The Titanic never sank, claims one of the foremost –among the many– conspiracy theories about major world events. Almost a century after the naval tragedy, the far-fetched proposition presents the argument that the historic ship never sank and instead its sister ocean liner was wrecked in its place.
However, the fact remains that a ship did sink in the cold waters of the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912, and about 1,500 passengers lost their lives in the shipwreck.
Every conspiracy theory includes a villain, or villains, and in the case of the Titanic theory it was mega-banker J.P. Morgan and his associates.
And according to this theory, the White Star Line swapped ships for the voyage from Southampton to New York, putting the older Olympic ocean liner in the place of the brand new Titanic.
The theorists claim that the purpose of the evil machination was simply an insurance scam to claim compensation, along with the fear that the company would lose credibility if its flagship sank on its maiden voyage.
War of the big ships
In the early 20th century there was a war going on between the big passenger ship lines, with White Star Line and the Cunard Steamship Company — both British — being arch rivals.
The Cunard flagships were Lusitania and Mauretania, both faster than the existing White Star Line ships prior to the Titanic.
In 1902, financier J.P Morgan bankrolled the White Star Line, putting the company’s chairman J. Bruce Ismay on a path to build luxury ships, to be known as Olympic-class ships.
They would have to be bigger, faster and more expensively-built. They were the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Britannic.
The lead ship was the Olympic, the first to be built. Its first few voyages were very successful. However, on its fifth voyage, the vessel ran into serious trouble.
Trouble with the Olympic ocean liner
On September 20, 1911 the Olympic collided with the HMS Hawke just off the coast of the Isle of Wight.
The Olympic made an unexpected turn and the two ships crashed. The Olympic was able to limp back to port, suffering major damage. A trial would later hold the White Star Line responsible for the incident.
Serious problems then ensued for the ship’s owners, White Star Line.
First, they could not claim back insurance money for the damage to the ship from the incident as the Olympic was responsible for the collision.
Second, the maiden voyage of the Titanic would have to be delayed from March 20 to April 10. That meant they would not have money to pay the bills, plus they would have the cost of repairing the Olympic.
Third, the British White Star Line was losing revenue, also losing face to main competitor, the Cunard Steamship Company, Ltd.
So, the owners had to plan a way to get some compensation for the ship, according to the far-fetched theory that the actual Titanic never sank.
The conspiracy plot behind the Titanic shipwreck
The White Star Line had to come up with a way to claim back the revenue lost due to the Olympic incident.
According to the conspiracy theory, the company would switch the name of the wrecked Olympic to the newly-built Titanic, while the Olympic would be presented as the Titanic.
This meant that the true Olympic should travel as the Titanic and be made to wreck so that the White Star Line could collect an insurance payment befitting a brand new ship.
In order for the Olympic to look exactly like the newer Titanic, work should be done. The floors should be covered with carpet, as the Olympic had tile floors dirtied with spilled drinks and footprints.
Other parts of the ship would have been changed, like removing the cabins on ‘B’ Deck from the actual Titanic and replacing them with the Olympics’ promenade to make the switch more believable.
However, the ‘C’ deck portholes of the Olympic could not be changed to look like the Titanic’s. The former ship’s were unevenly spaced while the Titanic’s were even, an argument giving more credit to the theory that the Titanic never sank.
Shipbuilders and seamen blackmailed
The switching of the two ships was not a task to pass unnoticed, according to the theory. People who had built the Titanic and seamen who had sailed with the Olympic would be the first to tell the difference and expose the switch.
Over the years people who had worked in the shipyard Harland and Wolff in Belfast knew that the two ships were in fact swapped and if they told anyone, White Star Line told them it would be the last job that they ever did, the theorists claim.
Obviously, those people would have kept quiet about the theory that the Titanic never sank because they had families to feed, the theory goes.
This is a convenient presumption that is used as fact and cannot be proven.
On July 31, 1996 a man in Australia sent a letter to the Northern Star newspaper relating a conversation between his son and an Irish man who worked on building the Titanic.
This is an excerpt from the letter: “When the surviving crew got to port they were all taken aside and met by two men, one in a high position in the company, the other man was in a very high position in the Government.
“The Government man read the crew the “Official Secrets Act’ explaining that if they told of the real reason for the sinking, or the rumors of an insurance scam, they would serve a minimum of 20 years in jail and would never get a job when they got out.”
The real Titanic ‘never sank’
Typically, on a ship’s maiden voyage, the owners would be among the first travelers. Yet the luminaries who were supposedly expected to board cancelled at the last minute.
J.P. Morgan was amongst the people who cancelled, according to the theory. The banker cancelled his trip at the last minute as he claimed he was of ill health.
Previously, Morgan had made a big deal while speaking publicly, certifying that he would be aboard the ship on its maiden voyage, the theory goes.
However, Morgan had been spotted in France two days later and appeared to be in good health. Furthermore, the financier is said to have had removed seven valuable bronze statues one hour before the ship left Southampton.
The claim that Morgan was seen in good health two days later cannot be confirmed more than a century later.
Then it was White Star Line chairman J. Bruce Ismay who cancelled his trip with his family as his wife had fallen ill. The Ismay family was, according to the theory, seen on a motoring holiday in Wales shortly afterward.
Again, the theorists do not provide any evidence about the Ismay family being seen shortly after the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
The absence of the two main players from the maiden voyage of the fated ocean liner seems to reinforce the conspiracy theory that the Titanic never sank and Olympic is the ship at the bottom of the North Atlantic.
Yet, despite all the arguments presented, the conspiracy theorists do not provide any solid proof of their claims, with the sinking of the Titanic remaining one of the largest sea tragedies in history.