At 11:40pm, on April 14th 1912, the unsinkable liner RMS Titanic struck an iceberg.
Less than 3 hours later the ship sunk, leaving over 1,500 people dead.
But is that what really happened?
In the following 95 years there have been a few alternative theories put forward to explain why the Titanic sunk -
THE CURSE OF AMEN-RA
One of the more fanciful ones involves an Egyptian mummy which was said to have cursed the vessel after being smuggled on board.
Journalist William Thomas Stead claimed he had purchased it from the British Museum and revealed to other passengers that the body of the Princess of Amen-Ra was on-board shortly before disaster struck.
In reality, however, the mummy was never at the museum or on board the Titanic.
Lights seen by survivors under, on, or around the water at the time of the tragedy have been attributed to a German submarine.
Some have speculated that a German U-boat launched a torpedo attack on the Titanic, despite the fact that the First World War had yet to begin.
This possibility has since been dismissed as survivors described the collision with the iceberg as simply sending a mild shudder through the vessel which is in stark contrast to what a torpedo hit would feel like.
Another possibility, the one I am writing about today, is perhaps even more sinister -
THE ‘SINK AND SWITCH’ SCAM
Around the same time that the Titanic was constructed, White Star Line made a near identical ship, the RMS Olympic.
In essence, the two ships were totally identical, barring the styling of a few windows on the front half of the promenade deck.
The Olympic was actually launched before the Titanic, in October of 1910.
However, on the 20th of September 1911, she was involved in a collision with HMS Hawke, a Royal Navy cruiser.
An internal Royal Navy inquiry deduced that the incident near Southampton, which led to both ships receiving heavy damage, was not the fault of their cruiser.
THE ROBIN GARDINER THEORY
Robin Gardiner, author of ‘Titanic : The Ship That Never Sank’, took the inquiry’s findings as the basis for his theory as to why the RMS Titanic never actually sunk at all.
Gardiner believes that, without any chance of making a successful insurance claim, White Star Line were forced into drastic action.
Repairing the Olympic, which had damage to her central turbine’s mountings as well as keel damage, would have cost millions in today’s money.
Additionally, such repairs would have created huge delays in Titanic’s launch, thereby losing revenue too.
Gardiner therefore alleges that White Star Line took the decision to turn the Olympic into the Titanic and vice versa.
With very few identifiers on board either ship the transformation took less than 2 months.
The Titanic subsequently took to the seas and served for 25 incident free years.
He then goes on to suggest that the Olympic was then repaired, not to a true seaworthy standard, but to a barely safe level, in order that she could be deliberately sunk in the Atlantic in order to facilitate an insurance claim.
Obvious name markings on the Olympic were altered or replaced in order that she would then appear to be the brand new and fully functional ‘Titanic’.
Just before launch the real Titanic, sailing as the Olympic, returned to dry dock to have her propeller blade replaced.
Gardiner believes this period allowed the final changes to be made to ensure that passengers and casual observers would believe that the damaged Olympic was now the flagship Titanic.
THE INSURANCE SCAM
Robin Gardiner goes on to write about how a plan was concocted in order to collect insurance money on the heavily damaged Olympic.
Posing as the Titanic, she would slowly open her sea cocks whilst deep into the Atlantic.
This would cause the ship to sink, though it would be a slow process, allowing time for all crew and passengers to be lifted off to safety on other vessels that would be conveniently in the vicinity at the time.
With White Star Line being part of the J.P. Morgan owned International Mercantile Marine Co, who also owned another ship, the Californian, who history says was in the area but failed to respond to the Titanic, they had the opportunity to remove all on board safely.
However, Gardiner claims that Titanic actually hit another rescue ship rather than an iceberg.
When that ship sent up distress rockets the Californian failed to respond as they were waiting for the Titanic to sink in the area in which they were waiting instead.
This claim is given some credence by a survivor’s report in which they claimed seeing another ship’s lifeboat semi-submerged beneath the Titanic just after the supposed iceberg collision.
Finally, Gardiner then theorises that the Titanic, being in reality the damaged Olympic, was so weakened from her previous accident that she sank far quicker than anyone could have ever realised she would, thereby leading to the deaths of 1,503 passengers and crew.
These included Captain Smith and First Officer Murdoch, the only two members of crew who were likely to have known about the insurance scam if there was one.
Subsequently, International Mercantile Marine Co and White Star Line went quiet and Captain Lord of the Californian became the villain of the piece and a handy scapegoat for their insurance fraud.
WHICH SHIP REALLY SANK?
What are your views on the sinking of the Titanic?
Was it just a terrible accident that befell a luxury liner, or was there something far more sinister about the whole affair?