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Modern Mysteries

Titanic may have been doomed by a coal fire

By T.K. Randall
January 2, 2017 · Comment icon 44 comments

A fire, rather than an iceberg, may have sealed the ship's fate. Image Credit: Willy Stower - 1912
It is now thought that the vessel had been on fire even before it left on its fateful maiden voyage.
In a documentary that aired last night, Irish journalist and author Senan Molony put forward a remarkable new theory suggesting that the Titanic may have been ultimately doomed, not only by the iceberg that it hit, but by a serious fire that had been smouldering in its coal bunkers for weeks.

The fire, which had been generally dismissed as irrelevant even during the original inquiry in to the disaster, is thought to have damaged at least one of the bulkheads responsible for keeping water from flooding the rest of the ship in the event of a hull breach.

Evidence of this includes a set of never-before-seen photographs of the vessel which show a strange black mark on the outside of the ship where the fire was situated. Some of the men who fought the fire on the lower decks also spoke about damage to the bulkheads.

According to Molony, it is likely that the company behind the Titanic, White Star Line, had opted to set sail knowing that there was a fire on-board because it couldn't afford any more delays.

There is also evidence to suggest that the ship had been constructed from sub-standard materials which made both the outer hull and the protective bulkheads prone to being damaged.
This, coupled with the extreme heat of the fire, would have been a recipe for disaster.

"We have experts telling us that when you get that level of temperature against steel it makes it brittle, and reduces its strength by up to 75 per cent," said Molony.

"The fire was known about and briefly addressed at the inquiry, but it was played down."

The findings suggest that the protective bulkheads would have probably kept Titanic afloat long enough for everyone to be rescued if the fire hadn't damaged them beforehand.

"The official Titanic inquiry branded [the sinking] as an act of God," said Molony.

"It's a perfect storm of extraordinary factors coming together: fire, ice and criminal negligence."

Source: | Comments (44)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #35 Posted by Manfred von Dreidecker 7 years ago
Launched? The bunker wouldn't have been filled until it was ready for sea trials. They'd hardly have stocked up the bunkers before it was launched.
Comment icon #36 Posted by Manfred von Dreidecker 7 years ago
Now it's a Russian sub?! Good heavens, his power reaches everywhere. 
Comment icon #37 Posted by jmccr8 7 years ago
It was a time travelling U boat that was created as a diversion.True that ya know. jmccr8
Comment icon #38 Posted by acute 7 years ago
It was obviously an iceberg that did the final damage, but (so the new theory goes) the hull was weakened by the fire in the bulkhead, and the steel was substandard to begin with.
Comment icon #39 Posted by acute 7 years ago
I disagree! Time travel wasn't invented until 1985, after the Nazis sent a time machine from 1937, then lost the plans.
Comment icon #40 Posted by docyabut2 7 years ago
Comment icon #41 Posted by Beacon_Field 7 years ago
Reading some of these comments, it makes me wonder how some of you dress yourself. First of all, i saw the documentary when it aired and it was magnificent. Secondly, the fire is a well known fact. It was mentioned at the original hearing shortly after the sinking however, it was ignored in main and it was classed as irrelevant. Thirdly, the photographs clearly did show a dark marking on the side of the ship, where the fire was burning for 2 or 3 weeks PRIOR to the Titanic setting sail on her maiden voyage. The coal bunkers WERE filled 4 weeks PRIOR to the journey so the idiot who said it woul... [More]
Comment icon #42 Posted by Derek Willis 7 years ago
Can you explain why the hull beneath the water line would not have been cooled by the icy cold water, in the same way the water in a radiator cools the metal in a very hot engine. And remember, Titanic was holed beneath the water line, which is why she sank.
Comment icon #43 Posted by Manfred von Dreidecker 7 years ago
Hey, welcome, you'll find this a really friendly place and completely devoid of arrogant twits who bluster around calling everyone else idiots!  
Comment icon #44 Posted by nyuk 7 years ago
Yep I watched the documentary too and found it interesting  Basically the coal bunkers which were huge had some coal which ignited and heated up the bulkhead. So when it said it set sail whilst on fire it didn't mean flames were visible. So stoker's were shovelling the burning/ glowing coal into boilers to get it out If it really happened as the documentary said it did I feel it plausible that heat could have weakened part of the bulkhead but I still reckon the iceberg caused Titanic to sink. Rivets would have popped under stress they weren't supposed to deal with and I'm sure many other thin... [More]

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