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Titanic: The New Evidence

Discussion in 'Titanic Documentaries' started by Gemma Dixon, Jan 1, 2017.

  1. Gemma Dixon

    Gemma Dixon Member

    I've been a lurker here for a long time.

    Currently watching this documentary on Channel 4 here in the U.K.

    I don't know what to make of this at all. Anyone else watching or planning to watch this?
  2. I haven't seen it yet Gemma. However, an article in the Independent stated:

    "Presenting his research in a Channel 4 documentary, Titanic: The New Evidence, broadcast on New Year’s Day, Mr Maloney also claims the ship was reversed into its berth in Southampton to prevent passengers from seeing damage made to the side of the ship by the ongoing fire."

    This is incorrect.

    After Olympic was berthed with her starboard side to the quay at Southampton on her maiden voyage, Thomas Andrews recommended that she be berthed with her port side to the quay on all subsequent occasions; undoubtedly the practices that worked well with Olympic were followed by Titanic. I think this explains why she was docked with her port side to the quay.

    Best wishes

  3. Haven't seen it. There is nothing visible in the photographs. There are dark marks alongside the hull but far away from the spot where that so called "fire" was.

    However it was coal smouldering and not a fire. The coal bunker had been emptied on April 13th.
  4. Gemma Dixon

    Gemma Dixon Member

    Thank you for the replies.
    Thank you for the reply, Mark.

    The documentary emphasises this so-called damage, as "black marks" on the hull around the location of the coal bunker. It simply looks like different shades of paintwork to me. Is it true that only the port side was given a fresh new coat of hull paint before arrival in Southampton? The starboard side in general looks much more "patchy".

    One line in the documentary had my jaw dropping a bit, that "the ship''s designer (Andrews, obviously) said she would not sink, as long as critical bulkheads held."


  5. There are several dark marks alongside the hull far away from that bunker.

    2016-12-31 at 14-36-40.png
  6. Gemma Dixon

    Gemma Dixon Member

    Thank you for your reply.

    The dark marks look like different shades of paintwork, which given the type of hand mixed hull paints used back then, isn't at all improbable. I've seen the "marks" argument used before but in relation to the laughable Olympic switch theory.

  7. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Guest

    The original photo album was on display here in Belfast. The mark was very noticeable but I assumed it was a lighting effect or maybe a smudge on the photo, but now that it appears on two separate photos I have to wonder what this mark could be. Captain Smith told the lifeboats to row towards the other ship, off load the passengers, and return for more. Did he believe the Titanic had more time and was not in immediate danger of foundering? Mr. Ismay said he spoke to the Chief Engineer and was reassured that the pumps would handle the flooding. I wonder if something failed and at some point the ship sank more rapidly than expected i.e. a failed bulkhead?

    The two photos featured in the documentary.


    New York Tribune, April 20th 1912



    The problem is the mark is significantly forward of the coal bunker that was affected by the fire. Perhaps it was the forward most coal bunker that caught fire?

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 1, 2017
    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  8. StephenL

    StephenL Member

    A fascinating and well researched documentary, using expert evidence and computer modelling regarding how much the steel bulkheads would have been weakened.

    This documentary draws on new evidence to reveal that a fire was raging in Titanic's boiler rooms before she left port, that it was kept secret and, it's now believed, that it led to the tragedy

    This is the link to C4 documentary.

    It's amazing how the potential importance of this fire has remained unknown for 105 years!

    The story is that a fire started in one of the coal bunkers, even before it left Belfast, and carried on unknown to the passengers! The only way of putting the fire out was to simply shovel the coal into the furnaces as fast as possible. This in turn determined the speed of the ship. It was already low on coal due to an industrial dispute even before setting off, and the ship may not have been able to reach port unless it carried on without stopping. The fire spread to the adjacent bunker and was still burning even as the ship struck the iceberg, critically weakening the bulkheads on either side.

    Water ingress after the accident slowed enough so the Titanic could have lasted for several more hours than it did, potentially enabling passengers and crew to be rescued to the Carpathia. However, once the pressure built up in the adjacent water tight compartment the bulkheads failed, rapidly increasing the inflow and dooming the ship before rescue could arrive.

    The bulkheads were also made from brittle 'average' steel due to cost cutting which may have also been critical to the failure.
  9. dazjstuart

    dazjstuart Member

    Was going to start a thread on this documentary myself, glad I stumbled across this one.

    Overall I thought it was a pretty well researched documentary presenting a mixture of plausible theories and some questionable ones.

    For the people that haven't seen it (not sure if it will be available in the US yet as it seems to be a genuinely new documentary and not a rehash) It starts by looking at supposedly new photos discovered recently, these were taken by an electrical engineer, John Kempster who worked on the construction of Titanic, these show the black marks in the hull on the starboard side that Aaron_2016 posted above, Mr Molony ties this together with the fire and looks at all the evidence relating to the coal bunker fire and how it led to the collapse of the bulkhead between boiler rooms 5 and 6 which he presents as the single event that accelerated the sinking. He doesn't say but I don't think he is implying that the ship would not have sank has the bulkhead held but he is implying that it would have bought enough time for the Carpathia to arrive and rescue many more.

    Its the first time I have seen these marks but pretty much everything else has been discussed to death on here before, the documentary does have input from scientists in materials and coal fires which is always nice to hear. For anyone who's interested here's what I made of all the points.

    1. The photos
    As Aaron_2016 stated above the location of the black mark in the photos does not correspond with the location of bunkers 9 and 10, it is also far longer than a coal bunker. Was there any other outlets (ash ejectors, pumps, vents etc) that could have made a mark like that? If not then what caused the mark?

    2. The Steel
    The documentary talks about the steel and brings up the whole "ordinary" "best" thing, the materials scientist looks at photos of the Olympics damage from the Hawke and comments that there appears to be a lot of cracking in the plates in addition to the expected bends and tears which is not a desirable quality. Lots of discussion has been had about the type of steel and tests have been done on steel recovered from the wreck itself and I believe the consensus is that while maybe not up to modern standards in terms of impurity level and consistency of quality, Titanic was built with good quality steel in 1912 and was by no means weak.

    3. The fire
    Mr Molony presents the theory that the coal fire had been burning for weeks, this was supported by information from the scientist specialising in coal fires saything that such a fire could do so and go undetected for quite some time and that no direct ignition source is required for it to start or spread. It also explains why very few of the firemen who took Titanic to Southampton stayed on for the voyage, during a coal strike so work wouldn't have been abundant, something made them want to get off that ship. He then gives a background on the financial situation of White Star at the time and the pressures on making sure the ship sailed.

    He then trawls through the evidence and testimony from fireman Charles Hendrickson that I think most of us have seen before that the bunker was emptied on the Saturday and that he noticed damage which was covered up. He then continues by stating the fire had spread (remembering that heat is all that's required to spread a smouldering coal fire), quoting evidence from a New York newspaper that stated the fire was in bunkers 9 as well as 10. This is stated as the reason that the ship is going flat out, they were trying to use up the burning coal as quick as they could. It is also proposed that Titanic was short on coal (due to the strike and the fact that the fire had burned its way through many tonnes of it) and that slowing down or stopping then having to speed up again would cause the ship to run out of fuel. Not sure how much I buy into this, I was always previously led to believe that Titanic had plenty of coal aboard, perhaps someone could expand on this? That frantically shovelling all the coal out of one bunker into a couple of the nearby furnaces makes much difference to the speed I think is dubious to say the least, Titanic had several coal bunkers (don't recall exactly how many but I'm sure someone will) and 29 boilers, all but 4 of which were burning and went through many tonnes of coal per day.

    4. Effects of the fire
    He goes back to the evidence that the bulkhead was warped, the scientists produce some models that say the type of buckling seen by witnesses only occurs at high temperatures, high enough to reduce the strength of the steel to 25% of its normal strength. There is then a the quote that Gemma Dixon mentions above that Thomas Andrews says the ship will not sink if the bulkheads hold. No mention of where that comes from, to my knowledge there is no direct testimony of "Mr Andrews said..." The impression I have always got is that Mr Andrews always knew the ship would sink it was just a case of when. I'll let Mr Molony off with this one as I stated above I don't think he was ever trying to say the ship would not have sank but the bulkhead failure merely accelerated the process and increased the loss of life.

    He concludes with the evidence from Fred Barrett that I think we have all seen describing the sudden rush of water coming from "between the boilers" in boiler room 5 that is attributed to the bulkhead failing, this is tied up to a graph of the progression of the sinking where there is a key moment where the sinking rate goes from linear to exponential. I agree with him here, it gave the jolt in flooding rate that pulled the head under water and sealed her fate.

    The problem I see with the stokers evidence is that as a lot of people on here will know, evidence from one stoker can quite often completely contradict what another one says when it comes to timings and locations. The one that springs to mind is Barrett and the other guy (Scarrott?) that were supposedly in a similar area yet saw totally different things. Are these honest enough "that's how I saw it" differences or were some of them "nobbled" before they spoke out, both apply in my opinion. The other thing I always think when reading some interesting descriptions of locations etc is that these were, without trying to sound snobbish, uneducated men doing hard "head down, arse up" work on a new ship that they had been on for 4 days, I doubt any of them would have strayed far from their immediate work zone and route to and from their quarters. Mr Molony quotes Bruce Ismay's "coded" telegrams from the Carpathia to New York regarding the crew. The British enquiry is widely regarded as a whitewash designed to protect White Star and Harland and Wolff from American law suits.

    Overall I thought it was an interesting and for the most part well researched documentary. I think the whole mark on the photos thing was a bit of a red herring but the research into the fire and effects of it is sound. Nothing ground breaking but nice to see some science being applied to it. Interested to hear more people's thoughts on it.
    Ajmal Dar and Lyle like this.
  10. John Pladdys

    John Pladdys Member

    I really looked forward to this programme. New evidence? Sounds really interesting! About time we had something original,instead of the same old stuff hashed up.Then I saw "fire" and "bunker" and my heart sank.Not that old chestnut again!

    The first mistake they made was not telling us that bunker fires on steam ships of the period were rare,but they happened,and were not considered terribly serious.Whether they simply poured water on the affected area, removed burning coals,or just let it burn itself out,this did the trick.Even so,looking at all the evidence,there is no question that even without the fire the end result would have been the same.According to the programme, without the fire the ship would have survived long enough for rescue to arrive.As it was it stayed afloat for 2 1/2 hours, when Thomas Andrews,the ship's architect,who ought to have known what he was talking about , gave it only "an hour to an hour and a half".

    The whole thing started with an apparent patch of discolouration on a black and white photograph of the ship taken from a distance and over 100 years old,which could have been anything from a fault in the film itself,the processing,a trick of the light,or just uneven or touched up paint work..According to the programme this was in the exact area of the bunker. Are they suggesting that it was on fire not only before the departure from Southampton but while the ship was still in Belfast? Also,it seemed ridiculous to me to suggest that the only way of disposing of the burning bunker coals was to heap them desperately on the boiler fires,so making the ship go faster than they wanted.Equally to suggest that not to have have done so would have forced them to stop the ship,with the restarting burning up so much coal it would run out! All the previous evidence suggests that,in spite of the coal strike,the Titanic had ample coal for the the voyage and more.

    I had a niggling feeling throughout the programme that some of the so-called experts were knowledgeable and qualified in their own limited field of expertise,but not in all the other various technical aspects of shipbuilding and the Titanic in particular.How could they assess all the facts properly? I also had the feeling that the so called evidence presented to these "experts" was carefully selected,as were the questions in the way they were posed. No wonder they were led to the conclusion desired by the programme.

    All in all the programme was a disappointment.It started with the dubious premise that the bunker fire led to an early loss of the ship,and tried to fit all the facts to it.Had the fire been as serious as they tried to suggest,this would surely have come out at the time with testimony from the surviving officers and crew,and the technical evidence of Harland and Wolff experts such as Wilding.
    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  11. James Leen

    James Leen Member


    My problem with the show is that it was consistently implied that the fire was at least 1000 degrees and that the plates buckled. This led to an inference that the stokers jumped ship, Cap'n Smith was going full speed in order to get the fire put out, the coal had to be used up pronto etc. Even the graphics relied heavily on extreme temperatures in the coal bunker.

    But there was a big problem - they used the testimony of one of the stokers (sorry, forget which one) and his testimony of the damage, (and I'm paraphrasing) was "we put oil on the damage to make it look better".

    This doesn't equate with 1000 degree temperature really. Oil and red hot steel equals instant fire, surely? As well as first degree burns on the poor stoker applying the oil!

    Still, the program was a triumph. A hundred years after the disaster and, no disservice to Mr Maloney, but it's still possible to generate enough interest to generate books and tv shows. That's a result!

  12. The newspaper's assertion about the coal supporting the watertight bulkhead had me amused!

    Many people have made similar claims. The persistent issue is that there isn't any evidence to support it. The whole basis under which these ships were built was 'cost plus': taking the final cost of the ship, the builder added a fixed percentage commission. The more they spent, the more profit they made. (One official at Cunard, White Star's competitor, indicated such an arrangement would not work for them because it would simply incentivise shipbuilders to lavish expenditure on a ship to boost their profits at the expense of the customer: Cunard.)

    I understand Brad Matsen was a contributor to the programme. Brad tells a good story, but he's responsible for a considerable number of false claims as I indicated here: Mark Chirnside's Reception Room: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic: Titanic Allegations & Evidence

    Best wishes

  13. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Guest

    There was a third photo taken at the same location at the same time but there is no mark on the photo.


    Do you think the mark has been doctored out of the photo? I can see a lighter smudge over the spot where the mark was seen in the previous photos. Doctoring photos was certainly in practice in 1912. Here is a photo of a suffragette who was physically held for her photograph and then doctored out by the authorities. Was something similar done to the Titanic photos to hide the damage on her starboard side for publicity reasons?

    Suffragette arrest. Photo doctored in 1913.


    I understand this was rather common in newspapers and even newsreel films did it e.g. scratching out the name Olympic on the newsreel footage to make it appear as the Titanic for audiences. Was the Titanic deliberately turned around in her Southampton berth before her departure to hide her starboard side damage from the cameras?


    Has the below photo been doctored to smudge out and remove the damage for publicity?


    Below - My emphasis on the mark possibly smudged out in the above photo.


  14. The policy of docking Olympic or Titanic with their port side to the quay at Southampton was instituted after Olympic's maiden voyage in 1911. As I explained above:

    After Olympic was berthed with her starboard side to the quay at Southampton on her maiden voyage, Thomas Andrews recommended that she be berthed with her port side to the quay on all subsequent occasions; undoubtedly the practices that worked well with Olympic were followed by Titanic.

    I would go with documented fact rather than unsupported speculation as to the reason.

    Best wishes

  15. Why would that be? I am not aware this image was used in any publicity. I don't think it was even made public until the last year or so, when the Kempster album was discovered. There would be no reason to enhance it.

    Best wishes

  16. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Guest

    Don't know. Perhaps the photographer wanted to correct his own work thinking it was a defect on his camera? Who was the photographer who took this photo of Titanic's propeller shaft and removed the crew member out - now commonly referred to as the Titanic ghost?



    I recall reading that he was killed and they believed it was bad luck to include images of the deceased in photos and was scratched out of the photo.

  17. StephenL

    StephenL Member

    I've had a relook at the programme regarding the steel issue. The question of steel quality seems to arise because the Board of Trade wrote to Harland and Wolff asking if Titanic should be using 'special quality steel'. Harland wrote back saying that 'ordinary steel' would be sufficient. Whilst I agree this was probably standard practice at the time, it implies higher quality steel was available. Of course this may have taken longer to procure.
  18. Stephen

    That sounds to me like a garbled account of the discussion as to whether high tensile steel would be used in these ships' upper works, as opposed to mild steel. High tensile steel was used in Lusitania and Mauretania, but a large part of the reason behind that was so that they could use less steel and thereby save weight, as well as contributing to the ship's stability. That was not usual for ships of the period: Cunard subsequently specified mild steel for Aquitania, which adopted the 'Olympic' operating model of a larger, luxurious ship designed for comfort as opposed to being the fastest afloat.

    The steel used in Olympic and Titanic was tested to Lloyd's classification society standards and passed accordingly, even though these ships - in common with all White Star liners - were not classed at Lloyd's.

    Best wishes

  19. StephenL

    StephenL Member

    I don't think it was the theoretical strength of the steel which was under question but it's extreme susceptibility to brittleness at high temperatures due to the impurities. I'm sure the bulkhead would have been designed with a large factor of safety even assuming the standard steel was used, but I doubt if extreme heat would have been allowed for.

    It seems to me that it would be misleading to claim that the steel caused the sinking as claimed by a few unscrupulous newspapers looking for a headline. However, the choice of steel was one of a large number of factors that if used optimally (which it rarely is in practice) could have prevented as many deaths. That's one of the benefits of hindsight, although those near the top of this list seem rather obvious. These include:

    the number of lifeboats available,
    inappropriate evacuation procedures resulting in slow and partial fill of lifeboats
    speed of ship before sighting iceberg
    design of the water tight compartments
    calm conditions on the night making iceberg difficult to see
    unusual ice flows for the time of year
    overconfidence of senior crew
    failure of nearby ship to come to the rescue
    slowness to accept the ship would sink
    limited attempts at ship damage control
    an ongoing fire which could have weakened bulkhead
    less than ideal materials used (even though they met safety standards)
  20. Kyle Naber

    Kyle Naber Member

    While we're talking about flooding and bulkheads, what you you think about the new "evidence" of the coal bunker fire being more serious than we thought it was and actually caused the Titanic to sink much faster than it should have? I just watched the documentary last evening.