The Olympic-Hawke Incident


Wednesday, September 20, 1911

As Olympic leaves Southampton on her 5th voyage, the navy cruiser HMS Hawke suddenly rams her on the starboard side just beneath the aft well deck close to the stern.

Hawke thrusts 8 feet into Olympic's hull, tearing a 40 foot gash below the water line. This caused 2 of her compartments to flood and twisted the starboard propeller shaft. Despite the damage, Olympic returned to Southampton under her own power. Olympic was then towed to Belfast for repairs.

Olympic in the background being placed in the
drydock at Harland and Wolff  for repairs
after her collision with the HMS Hawke.
Titanic in the foreground
currently under construction.

Even though resources were pulled from Titanic to speed up the efforts so that Olympic could return to service as soon as possible, the extensive repairs still took six weeks to complete. Construction on Titanic was brought to a near stand still as workers we diverted over to Olympic. Borrowing one of Titanic's propeller shafts along with other materials, this caused Titanic's completion schedule to be delayed. With Olympic temporarily out of service and Titanic construction delayed, this incident was a major financial disaster for the White Star Line.

The Royal Navy blamed Olympic for the incident. Stating that water displacement from the huge ship pulled the much smaller ship into it's wake.

HMS Hawke's crushed bow after the incident.

Because of the Hawke incident, public opinion suggests that the new ships are just too big. However, the Olympic-Hawke incident proved that Olympic's safety systems worked, and since Olympic did not sink, this created a stronger foundation for the "Unsinkable Ship" theory that would continue on to the next ship of the class, Titanic.