New Facts Suggest Surprising Factor Behind Titanic Sinking
People have always been fascinated by the tragic fate of the RMS Titanic. Since the moment the world learned the ship sank on April 15, 1912, on its maiden voyage, people have wondered how the supposedly "unsinkable" ship failed to survive a single journey.
Recent evidence suggests there might be a hidden story behind the sinking of the historic ship. Newly discovered photographs provide insight into the tragedy and hint that maybe it could have been prevented altogether.
The Unsinkable Ship
Prior to 1912, nothing like the RMS Titanic had ever existed. The first super-cruise liner, the Titanic was nicknamed "Queen of the Ocean" and was said to be one of the great wonders of the world. Everyone knew the ship was important.
Competing to Be the Best
In the early 1900s, shipping companies competed in several transatlantic shipping wars. White Star Line chairman and managing director J. Bruce Ismay knew the company’s new ship would help turn his company around, but he struggled to stay ahead of his brutal competitors.
The Dreaded Budget Cuts
Chief designer Thomas Andrews began the construction and design of the RMS Titanic when Ismay delivered the news Andrews had been dreading: budget cuts. Cost factors forced Ismay to demand significant changes that entirely changed the ship’s building standards.
More and More Strikes
During the completion of the RMS Titanic, the United Kingdom experienced a fierce coal strike. The National Coal Strike of 1912 involved thousands of workers fighting against unfair wages. As coal stocks plummeted, so did the workers’ wages.
About the Ship’s Coal
Coal was vital to the function of the RMS Titanic, and with the National Coal Strike of 1912 driving up prices, Ismay’s already tight budget hovered on the brink of disaster. The 2017 documentary Titanic: The New Evidence suggests that a major contributing factor to the sinking of the Titanic was fuel shortage.
Foreshadowing the Disaster
People should have realized the RMS Titanic wasn’t unsinkable after her sister ship, the RMS Olympic, struck the Royal Navy’s HMS Hawk in September 1911. The Hawk left a gaping hole in the Olympic’s bow and cracks beyond the puncture. The ship’s steel was substandard, and the design was poorly constructed.
Newly Discovered Photos Revealed Something Striking
Passengers didn’t know they were boarding a poorly constructed ship when they prepared to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. It’s shocking to learn the RMS Titanic had faulty materials, but it’s even more shocking to learn what happened inside the ship during her maiden voyage.
The Noticeable Mark
When RMS Titanic enthusiast Steve Raffield first purchased the photo album, he never expected the photos would contain a striking clue to solve the mystery of why the ship sank so quickly. However, when Senan Molony reviewed the photos, it became clear that something was odd in one of the photographs.
A Fire on the Titanic
You probably had no idea there was a fire on the RMS Titanic. Many historians didn’t know either — but the company did. Because the Titanic was a massive ship, the coal bunkers were enormous — about three stories high — and held 1.5 tons of coal. However, this wasn’t the issue.
Sailing While on Fire
The Titanic was a doomed ship before it set sail on April 10, 1912. When the coal caught on fire in the coal bunkers, the crew attempted to deal with it internally and didn’t inform anyone outside of the company until the official inquiry in 1912. They did not solve the issue.
Fighting the Fire
Eleven men tried their best to combat the coal bunker fire, but nothing could be done. The fire continued to burn as the RMS Titanic departed from its port in Belfast and sailed to Southampton, where 2,200 eager passengers were ready to board the ship. None of the passengers knew there was a fire.
The Luxury Interior Designs
The RMS Titanic is known for being one of the most lavish and luxurious ocean liners in history. Ismay made sure his ship featured expensive luxurious interior designs and spacious rooms for the ship’s first-class passengers. It was a matter of "go big or go home."
The 1997 film depicts the dining room on the Titanic as a lavish spectacle for the wealthy. This was an accurate depiction. In 2012, a rare dinner menu from the ocean liner sold at auction for $160,450. Additionally, a lunch menu sold for $102,000.
Thinking of Coal Differently
How is the fire in the coal bunkers relevant to the sinking of the RMS Titanic? The ocean liner sank because it struck an iceberg, but that was only one part of a larger problem.
It Was Too Late
Rein explained that the coal could have been on fire for days, if not weeks, before the ship left for Southampton. The heat was trapped in a bed of coal and spread, but it would have taken days for someone to notice because the fire didn’t smoke right away.
Weakening the Metal
The RMS Titanic’s bunker was in one of the ship’s bulkheads — a watertight compartment. If the ship took on water, the water was supposed to only fill in the designated compartment. However, with the bunker burning at 1,000-2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, that created some complications.
When the RMS Titanic departed from Southampton, the fire was still burning in the coal bunker, but passengers had no idea there was a fire onboard the ship. Imagine sailing on a luxury ocean liner, completely oblivious to something so dangerous. The fire warped the metal around the ship’s boiler room bulkheads, and no amount of help stopped the fire.
Adding More Coal
Furnace workers knew they had to lessen the coal fire, so they devised what they thought was the best solution: shovel away the coal. They fed the furnace with the shoveled coal, which continuously increased the ship’s speed. If passengers felt the increased speed, it wasn’t their imagination.
Iceberg, Dead Ahead!
The RMS Titanic received several warnings of icebergs prior to the disastrous iceberg striking the ship, but Captain Edward John Smith chose to ignore the warnings and maintain the ship’s high speed. The Titanic was unsinkable, after all.
The Unsinkable Ship...Sank
On April 14, 1912, four days into her maiden voyage, the RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. The ship sank incredibly quickly, in just two hours and 40 minutes in the wee hours of April 15. Out of the ship’s 2,200 passengers, only 706 people survived.
The Patch Failed
Crew members on the RMS Titanic had repaired the hole in the water-tight compartment by patching it. When the iceberg struck the ship, water strained the weak steel. When water reached the engine room, the patch held as long as it could but ultimately failed.
Needing More Time
Senan Molony observed that if the bulkhead held, the RMS Titanic could have stayed afloat for double the amount of time. That would have provided enough time for the RMS Carpathia to receive the SOS and arrive to save thousands of lives. Almost all the passengers could have survived the disaster and lived happily ever after.
About the Trial
When Ismay arrived in the United States, he faced another challenge: a lengthy investigation and court trial. He was scared of the outcome, so he sent a telegram ordering all the hired firemen who worked on the RMS Titanic to scatter inland. He made sure they weren’t questioned for the court trial.
Dismissing the Case
The high court judge over the trial, John Charles Bigham (also known as Lord Mersey), eventually learned that a coal fire was burning below the decks of the RMS Titanic when the ship sailed. Lord Mersey disregarded the evidence, saying it was irrelevant to the trial and proceeded with the case.
Discovering New Details
Lord Mersey concluded the sole reason the RMS Titanic sank was due to excessive speed and collision with the iceberg. The case was closed, and Mersey’s conclusion set the tone for how people interpreted the history of the ship for decades to come.
An Accidental Sinking
To many people, it’s unbelievable that the sinking of the Titanic was caused by anything other than the iceberg. How could the coal fire be overlooked for decades? This evidence is vital to understanding the tragedy.
All of Ismay's Mistakes
Ismay knew the RMS Titanic was at risk, but he didn't want to lose his money. Instead, he chose to risk the lives of more than 2,200 men, women and children to save the White Star Line. He left the ship vulnerable to the fire and the iceberg to save his company and his personal wealth.
They Should Have Known Better
Historians now know that the RMS Titanic was doomed from the very beginning. Crew members should have known the ship could sink after seeing the results of the RMS Olympic’s collision. It should have served as a warning, and designers should have sent the ship back to the harbor for repairs.
Since the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, a lot of changes have occurred related to maritime safety. One regulation requires stricter ice patrols in the North Atlantic Ocean. Onboard radios were also introduced (the Titanic used Morse code). Other rules require crew members to continually monitor radios in case of an emergency.
Did They Learn Their Lesson?
Overall, the sinking of the RMS Titanic was tragic. Many of her passengers were looking forward to starting a new life in the United States. Instead, they froze to death or drowned in the Atlantic Ocean’s frigid waters.