degrees Celsius when Titanic was sinking. What would the temperature be in Fahrenheit degrees? (Fahrenheit equals 9/5 Celsius temperature plus 32 degrees.)

At the Titanic Museum Attraction, students can feel just how cold the water was and find out how long they can keep their hands in it.


For students to understand why the Titanic sank as quickly as it did, they need to understand the relationship between depth and pressure. Under high pressure, water pushes through an opening faster.

To demonstrate this, have students cut four holes in a quart-size milk carton. Put tape over all the holes and fill the container with water. Place the container in a large sink and remove the top piece of tape. Have them mark the furthest distance the water stream reaches. Continue this with the second, third and fourth holes. Write a conclusion about why the water from the lowest (or deepest) hole went the greatest distance.

Explain how this experiment relates to Titanic. Students should conclude that the deeper the water, the higher the pressure, causing water to push faster through any openings and rapidly flood the ship.

At the Titanic Museum Attraction, students will see Titanic as it looks today at the bottom of the North Atlantic.  They’ll also see a 26-foot model of her bow, built for and used in Jim Cameron’s 1997 feature film Titanic.

Titanic Branson Education Guide - Science - Titanic sinks