Boiler room fire led to the sinking of the Titanic, says new research

Posted: January 3, 2017 by oldbrew in History, opinion, research, sea ice
Titanic: was this dark mark due to excessive heat from the boiler room?  - asks TV prog.

Titanic: was this dark mark due to excessive heat from the boiler room? – asks TV prog.

Was the Titanic going faster than usual because its coal supplies were in danger of running out due to a fire? This is one theory put forward in a new TV documentary as reports. The TV report also shows how the ship’s internal flooding could have been accelerated by metal buckling due to intense heat from the fire.

Fire had been raging in the Titanic’s boiler room even before it left Southampton for New York, weakening the liner’s hull and turning a collision with an iceberg into the infamous disaster, a new British documentary claims.

The official investigation, carried shortly after the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, cited the crash with an iceberg as the ultimate reason for the loss of the world’s largest vessel at the time.

But journalist Senan Molony has challenged the conclusions of the British Wreck Commissioner’s inquiry in a new documentary, entitled “Titanic: The New Evidence,” which aired on Saturday on the UK’s Channel 4.

“The official Titanic inquiry branded it [the sinking] as an act of God. 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,” Molony told The Times.

He said that the temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius weakened the ship’s hull and made it unable to withstand the collision with an iceberg that hit directly into the weak spot. The journalist believes that the collision would not otherwise have led to such catastrophic results for Titanic, which was claimed to be “unsinkable.”

According to Molony, who has been researching the naval tragedy for 30 years, the blaze had been raging in the boiler room ever since the vessel left the shipyard in Belfast. The documentary presents photos of dark marks on the liner’s starboard side, which the author believes to be proof of the fire.

The blaze was actually mentioned in the 1912 inquiry report, but Molony said its importance to the tragedy, which killed 1,500 out of 2,224 people aboard, has been neglected. Back then, the firemen on Titanic confirmed to investigators that fire was still burning in the boiler room when the ship departed from Southampton on April 10, 1912. [bold added]

According to fireman J. Dilley from London, Captain Edward Smith and his top officers were aware of the situation, but kept it a secret. Moreover, Titanic was ordered to travel at highest speed to reach its destination in New York before the blaze provokes an explosion or other accident, the fireman claimed.

Molony is not the first Titanic researcher to blame the boiler room fire as the reason for the sinking, with Ray Boston making similar claims in 2008.

Source: Boiler room fire ultimately responsible for the sinking of the Titanic, says new research — Secret History —
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Talkshop note: the TV doc. argues that the fire could have caused the ship to sink faster, hence less time for rescuers – who were on their way – to arrive at the scene before it was too late.

  1. oldbrew says:

    The Channel 4 documentary is very interesting and quite convincing too IMO.

    NB commenters who haven’t seen it may be at a disadvantage 🙂

  2. FWIW there’s a far out conspiracy theory that the Titanic was swapped with it’s sister ship, which had unrepairable damage to its hull (or something), as an insurance scam

  3. richard verney says:

    I serious doubt the switch claim. It does sound far fetched.

    It is not clear to me why Lloyds declined the insurance claim on Olympic.

    The naval enquiry blamed Olympic for the collision with the naval vessel. So what does it matter that the accident was the fault of Olympic? The whole purpose of insurance is that it covers fault. What insurance often does not cover is act of god, act of war (unless additional war risk premiums are paid). So most owners are anxious to establish fault so that they have a valid claim under their insurance policy.

    Thus the collision between Olympic and the naval vessel was due to error of the master in the navigation of the vessel. This is the classic insurance risk, it is one of the usual perils of the sea, and one which any policy of insurance would cover.

    Just think about it. What use would car insurance be if it did not include driver error. Most car accidents are due to driver error, and most accidents at sea are in some way due to human error.

    Why didn’t White Star pursue its claim against Lloyds? Without knowing the full facts, it appears to have a cast iron claim against Lloyds. There is something a little bit odd here.

  4. richard verney says:

    To add a couple more points:

    Why would a collision with an ice berg be covered under insurance, and not a collision with another ship?

    Look outs were employed to avoid collisions with ice bergs and with ships. If a ship has a collision it is due to error of the crew (unless the rudder jams or similar).

    The conspiracy theory suggest that the vessel was to be sunk in the North Atlantic by opening the sea valves. Scuttling is not an insured risk, and is indeed fraud. Given that Titanic was meant to be unsinkable, I would have thought it would have been extremely difficult for White Star to persuade Lloyds that the Titanic simply sank due to some unwitnessed fortuity in the North Atlantic. Lloyds no doubt would have argued that it is impossible for the ship to sink, you must have scuttled the ship and we are not paying out.

    White Star would have needed the collision with the ice berg, they would have needed that collision to cause flooding of at least 5 compartments (as it did from soundings taken by the crew), and it would have been very difficult to put the California (the vessel that did not come to the rescue but which it is claimed was sent to coordinates to pick up passengers off the Titanic once Titanic was deliberately sunk) in the vicinity of an unknown ice berg.

    This does not appear a well thought through conspiracy claim.

  5. oldbrew says:

    The TV investigation showed how a long-lasting (starting well before the ship departed) coal fire, which did happen in some shape or form, could have weakened/distorted one or more of the anti-flooding bulkheads.

    From the post above:
    ‘According to fireman J. Dilley from London, Captain Edward Smith and his top officers were aware of the situation, but kept it a secret. Moreover, Titanic was ordered to travel at highest speed to reach its destination in New York before the blaze provokes an explosion or other accident, the fireman claimed.’

    Or, as stated on TV, the coal stocks might run out due to the fire and leave them stranded at sea, leading to seriously bad publicity.

  6. oldmanK says:

    Just a technicality. Higher speed means higher water resistance, means higher coal burning rate — perhaps to empty one coal bunker quickly. In power generation it is one consideration when one bunker is suspected to be hot.

  7. David Youker says:

    My previous understanding was that the steel of the hull was high in sulfur, oxygen and phosphorous and therefore extremely brittle at the temperatures of the north Atlantic water–so a collision with an iceberg, esp. at high speed, would have resulted in near-shattering of the hull. (

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