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Titanic Conspiracy Theories Debunked

titanic conspiracy theory
The Titanic departing Southampton on April 12, 1912. Credit: Public Domain.

The conspiracy theory that the White Star Line ‘swapped’ the Olympic and the Titanic is an old one, but it was comprehensively and thoroughly debunked when explorer Bob Ballard found and photographed the wreck.

By Tony Cross

Both the Olympic and the Titanic (and the later Britannic) had their hull numbers stamped on their enormous bronze propellers; these weighed 32 tons each and could not be ‘swapped’ with the ships in the water.

The Olympic was hull number 400 and the Titanic was hull number 401. There have been numerous photographs taken of the propellers of the wreck and the hull number 401 can be clearly seen. A Google search will reveal many such photographs.

Titanic sunk due to poor-quality rivets

titanic conspiracy theory olympic
The bow of the wrecked Titanic. The discovery of the wreck dispelled any conspiracy theory regarding the ship. Credit: Public Domain

The principal cause of the sinking, once the iceberg had been struck, was poor quality rivets. Modern analysis of rivets recovered from the wreck has shown that they contained three times as much slag (the residue left after smelting ore) as would be allowed today.

This made them particularly brittle when subjected to cold temperatures, as there were on the night the ship sank. The collision with the iceberg didn’t rip a huge hole in the hull — it popped hundreds of sub-standard rivets, allowing the sea to enter through countless small gaps in the hull plating, soon overwhelming the ship.

There are no mysteries about the sinking of the Titanic. Like all disasters, it wasn’t just one thing that caused the sinking but a combination of many factors, the absence of any one of which would have saved the ship.

If the lookouts had had access to the binoculars they were supposed to have and seen the iceberg sooner; if Murdoch had not put the engines in astern (which made the rudder less effective); if the Titanic had not been traveling so fast; and if the rivets had not been so brittle; and if they had heeded the iceberg warnings, then the ship would not have sunk.

Titanic-Olympic conspiracy theory

There are a different set of factors that caused the great loss of life once the ship had struck the iceberg — again, the absence of any one of which would have saved many more people.

If the ship “Californian” had maintained a radio watch overnight; if the Titanic had carried enough lifeboats for everyone on board; if the crew had practiced a lifeboat drill; if they had known that the lifeboats could be fully loaded before launching; if the lifeboats afloat had returned to pick up survivors after the ship had sunk; then many more people would have been saved.

Conspiracy theorists dislike the truth that all disasters are the result of a combination of many (often minor) factors, because this truth doesn’t fit their need to posses knowledge of the “single causal factor” that nobody else knows.

The conspiracy theory that the Olympic and Titanic were swapped is much the same.

It chooses to ignore a combination of (often minor) factors, including the hull number stamped on the propeller, which clearly demonstrate that the wreck at the bottom of the Atlantic is indeed the Titanic.

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