Ever since the RMS Titanic sunk en route to New York from Southampton in April 1912, we’ve always thought it was caused by the ship traveling too fast and (what later became) the world’s most hated iceberg. However, new evidence and some sharp-eyed investigating suggests this is far from the whole story.
Senan Molony, an Irish author who’s written extensively about the history of the Titanic, points out that new pieces of evidence suggest that the much-famed demise was actually started by a fire, not ice.
The new theory was put forward in the documentary "Titanic: The New Evidence", which aired on the UK’s Channel 4 on January 1.
“The official Titanic inquiry branded [the sinking] as an act of God," Molony told The Times. "This isn’t a simple story of colliding with an iceberg and sinking. It’s a perfect storm of extraordinary factors coming together: fire, ice, and criminal negligence."
He argues that a fire broke out in the coal bunker of the grand ship before it even left its place of construction at a shipyard in Belfast. Recently obtained photographs reveal that the ship had a 9-meter-long (30-foot-long) dark mark along its hull before it left the port of Southampton, England. The new theory says that the fire warped the steel of the hull and made this area brittle.
This area is also believed to be where the iceberg struck the ship. Molony says the fire damage could have weakened the ship's hull, making it considerably more susceptible to force when it later hit the iceberg.
He added that he believes the fire was known about, but was hidden for fear it could jeopardize the much-anticipated maiden voyage, which had already suffered two delays.
This new theory draws on a previously established idea by professor Robert Essenhigh, as reported in 2004 by Science Daily. He argued that a severe fire might have forced the crew to pick up the ship’s pace, eventually leading them into a panicked collision with the iceberg.
Most historians nowadays agree a fire occurred at some point of the sinking. At what point exactly appears to be brought into question by this new photographic evidence. Others contend that despite damage from a fire, the force of the collision was still too great to withstand.
Perhaps after more investigation and deeper probing, we might someday know the whole story that remains lost at sea.