Thursday, 22 November 2007

Was The Titanic Scuttled?

(NB: This article has been rewritten in a greatly extended and improved new edition:

The sinking of the Titanic was one of the most fateful and poignant events of the 20th Century. Titanic was an enormous state-of-the-art superliner; its manufacturers were so proud of their creation they dubbed her “unsinkable” and said “God Himself could not sink this ship”. Then in one of the most ironic events in all of History, she struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sunk on her maiden voyage on the 15th of April 1912. Because the ship was supposed to be “unsinkable” her owners and crew broke every maritime health-and-safety law in the book. They sailed at top speed at night in the North Atlantic in spring when the sea is infested with icebergs (not a problem for modern radar-equipped ships, but the Titanic just had human lookouts) and put to sea without a full fleet of lifeboats. The ship was struck a glancing blow and took nearly an hour to sink, plenty of time to get everyone aboard to safety if there had been room enough in the lifeboats. The sea was calm and a rescue ship was heading for them and it arrived a couple of hours later. This was a disaster of human stupidity, not nature. Worst things certainly do happen at sea.

But there are other sides to the story. Many have remarked how the disaster matches fictional stories about disasters at sea that were written before April 1912, like in the 1888 novel Futility by Morgan Robertson. This story is about a ship called Titan with a captain named Smith which struck an iceberg and sunk in April and it didn’t have enough lifeboats. Coincidence? Seems unlikely (even if there such a thing!). Some people have wondered if the horror and sadness of the disaster sent ripples backwards through time causing subconscious premonitions in artists’ collective unconscious.

Some people have put forward another more down-to-Earth theory: That the Titanic disaster was the product of a huge insurance fraud. This is a theory proposed by the Oxford researcher Robin Gardiner and many others. The supposed plot comes in several different variations, but this is a summary of them: The ship’s owner JP Morgan was part of one of the big banking dynasties and an Illuminati bloodline. He switched the ship’s identity with Titanic’s identical sister-ship Olympic, and then scuttled the ship at sea, making it look like an accident. This seems unlikely to me as it would mean that most of the navigation crew on board would have to be in on it, making a very top-heavy conspiracy. It would also effectively be a suicide mission. Indeed, the captain and most of the crew did die on the ship in their effort to get as many passengers off as possible. They would all have known that there weren’t enough lifeboats. Also ships don’t always sink as conveniently slowly as Titanic did. If the ship had collided with the iceberg at a different angle then the hole could have been bigger and the ship sunk quicker, maybe too fast to deploy the lifeboats.

What’s more JP Morgan had an opportunity to stage the ship’s destruction a few days before the voyage when she was in drydock at Belfast. It would be a simple matter to start an “accidental fire”. Wouldn’t that be an easier way to do it?

Interestingly the wreck of the ship was discovered in 1985 by the famous marine archaeologist Robert Ballard. Since then many people have gone down to visit it in deep-diving research submarines, including one or two of the survivors. There’s a plan to hold a ceremony on the sea bed on April the 15th 2012, the centenary of the disaster. Well anyone into “weird stuff” will tell you what a busy and anticipated year 2012 is going to be!