A new theory suggests a coal fire, not an iceberg, may have been largely responsible for R.M.S. Titanic's sinking in 1912.
Irish author and journalist Senan Molony argues in a new documentary that previously unseen photos reveal signs a fire broke out aboard the ship before it even set sail on its maiden voyage, CNN reports.
“It’s a perfect storm of extraordinary factors coming together: fire, ice, and criminal negligence,” Molony says in his documentary, “Titanic: The New Evidence," The New York Times reports. “The fire was known about, but it was played down. She should never have been put to sea.”
In the photos, a large black mark can be seen "exactly [in] the place where it struck the iceberg," said Molony.
That 1000-degree coal fire may have significantly weakened the ship's bulkhead steel, making it easy for the unsinkable ship to sink after it hit the iceberg.
"The bulkhead was not worthy of the name," said Molony. "It completely compromised the ship and led to an accelerated sinking -- Titanic couldn't stay afloat long enough for an effective rescue."
Molony explains the Titanic's owners knew about the fire but kept it secret because they feared financial repercussions if the sailing was delayed.
He also claims Titanic may have increased its speed to reach New York faster precisely because of the fire -- and not for more media attention, as many speculated.
Molony says because the coal bunker was burning, ship workers may have been forced to add the coal to the ship's furnaces. This, in turn, increased its speed.
“This discovery is a revelation and could change our knowledge of the history of what happened,” said Richard de Kerbrech, a marine engineer who has written books about the ship.
Not everybody thinks Molony's theory is correct.
“When the Titanic hit the iceberg close to midnight on April 14, 1912, it created a 300-foot-long line of damage on the starboard section of the hull, including punctures and gashes, that opened up too many compartments to the sea, so that the weight of the water dragged the bow down so low that the ship eventually sank,” said David Hill, a former honorary secretary of the British Titanic Society. “A fire may have accelerated this. But in my view, the Titanic would have sunk anyways.”