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A New Theory for Why the Titanic Sank

History By
The ?1,500,000 luxury White Star liner 'Titanic', which sank on its maiden voyage to America in 1912, seen here on trials in Belfast Lough.
The Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage to America in 1912, seen here on trials in Belfast Lough. (Getty Images)


Why does the Titanic continue to have such a hold on our imagination? It’s now been over 100 years since it went on its first and final voyage in 1912. (And it’s been almost 20 years since the James Cameron film, which remains the second biggest box office hit worldwide ever.) While the loss of life was massive—over 1,500 died—there have since been larger maritime disasters. Yet this one is unique, largely because the sinking seemed unimaginable. Indeed, we’re still debating how it sunk to this very day. And one Titanic expert has a brand-new theory, which is gaining steam.

Senan Molony has asserted that the key to the sinking of the Titanic was, in fact, a fire in its hull. (Molony attributes the sinking to a “perfect storm of extraordinary factors coming together: fire, ice, and criminal negligence.”)

Molony bases his theory on recently discovered photos that showed black marks on the Titanic even before its official launch, suggesting it had been damaged by a fire. As a result, the seemingly unsinkable vessel was surprisingly vulnerable. (Say, to an iceberg.) He also theorizes that, knowing the boat’s structure was weakened, the crew may have been panicky and rushing to get to their destination as quickly as possible. They did this even in an ice field, leading to what the newspaper parody The Onion referenced decades later in the ingenious headline: “World’s Largest Metaphor Hits Ice-Berg.”

Of course, Molony’s new theory is rejected by many other experts, who insist you can still lay the vast majority of blame on the luxury liner hitting that iceberg. Decide for yourself by watching the program he made for England’s Channel 4. See the trailer for it below and get a new perspective on this legendary disaster.