New evidence would suggest that a huge fire in one of the Titanic’s bunkers actually played a far bigger role in her sinking than previously believed.
Examining rare photographs taken by the ship’s chief electrical engineers before she left the Belfast shipyard, journalist Senan Moloney (who has been studying the ship for more than 30 years) noticed a black mark across the ship’s side – in two photos taken from different angles. This mark was right where the iceberg would later cut into the Titanic’s side…
For the full story, you should watch the Channel 4 documentary – Titanic: The New Evidence – but, essentially, Moloney has found that when Titanic set sail, she did so with an enormous fire raging in a three-storey high fuel store behind one of the her boiler rooms. This fire caused the mark on the ship’s exterior and, crucially, caused one of the ship’s water-tight bulkheads to warp under the extreme heat. Testimony from a surviving fireman reveals that, while the bulkheads initially kept the freezing ocean water at bay, the warped bulkhead (reduced to 40% of its existing strength by the fire) eventually buckled, allowing the water to burst through – and the rest is history. Had the bulkheads held as they were supposed to, the Titanic would likely have stayed afloat until help could reach her, meaning that one and a half thousand innocent lives would have been spared.
This is a huge discovery – especially because it might finally explain why Captain Smith and Bruce Ismay decided to speed into an ice field they were fully aware of. Indeed, Moloney’s documentary explains that, in order to put out the fire, the firemen had to shovel the burning coal into the boilers. Due to the miners’ strike that occurred in England around the same time, the Titanic had only been able to secure enough coal to get from Southampton to New York – and this precious coal was being effectively ‘wasted’ in order to stop the fire. Slowing down (to sort out the fire) and then starting up again would have used up even more fuel, to the extent that the ship might not have reached New York. Fearing the PR storm that would follow (indeed, that’s why the ship went to sea with a raging fire in the first place – the most luxurious ship in the world couldn’t be ‘late’ setting off on her maiden voyage), Ismay and Smith made a gamble – to continue at full speed, counting on the bulkheads to save the day in the event of an accident. The gamble, as we know, failed.