History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s05e12 Episode Script

The Sinking of the Titanic

Tonight, one of the most
legendary disasters in history.
When we talk about Titanic,
we're talking about the largest
manmade moving
object of her time.
Literally hundreds of
people shouting for help
in the water in the darkness.
Questions persist around
what really happened
that fateful night and why.
Was it just the iceberg
or did other things
happen that led to it?
Whose decision was
it to travel faster?
Titanic did suffer
a large bunker fire
that began in Belfast.
Now we explore the top theories
behind this iconic
ship's tragic end.
They're basically looking
for a shadow in the dark.
No one knew that
these photos existed,
but they may reveal
something about Titanic
that we never knew before.
Can new evidence
reveal more about how
and why the Titanic sank?
On April 10th, 1912,
the Titanic set sail from the
English port of Southampton
on its maiden
voyage to New York.
This is the golden
age of ship travel
and Titanic is the
era's crown jewel.
Titanic, to put
it lightly, massive.
It's as long as
four city blocks.
It is 17 stories tall.
It is as wide as a
four-lane highway.
She is a hundred feet longer
and thousands of tons heavier
than any ship ever built
On board,
Titanic is carrying
just over 2200 people,
1,316 passengers,
and 885 crew members.
If you're a first
class passenger,
you had access to things like
a squash court, ballrooms,
Turkish bath.
This is the ship
that has a first ever
swimming pool aboard it,
four different restaurants,
everything ranging from a
Parisian cafe to a dining saloon
that could hold about
500 people in it.
As passengers walk on board,
they're greeted with a
large grand staircase,
which would be something one
would see in a great hotel
rather than onboard a ship.
Second and third
class passengers
don't have as much
access to these amenities
as first class does.
However, there is running
water in every single cabin
in the ship, which
is a huge luxury.
But it's
below the passenger decks
where we find the Titanic's
technological wonders.
The Titanic is full of
advanced technological features
from 30-foot tall steam engines
that power the propellers
to advanced safety features
including remote controlled
watertight compartments.
If the ship had a collision,
the watertight doors
could be closed
and only that compartment
would fill with water.
The other compartments
would be safe
and the ship would
continue to float.
Titanic also has
a very modern thing,
which is a wireless set
so she can communicate
several hundred miles
with other ships
and also to land.
This was really the beginning
of the modern radio.
The ship is
so technologically advanced
that its owner and operator,
the White Star Line
is confident enough
to make a bold claim.
The Titanic, the
unsinkable ship,
God himself will not be
able to sink this ship.
On the evening of April 14th,
the Titanic is cruising
through the North Atlantic,
about two and a half
days away from New York.
The sea was completely
calm like a mirror.
The stars were setting
right down to the horizon.
In fact, some of
the passengers said
that they could see
the stars reflected
on the surface of the water.
just before 11:40 PM
something ominous
emerges from the dark.
Titanic's lookouts are
staring ahead at the calm ocean
and then they
notice a dark object
coming out of the
haze in front of them
and they ring the
bell three times
to indicate to the bridge
there's an object dead ahead.
In charge of Titanic that
night is First Officer Murdoch.
He is the first
officer on the bridge
also staring ahead
with his binoculars.
As soon as they hear the
warning of the bells,
Murdoch gives the order harder
starboard to turn the ship
to the left hand side
and immediately Titanic
slowly starts to turn.
And then just 37 seconds
after the iceberg
is first spotted,
Titanic makes contact.
She misses the berg that
she can see above the surface,
but unfortunately a spur
of the berg under the water
scrapes along Titanic's hull.
The impact of the iceberg
is in fact so slight
that most passengers
sleep through it
and some who were already awake
just regard it as a small bump.
But it's much
more than a small bump.
Immediately Murdoch knows
he had hit an iceberg.
He orders the watertight
compartments to be sealed
and the watertight
doors to be lowered.
But the water
continues to pour into the ship
and five minutes later,
Titanic's engines shut down.
At 12:05, 25 minutes
after hitting the iceberg,
Captain Smith orders
the first lifeboats
to be prepared for launch.
They're very well aware
that they do not have enough
lifeboats for everyone
and there had been
no lifeboat drills.
There was no way to really
get the proper information out
to the passengers in a way
that would facilitate a
orderly evacuation of the ship
without incurring panic.
Here you are in the
middle of the ocean.
It's freezing cold out.
You're on this enormous ship.
You gotta have a leap of faith
to get in a very small boat
and leave that ship.
People are scrambling
and panicking all
across the deck
as the final lifeboat
is about to depart.
They're realizing that there
is no other means of escape
at this point.
The bow is now moved deeper
and deeper into the water
and slowly we begin
to see the stern
or the back of the ship
come up out of the water.
At about 2:18 AM
the front of the ship,
because it's full
of so much water
is dipping in
underneath the surface.
The pressure of all the
water from the front
mixed with the weight of
the propellers in the back
causes the ship to snap in half.
After Titanic breaks in half,
her stern comes right up
into almost vertical position
and then slowly slips
beneath the waves.
On the surface there is panic.
There are lifeboats
rowing away from the scene
to avoid suction and now
there are 1,500 people
in the water in the darkness.
Rescue ship Carpathia
reaches Titanic's coordinates
at 3:30 AM only to
miss the sinking ship
by a little more than an hour.
They rescue 706 survivors
from the lifeboats.
Two thirds of Titanic's
passengers and crew are gone.
News of the sinking makes
headlines around the world.
There's no doubt that
the ship struck an iceberg.
What everyone wants to know
is how this seemingly unsinkable
ship could suddenly sink
beneath the Atlantic
within three short hours.
Within days of the tragedy,
the US Senate launches an
inquiry to answer that question.
A parallel investigation soon
follows in Great Britain.
Both investigations
are looking at one potential
contributing factor
to the sinking of Titanic,
which is the speed at which
the boat was traveling.
The Titanic's
projected rate of speed
for the voyage was 18 knots.
Yet the inquiry finds that
it entered the iceberg field
operating at 23 knots,
which then leads
to the question,
whose decision was
it to travel faster?
Captains often do something
that's called banking time,
which means when
conditions are good,
they'll travel faster
so they can either
arrive ahead of schedule
or be ahead of schedule in
case of inclement weather
that might make them slow
down and use more caution.
Until Sunday night, Titanic
was ahead of schedule.
They had no problem with
weather, no problem with fog.
The ocean was calm, everything
was going their way.
these perfect conditions,
Titanic received six messages
from other ships warning
of icebergs ahead.
But despite all of
these warnings, again,
'cause it was nice weather,
because the ocean
ocean was calm,
Titanic decided to just
steam straight ahead
at the same speed that
they were maintaining
for the majority of the trip.
As investigators question
why the Titanic didn't
avoid the iceberg,
one answer seems to be speed.
Soon the managing director
of the White Star Line,
Bruce Ismay, finds
himself under scrutiny.
Ismay was a passenger on
the Titanic and survived.
Ismay is this incredibly wealthy
and influential businessman
that wants to dominate
in the shipping
market in England,
and so that's why
he builds Titanic.
The problem with Ismay
is that he's also
incredibly ambitious.
One of the things that
comes out in the inquiry
is that one of the
first class passengers
actually overheard Bruce
Ismay urging Captain Smith
to put on all possible boilers
to arrive in New
York a day early.
Ismay also boasted to the
first class passengers
that they were planning on
arriving in New York a day early
to make a big splash.
When it's
Ismay's turn to testify,
he insists that he never
specifically ordered
Captain Smith
to speed up.
Ismay's response to these claims
is that he sees no reason
why commander should
not go full speed
provided he can see ice
in time to avoid it.
Public sentiment is not
very kind towards Ismay
for that statement,
but it's also not
kind towards him
because it's later found out
that he jumped into a lifeboat
and left women and
children behind on the deck
of the Titanic as it sank.
This caused the public
really to blame Bruce Ismay
for the excessive
speed of the Titanic.
Ismay himself did actually say
that he regretted surviving
the Titanic disaster.
The Senate
investigation concluded
that Captain Smith was
moving at high speeds
through the ice fields
and that was a
contributing factor
to the sinking of the ship.
The British inquiry thought
that this was merely
a freak accident
that captains can maneuver
ships all the time at full speed
through ice fields
after ice warnings.
And so Ismay and the captain
were essentially absolved
of any guilt.
But as historians study
Titanic more and more,
they start to notice that there
might be more to the story
than what originally appears.
Despite all the
factors from the inquiry
and what historians and
archaeologists have studied
over the years, the
question still remains,
if the ship was that
massive, and that unsinkable,
and that technologically
could an iceberg really
be the root cause
of the ship sinking?
Both the
US and British inquiries
blamed the Titanic's sinking
on the ship's high speed
in the face of numerous
iceberg warnings.
Even so, questions remain.
The night of the 14th of
April, 1912 is totally clear.
The water is calm,
the stars are bright.
The stars are even setting
down to the horizon.
But in this area,
even perfectly clear
weather can be deadly.
There's no moon up at the time.
The moon phase was such that
it was coming up much later
in the morning and so it's dark.
It was very dark.
The meteorological
records of the time
and also from log books of
other ships in the area show us
the Titanic sank in this very
cold part of the Atlantic
called the Labrador current.
The Labrador current
carries icebergs
that originate in Baffin Bay
and then they come all the
way around Newfoundland
and then they come down
what's known as Iceberg Alley,
where they then mix into
the much warmer Gulf Stream
and it's sending these
really large bergs deep
into the North Atlantic.
The last few winters
had been fairly mild
and this actually
creates more icebergs
'cause there's melting
and there's fractures
and the ice falls
off these ice sheets
and falls into the ocean.
The tip of the iceberg that
you can see above the water
is a small fraction of
this enormous block of ice
that's huge like a
sail under the water
and it's being dragged along
by the Labrador current
and it's bringing these enormous
icebergs much further south
than normal into
the Gulf Stream.
Normally in a typical year,
you'd see around 125
icebergs in this area,
but in 1912, specifically
around April of 1912,
they saw around 400 icebergs,
which was the most that they
had seen in about 50 years.
Seven minutes of
steaming time beyond
where Titanic collided,
there is a barrier of ice
that's three miles wide
and 30 miles long,
and in fact, this barrier
of field ice is suppressing
the swell in the North Atlantic
and it's cutting off the waves.
It's extremely rare
to have conditions
that calm on the North Atlantic.
Normally where you have ice
mixing with the warmer water
of the Gulf Stream,
you get fogs.
But that night they had an area
of very, very high pressure
and that was keeping
the air crystal clear.
The night is almost too clear
and that makes the
crew very wary.
Reginald Lee, who was
on the crow's nest said,
"A clear starry night overhead,
but at the time of the accident
there was a haze extending
more or less round the horizon.
It was a dark mass that
came through that haze."
The iceberg that
sinks the Titanic
is pretty large in scale.
It's 50 to a hundred feet
tall and 400 feet long.
So you would think
seeing this object,
you would notice it
coming from miles away.
So what happened that night
that the crew almost
missed it entirely?
Early in the evening,
the officer of the ship
starts to realize
that we have dropping
both seawater temperatures
and air temperatures,
and this suggests
the presence of ice.
You can't see it perhaps,
but you know it's out there.
The electric lights on the
Titanic started forming frost
on the outside of them,
so they started to look like
little ice crystals basically,
that's how cold it
had suddenly gotten.
As the ship is approaching ice,
we're getting the
situation where we're,
we have a separation
of layers of air
and so near the surface of
the water, near the ice,
the air is rather cold,
warmer air rises above and
you get a layered effect
and then you do get some
flow of air between them.
When you have cold
air and warm air meet,
it forms a kind of lens,
and that lens, what it can do
is it can bend light around it
and create images that
might not actually be there.
It was behaving in the
opposite way to a desert mirage.
In a desert, you have
a very hot surface
and the light actually
bends slightly upwards
and that brings the
sky onto the ground
and that's why people
in the desert think,
oh, there's water over there,
when there actually isn't.
But the Titanic was
so cold where it sank
that in fact the light
was bending downwards
around the curvature
of the earth
and this was raising
the horizon upwards,
which appeared as a haze
all around the horizon
caused by the molecular
scattering of light
and the depth of air
that you can see through.
This haze, sometimes it's
referred to as the fata bromosa,
a fairy fog.
If you've ever been fishing on
a lake early in the morning,
you're gonna see a haze
across the top of the water.
Most of us think of
mirage as a false image
and it's not a false image,
it was just a hindrance
to seeing the iceberg.
The haze around the
horizon was the same color
as the berg,
so instead of seeing
the white iceberg
against the dark night,
they're seeing the white
iceberg against a white mist.
Captain Smith is well
aware of the situation.
At one point before he retires,
he mentions to the officers
that if any haze
was observed at all,
no matter how slight,
he should be awakened.
That never happened.
Adding to
the confusion that night,
the lookouts weren't
using binoculars.
There were binoculars
on the Titanic,
they were stashed
away in a locker.
Problem was the one crew
member that had the key
to the locker had been
reassigned to another ship
at the last minute so no
one could access the locker,
open it up and get ahold
of those binoculars.
Had they had the binoculars,
it is possible that
that magnification
could have been used
to cut through that
optical illusion
and had them see the iceberg
far enough in advance
so that they could have
made their way around.
But not everyone agrees
that binoculars would've helped.
Binoculars were for
inspecting an object
that you'd already detected
and in fact the best
way to spot ice at night
is with the naked eye
because it gives you a
broad field of vision.
The officers had
binoculars, by the way,
because their job was to inspect
what the lookouts detected,
so at the detection end
you don't need binoculars.
Had Titanic's lookouts
had binoculars,
it would've narrowed
their field of vision
and they may have picked
up the iceberg later.
In 1909, construction
begins on the Titanic
in Belfast, Ireland.
It's designed to be not
only the most lavish ship
on the seas, but
one of the safest.
Titanic's construction
starts in 1909
and its design specifically
had safety features
that were new and innovative
for the time period,
which really led to the
media calling her unsinkable.
Titanic's builders and her owner
boast on the maiden voyage
that Titanic can
be sliced crosswise
into three separate pieces
and each individual piece
will float.
Part of the design of
the Titanic was to allow it
to be a massive lifeboat in
the event that damage occurred,
they could shut the
four compartments
or however many compartments
had been punctured
and eventually the passengers
could be rescued
within that time.
However, historians contend
that there was one small mistake
with the design of the ship.
Titanic is a massive
800-foot-plus long ship
separated by steel walls
known as bulkheads.
Those walls separated the
watertight compartments
in the ship by which there
were 16, close to double
the number of water
tank compartments
or compartments that you'd
see in your typical ship.
If you've ever walked
through a submarine,
you have a door that
you have to hunker down
and walk through and then
they can close that door.
That's a bulkhead.
The same type of bulkhead
that was on Titanic.
The bulkhead has two purposes.
One, to contain any water
that might make it into the
ship in case of a puncture
and to actually
strengthen the hull.
It's engineered
such that if the ship
were to be hit in one of
those watertight compartments,
they could close the
doors on either side of it
and only that compartment
will fill with water.
Worst case scenario, if it
hits on a bulkhead wall,
it would fill two
watertight compartments.
Titanic is so special
that if any of the first
four watertight compartments
or all four are compromised,
the ship would still float.
But there's
one critical weakness
in the design.
Titanic's watertight
bulkheads were not carried
all the way up and they were
not capped by a watertight deck
because that would've interfered
with crew and passengers being
able to move about the ship
and also it would've
interfered with cargo loading.
They didn't want
to ruin the design
and the experience
for the passengers
by placing the bulkhead
walls all the way up
through the deck,
that means that at any point
if one compartment floods
and it goes above the waterline
and above the bulkhead,
it can flow into the
next compartment.
On the night
of April 14th, 1912,
the bulkheads are
put to the test.
Titanic hits the iceberg,
it scrapes across the right
side of the ship, opens it up,
water starts rushing into
the front compartments.
The watertight doors are shut,
but water starts flowing
into the other compartments
that are not protected
by those bulkheads.
The squash courts,
the mail room,
and even the boiler rooms
are starting to
fill up with water.
There is water pouring
in the side of the ship
and Thomas Andrews,
the ship's designer,
goes down and sees all
the water coming in.
Because of Andrew's
familiarity with the Titanic,
he's able to tell from
the moment of impact
until that moment how much
water has come into the ship.
He's able to take
that water flow rate
and calculate how
long it will take
to fill the four bulkheads
and then he notices
that it's in watertight
compartment number five,
and that the pumps
aren't handling it.
That's when he comes
to the conclusion
that the ship is
going to founder.
According to survivors,
approximately 45 minutes
after the collision,
Andrews informs the captain
that the first five
compartments are now flooded.
The captain and the
designer then proceed down
to the engine room to
talk to the chief engineer
to try to figure out what can
be done and what can be saved.
As water flowed into the
forward compartments of Titanic
that were damaged
by the iceberg,
this weight of water
caused the bow to dip down.
And of course,
because the bulkheads didn't
have a watertight deck
on the top,
it meant that water spilled
over from one bulkhead
into the next, into the next,
rather like an ice cube tray.
The weight of the
water is forcing the bow
of the ship down and
the ship begins to tilt.
Passengers begin to feel it
and as the weight gets heavier
and heavier, that
angle increases.
Now the heaviest parts of
the ship are the two engines
in the rear.
So you have a large
heavy concentration here
due to the engines,
but you have a large
heavy concentration here
due to the water.
And so basically you
have an issue of weight
and displacement and eventually
the ship can't fight it anymore.
Some argue that the Titanic
would've been better off
with no bulkheads at all.
The ship builders believed
that they had
thought of everything
when building the Titanic,
but they were sadly mistaken.
What they didn't anticipate
was that an iceberg collision
could scrape along the side
of the ship and cause damage
in six compartments.
They were imagining it
might be a head-on collision
or a puncture.
This design feature
ends up being the problem
because with all of this water
that's seeping into the front
because it's got
nowhere else to go
because it's being sealed off,
this causes the front
of the ship to dip
below the water line
and ultimately sink.
Had there not been any
bulkhead walls there,
the dispersion of water
might've been much more even
because it wasn't going
from adjacent compartment
to adjacent compartment, it
would've taken longer to sink,
which meant more people
could have been saved.
That design was a catastrophe
waiting to happen.
The Titanic's tragic story
captures the imagination
of the public and
experts of all kinds,
who still seek answers about
how and why the ship sunk
decades after its demise.
In 1985, more than 70
years after the tragedy,
explorer Bob Ballard makes
the discovery of a lifetime,
the remains of the Titanic
two and a half miles
down on the floor
of the Atlantic Ocean.
So Ballard's find
begins a whole new era
in the story of the Titanic,
and allows us for the first time
to try to understand
what really happened.
Other explorations
head down to the ship
and they end up bringing
up about 5,000 artifacts
for scientific exploration.
Expeditions in the late
nineties brought back
a lot of material
including steel and rivets.
I was lucky enough to be able
to examine those materials
along with my colleague
Dr. Tim Foecke
at the National Institute
of Standards and Technology.
In their book "What
Really Sank the Titanic,"
they posed their theory
as to what they believe
actually led to the Titanic
sinking as rapidly as it did.
Titanic's hull is built like
a patchwork quilt of steel
where you have big steel plates
and these are stitched
together by metal rivets.
A rivet is essentially
a two-headed nail,
so plates would be placed
together with pre-punched holes
and a rivet would be
passed through that hole
and then hammered on
each end to create a head
and effectively a
watertight seal.
The Titanic's
hull is held together
by 3 million six-inch long
These are traditionally
made of steel.
As Foecke and Hooper
examine Titanic's rivets
under a microscope, they
make a stunning discovery.
Titanic was built using
two types of rivets,
wrought iron and steel.
Steel was used in
the middle section.
That makes sense because
the center section
of the Titanic is going to
feel the highest stresses
during its voyage.
In the bow and the stern,
they used wrought iron rivets
and when we think
about the collision
what's important
is understanding how
and where it happened.
It happened in
the starboard side,
low on the hull of the ship
but across the bow and six
compartments all in an area
that was wrought iron rivets.
Wrought iron traditionally
is a much softer metal
than steel, not to
mention in these rivets
they also find a high percentage
of what's called slag.
Slag is a byproduct of
how we create wrought iron
and it helps to mix and remove
impurities from the iron
when it's created.
In traditional wrought
iron that's used
for ship building, bridges,
fire escapes, the Eiffel Tower,
this material has
about 2 to 3% slag.
On Titanic, the wrought
iron had 9% on average
up to 12%, which is
three to four times
what you would normally see.
It can create weakness
exactly in the places
where you need it to be
holding the ship together.
So why would
the builders of the Titanic
use rivets made of impure irons
that might not be as strong?
There was a lot of stress
and there was a lot of pressure
to complete the
Titanic on schedule.
In order to do that, they had
to find ways to source iron
and steel as rapidly
as they could.
In 1901, they stopped
requiring testing of iron
for ship building.
Iron was easy to source,
faster to source,
and they knew that they
could rivet it up quickly.
So the rivet itself
is half the tale.
The second half of the tale
is how many rivets are used.
The more rivets you put,
the more effective
that joint strength is
to the strength
of the steel plate
that it's trying to connect.
In the places up forward
where damage was observed,
there are less rows of rivets,
so right off the bat you have
a weaker joint to begin with.
Add to that, now you have these
potentially weakened rivets
or poorly manufactured rivets
and you have a place
where the seams may fail
with less force than
might have been expected.
The wrought iron material on
Titanic under the microscope
has particles of slag
that, in some cases,
are so small you can't see
them with the naked eye.
So when we think
about the disaster
and the role that
materials played
in one of the most
famous ship sinkings,
we're literally talking about
microscopically small material
that could have taken down a
ship that was 800 feet long.
These findings
lead the two scientists
to a new realization.
During the collision
with the iceberg
as it hit the starboard side,
it's hitting and straining
sections of the ship
where there's
wrought iron rivets.
The rivet's already
under a lot of strain
because it's holding
those plates together,
so it doesn't need
much for the iceberg
to begin that glancing blow
that then causes one head to pop
and then the rivets next to it
are holding more of those plates
and then they begin to pop.
So you can imagine
a series of rivets
whose heads are popping almost
like the opening of a zipper
along the side of the ship.
When we did computer modeling
to look at how steel rivets
perform versus wrought iron,
we saw the steel could
withstand five times the stress
before it would pop.
So the question that comes
out of this understanding
is were these weakened rivets
potentially part of the failure,
part of the sinking story?
It's possible they were.
After countless
expeditions to the wreck,
scientists think they
know what contributed
to the Titanic disaster.
Then in 2012, an
unexpected treasure
is found hidden in
an English attic.
A bunch of old photos are found,
many of which are
of the ship Titanic
during the last days
of its construction.
These photos were taken by
a man named John Kempster
who was the chief electrical
engineer at the shipyard
where Titanic was being built.
No one knew that
these photos existed,
but after looking at them
it may reveal
something about Titanic
that we never knew before.
The photos are sold at auction,
but before that, Irish
journalist, Senan Malony,
is able to study them in detail.
There's some discoloration
on the exterior hull
of the ship in and
around the area
in which the damage occurs
that causes the
sinking of the Titanic.
At first, he just assumes
that it's maybe like a
reflection off of the water,
but in other photos
he starts to see
the same black streak appear
and he thinks this might
possibly be the culprit.
At the time of the
Titanic's sailing,
oil had not yet become
a fuel of choice.
Coal in the form of coal
bunkers were how we stored
the chemical energy to drive
the ship through the water.
Titanic carries
6,600 tons of coal
in these 30-foot-high bunkers
that sit next to
the hull of the ship
as well as the
interior bulkhead.
Coal is shoveled into
these gigantic boilers
of which there are 29
of them aboard the ship
and they're thrown in
there by these stokers.
In April, 1912,
when Titanic set sail
on her maiden voyage,
there was a coal strike
and so coal had
been transshipped
from a number of other vessels.
Titanic stoker, John
Dilley, survives the accident
and afterwards he
tells a report of it.
Even before Titanic set sail,
a coal fire had started
in one of the bunkers
and it continued to smolder
and continued to be ablaze
even after the Titanic
took off for sea.
Every boiler front and
furnace was very accessible
to the local supply of coal.
This place, these
coal bunkers adjacent
to this watertight bulkhead
and so that becomes a
concern when the fire begins.
Malony theorizes
that the black streak
on the side of the ship
is because of an uncontrollable
fire in the coal bunkers.
Maybe this burning fire
could have damaged the steel
of either the hull
or the adjacent
watertight bulkhead
that separated boiler room
six from boiler room five.
And if that's the case,
perhaps a failure of either of
those two structural elements
could have contributed, if not
caused, the ultimate sinking
of the Titanic.
Records show the Titanic's coal
had been loaded into the bunkers
three weeks before she set sail.
Malony believes it's possible
that's when the fire started.
One kernel of coal can heat up
and because it's trapped within
these giant 30-foot bunkers,
it can smolder for
quite some time
before being detected,
which could ultimately lead
to it starting and spreading
a much larger fire.
From the bowels of the ship
right at the very
bottom of the ship,
there's no place to
dump coal overboard.
There's no place to just
dump it into the water.
The stokers on the ship
are left with only one choice.
Bunker fires in ships
can be very dangerous
because the coal
burns very, very hot
so that if you
play a hose on it,
it just evaporates the water.
So the best way to extinguish
a bunker fire on a ship
is by raking out the coal
and putting it on the boiler.
It took Titanic's firemen
four days to rake out
all the burning coal before the
fire was fully extinguished.
With the coal bunker empty,
the crew can see the damage
caused by the coal fire.
A stoker tells investigators,
after the sinking,
that one of the bulkhead
walls was red hot at the time.
It is possible that
that amount of heat
could have very well
discolored the metal wall
within the ship, which
leads to that black mark
that Malony saw in those photos.
Other stokers talked
about seeing that steel
of the bulkhead being red hot.
Steel when it achieves
a certain temperature
can change phase.
It changes its form
and can become brittle.
Malony's theory
is that this fire-
damaged bulkhead
is the key to the
sinking of the Titanic.
In the bulkhead wall
that's been damaged
by the coal bunker fire,
we now have the final two
compartments that flood
as a result of the collision.
So you can imagine that the
stress caused by oncoming water
and the flooding of
water as it gushes
through the starboard side,
maybe the bulkhead wall was
already weakened or embrittled
because of that coal bunker fire
and may have failed
sooner than expected.
But why would the
Titanic have knowingly set sail
with an ongoing coal fire?
Malony suggests
that the ship set sail
because the White Star Line
was already receiving bad press
due to the fact that
the maiden voyage
had been delayed by
about three weeks.
Not everyone
believes the coal fire
was burning hot enough to
cause any structural damage.
If Malony's coal
fire theory is true,
the damage to the interior
watertight bulkhead
should have caused the
water pressing against it
to damage the
structural integrity
and the bulkhead would've
collapsed right away.
But we know due to
testimony of the crew
that the bulkhead did not
give way for over two hours.
The coal bunker
fire on the Titanic
was located directly under
the first class swimming pool.
If the fire had reached
1800 degrees Fahrenheit,
the passengers on that deck
would have definitely
felt that temperature.
In addition, the stokers,
the people working
around the engines
that were coming in
and out of that room
would've needed protective
gear to get that close.
It's just hard to imagine that
it would have gotten that hot
and we wouldn't have
seen or heard anything
from the passengers on the ship.
So maybe if coal
was burning that hot,
it could have
damaged the bulkhead
and it could have
compromised the ship,
thus leading to its sinking.
But at the end of the day,
regardless of damaged
bulkhead or not,
when the Titanic hit that
iceberg, its fate was sealed.
The question of
what really caused the Titanic
to sink after the
iceberg collision
has been asked since the day
the infamous ship went down.
By the time the Carpathia
pulls into New York,
the press are waiting,
the public's waiting,
the politicians are waiting.
How could something so
grand, something so large,
the pinnacle of technology
of our day disappear
in two and a half hours
and with 700 people
surviving out of 2,200?
This is hard to imagine.
People want answers.
From excess
speed, to structural flaws,
to a secret fire,
if any one of those was managed,
could the tragedy
have been prevented?
When disasters like the
Titanic sinking occur,
we often want to point
blame at one person,
one specific factor.
Could it have
just been one thing
or was it a perfect storm of
multiple different factors
that contributed to
this sinking event of
epic proportions?
There were many mistakes
that could have
easily been avoided,
everything ranging from high
speeds, to structural issues,
to a secret fire, just
layer upon layer of issues
that compounded on
top of each other.
Like almost any accident.
There is a cascade of
events or situations
that occurred to
bring us to the point
where the failure occurs.
It's not one thing that causes
it, but a series of things.
One analogy might be if you
throw a rock down a mountain,
you might be able
to stop the rock,
but once it becomes an
avalanche, it's game over.
It took decisions,
it took flawed material,
it took bad environmental
conditions, mother nature,
to bring all these things
together in one place
and cause an accident.
This was a perfect
combination of many events
all happening at the same
time at the very same place.
More than 110 years later,
all the theories and
evolving evidence
haven't dampened the
passionate curiosity
surrounding the
Titanic's demise.
People are still
fascinated by it.
When you think of all the people
on Titanic, rich and poor,
and crew and passengers,
it's a bit like a
microcosm of humanity.
And then the iceberg
lurking in the darkness
almost represents the
awesome power of nature
and the universe.
So really, the story
of the Titanic
speaks to the human condition.
There's probably more
down there than we realize.
As a disaster it leaves
us wanting to know more.
Carpathia rushed to
the scene, saved 712,
and it's those people we
have to remember today.
The 1496 who did not survive
all still have stories to tell.
Titanic is always gonna
be one of those instances
that is constantly studied,
constantly picked over.
As technology
continues to improve
and advance,
who knows what new discoveries
we might make about Titanic
as it sits at the bottom
of the Atlantic Ocean?
And ultimately we might end
up finding the real reason
why Titanic sank to the bottom
of the ocean so quickly.
If the wreckage could be raised,
we might answer more
lingering questions
about the Titanic's final hours.
Until then, so much
remains a mystery.
And with Titanic's hull
predicted to collapse
by the year 2030, battered
by deep sea currents
and consumed by bacteria,
the last secrets of
this notorious ship
may soon be buried forever.
I'm Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History's Greatest Mysteries."
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