After striking an iceberg south of Newfoundland, the Titanic went down in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. Now, a new book has claimed that the ship sunk because of a little-known rule that insisted all ships turn right to avoid a collision – sending her straight towards a wall of ice.
Journalist Senan Molony, who has been researching the disaster for 30 years, believes there is much more to it than this with a fire in a coalbunker, a shortage of fuel and the decision to turn right to avoid an iceberg all among the reasons for its sinking.
In his new book, Titanic: Why She Collided, Why She Sank and Why She Should Have Never Sailed, Senan Molony reveals new information that suggests the decision to turn the vessel right to avoid a collision with an iceberg one of the crucial reasons it sank. The book is out now.
The journalist claims that a little-known shipping rule, that ships should always turn right (starboard) when faced with an oncoming vessel, meant a crash could avoided – just like when applied by pedestrians, two people walking towards each other on a busy pavement would not collide. But the rule, introduced for ships in the 1850s, did not work for icebergs, he claims – with the crew of The Titanic deciding to obey it nonetheless.
Mr Molony said, “Yet icebergs don’t observe the rules of the road. They can present in any form. And if one is encountered in the dark, with only the forepart of an obstruction initially visible, it cannot be assumed the body or load is all to the rear. It may be floating side-on, and if so, how can those on board the ship know to which side deadly length may extend? To the left or right? To port or to starboard?”
He added, “Yet doing so in this case would be fatal with the berg drawn by Scarrott, because he demonstrated that its mass extended in that direction.”
The writer continued saying, “The international maritime ‘Rules of the Road’, which sought to take the gamble out of collision avoidance, ordained that everyone in imminent danger of head-on accident must avoid to the right, even if the object ahead could not be identified. If the obstruction proved to be under governed power of human hand, it would make a reciprocal turn. If not, the manoeuvre would still hopefully result in the evasion of a static object. Only if the obstruction had extreme length to the right, would the dangerous situation clearly become much worse instead of being relieved, as became the case with the Titanic.”
In his book, he wrote, “’In this version of events, the Titanic does the correct thing, which happens to be a terrible mistake. It is posited that she followed good seamanship, obeyed the stricture and applied standard procedure to avoid head-on collision. It then becomes unfortunate, in these circumstances, that age-old practice was an active menace because of how the berg presented itself.”
He added, “Had the Titanic chosen straight away to move to port, they would surely have escaped. But they would have been breaking an ingrained rule. It bears repeating that standard operating procedure, when faced with an object dead ahead, was to go to starboard. Not to port.”
Speaking about the fire in a coalbunker, he said, “That fire critically weakened its forward wall which happened to be the Titanic’s furthermost rampart of defence against any flooding influx. Then, when she struck her berg, all hell was let loose. The fire-affected bulkhead had lost three-quarters of its strength because of the fire’s high temperature altering the chemical composition of its steel. It had also been robbed of the bolstering banks of coal either side – dug out and thrown into the furnaces in a race to extinguish that fire – so that it became a flimsy ribbon against the flood.”