On April 14, 1912, a lookout on the RMS Titanic called “Iceberg, right ahead!” Fewer than three hours later, the iconic ocean liner sank. Most people believe that the ship split apart and sank due to that fatal collision, but according to The Independent, a new documentary posits that a large fire in one of the boiler rooms may have contributed to its demise.
Titanic: The New Evidence aired on New Year’s Day on British public-service television broadcaster Channel 4. It features journalist Senan Molony, who examined photos of the Titanic sitting in a shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, a little more than a week before its maiden voyage. Molony noted the presence of suspicious 30-foot-long black marks running alongside the hull’s front right side—right next to the spot where the iceberg gouged the ship.
Molony consulted with experts, who say the marks were likely made from a large conflagration that broke out in a boiler room’s coal bunker. The fire started around 10 days before the ship left Europe, Fox News reports, and continued to burn in the coal bunker throughout the voyage.
Molony believes that the fire weakened the ship’s hull, making it susceptible to damage. While the iceberg might have been the final nail in the coffin, the ship’s infrastructure was compromised long before the fatal collision occurred, the journalist says.
Officials were reportedly instructed to keep mum to passengers, and Molony claims that upon departure, the ship was oriented to prevent them from seeing the fire’s lingering marks. He also theorizes that the Titanic may have sped up near the end of its voyage because stokers and firemen were trying to get rid of the burning coal by dumping it into the engine’s furnaces.
“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.”
The theory is intriguing—but not all experts buy into it. “There certainly was a fire,” David Hill, former secretary of the British Titanic Society, told The Times (as quoted by Fox 31 Denver). “Was it a life-changer? It’s my personal opinion that it didn’t make a difference.”
[h/t The Independent]