Conspiracy Theory Thursday — It Wasn't The Titanic That Sunk

Conspiracy Theory Titanic

We all know the story of the RMS Titanic—the largest, most luxurious cruise liner in the world that was supposedly 'unsinkable' was on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic in April 1912.

On the morning of 15th April Titanic struck an iceberg, and within a mere three hours, had sunk to the bottom of the ocean killing 1517 of the crew and passengers on board.

The Theory

Titanic was built alongside two other ocean liners being constructed at the same time—RMS Brittanic and RMS Olympic.

The Olympic, was almost identical to Titanic, and both were owned by the White Star Line, a company which was controlled by wealthy financier JP Morgan.  The Olympic was was launched with much fanfare in 1910, and during a voyage in 1911 was involved in a serious collision with a naval warship HMS Hawke off the coast of the United Kingdom.

An inquiry found that Olympic was to blame for the collision which had caused her considerable damage and accordingly, White Star's insurers refused to pay the claim.

White Star was facing financial ruin. They would have to foot the bill for Olympic's repairs plus Titanic's completion date would be delayed while the workers switched focus—they couldn't afford to have two ships out of action.

The theory is that White Star committed insurance fraud by patching up the Olympic and making some quick changes to convert it into Titanic. The replacement 'Titanic' would then be sunk (or crashed deliberately) on her maiden voyage (as an added bonus another White Star ship would be on hand to heroically rescue all on board). White Star would be able to claim the insurance for a brand new ship and the original Titanic, would be pressed into service disguised as the Olympic.

The 'Proof'

  • When the Olympic had collided with HMS Hawke it sustained damage to the keel, giving the ship a list to it's port side.  When Titanic set sail it was listing to port. The list was noted by several survivors of the tragedy.
  • Rumors were circulating around the shipyard that White Star were going to carry out the insurance fraud (many types of similar marine insurance fraud have been documented around this time).  Evidence of these whispers are borne out by;

    • Titanic was only half full when it set sail from Southampton.  Given the prestige of the ship and the necessity to make it financially viable, it seems odd that White Star didn't do all they could to fill every cabin.
    • Titanic struggled to find enough crew for the voyage.  This was despite the fact that there was a nationwide coal strike at the time which meant that thousands of fireman, greasers and boiler stokes were out of work. Yet still they refused to work on the doomed ship.
    • Last minute passenger cancellations. There were 50 high profile passengers booked onto Titanic's maiden voyage who mysteriously cancelled at the last minute.  The most notable was JP Morgan himself, the owner of White Star.  He claimed illness a few days before the trip but seemed perfectly OK in France with his mistress on the day Titanic was sunk.  Other cancellations were Henry Clay Frick, Horace J Harding and George Washington Vanderbilt, who were all wealthy businessmen connected to Morgan.
    • JP Morgan had several valuable bronze statues removed from the ship just one hour before she set sail.

JP Morgan—owner of both Titanic and Olympic who cancelled his place on the fated voyage.

  • The newspaper headlines. Many of the early published news headlines read that all passengers survived—almost as if the initial press release was already planned and sent out before details had filtered through.  The headlines were quickly amended when it became apparent that many had perished.
  • The SS Californian was another passenger ship owned by JP Morgan that was the closest ship to the stricken Titanic and the Captain's inaction was blamed for the large loss of life on the Titanic. The ship had set sail five days previously (despite the coal shortage) and was sailing with no passengers. It had stopped in the middle of the Atlantic and its only cargo on board were 3000 blankets and jumpers.  The belief is that it was waiting to rescue the Titanic's passengers after the ship had been deliberately sunk. Edith Russel, one of the Titanic survivors was adamant that officers assured her the Californian was on its way to rescue them.  However, it sadly wasn't the case. The Californian had shut down their radio for the night, so when the real disaster struck they weren't aware they were needed until it was too late. The Captain was woken and advised that distress flares had been spotted, but ignored them, claiming he thought they were just another shipping company's rockets. So despite help being only 12 miles away, it was left to a Cunard ship, HMS Carpathia to steam 60 miles through the ice to rescue 706 survivors.
  • Titanic First Officer Murdoch spotted the iceberg ahead and for some reason ordered the ship to be turned full astern—this however increased the risk of a collision which he would have known.  If the iceberg had been struck full on, there would have been damage and a loss of life to the the crewmen in their bunks, but the ship would have stayed afloat and made it to New York. Striking it side on meant that six of the watertight compartments were ruptured—too many to enable it to stay afloat.
  • Captain Smith and the officers did not have any sense of urgency when Titanic hit the iceberg.  It took 35 minutes for the first distress signal and radio communication to be sent.  It took 45 minutes for the crew to start preparing the lifeboats and was an hour and 25 minutes before women and children were loaded into the lifeboats. It's almost as if he was expecting a rescue ship to arrive imminently.
  • The rescued crew were detained in New York for 24 hours and forced to sign a document ensuring they would remain silent about the events.
  • The design differences between the two ships.

    • The portholes.  The two ships were very similar to look at when they were built, apart from the portholes and windows.  The Olympic had 16 portholes and unevenly spaced windows, while Titanic had 14 portholes and evenly spaced windows.  However by the time the 'Titanic' set sail, it had acquired an extra two portholes, taking it up to 16 and the windows appeared unevenly spaced.
    • The bridge. The photograph of Olympic moving into a dry dock for repairs after the 1912 collision provides a unique opportunity to view the two ships side by side.  Clearly visible is the difference in the bridge position.  On the Olympic the upper bridge deck is level with one beneath it, whereas on Titanic it was overhanging the lower deck slightly.  The third photograph of the Olympic arriving in Southampton in 1925 clearly shows an overhanging upper bridge deck.

The Olympic on the left and Titanic on the right and the 'Olympic' in 1925

    • The nameplate. Both Olympic and Titanic had their names engraved onto their hulls.  Examination of the wreckage however, shows that the name Titanic was actually made from iron letters and attached to the ship with rivets. Two of those letters have fallen off due to the length of time the wreck has been at the bottom of the ocean, and the engraved letters M and P are clearly visible.

The engraved letters M and P visible on the wreck's hull when the steel rivet attached letters fell off.

    • The paint.  Grey undercoat was used on the original Olympic, and black on the Titanic.  However footage from the wreck shows where the top-coat has flaked away, a grey undercoat is visible.
    • The propeller.  As part of the repairs to the damaged Olympic, a propeller that had been destined for Titanic was diverted to the Olympic.  Wreckage of the propeller shows the part of the identification number on the sunk propeller as '01' which is part of the Titanic's id number '401'.

The wrecked propeller with the '01' part of the identification visible.

So do you believe that Titanic never actually sank?  That it was her sister ship, the Olympic who was already damaged beyond economical repair? That White Star pulled off the biggest insurance fraud of the time—receiving a reported $10 million?

Facts and figures about 'Titanic';

13 — honeymooning couples on board

40,000 fresh eggs in the provisions

64 — the number of lifeboats the ship was equipped to carry

20 — the number she actually carried

28 — people were in the first lifeboard which had a capacity of 65 people

160 — minutes between striking the iceberg and sinking

2 — dogs survived

6,000  — artefacts have been recovered from the wreck site

And, check out Popdust’s previous Conspiracy Theory Thursday posts here!