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Debunking the RMS Titanic "Bunker Fire" Sinking Theory

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

by Terri Bey

The Titanic Book Club's Book of the Month for October is "Titanic: Solving the Mysteries" by Tad Fitch, Bill Wormstedt, Steve Hall, Mark Chirnside, J. Kent Layton, Samuel Halpern, and Ioannis Georgiou. These esteemed authors and historians discuss two mysteries that have surrounded the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the time difference between the ship's time and the time on land and the well-publicized "bunker fire" sinking theory, that claims a bunker fire was the reason for the liner's demise. Even though I have yet to read this book, thanks to television specials and articles, I am familiar with the subject of the "bunker fire" theory. I am writing about this so-called "theory" to totally debunk it.

Ireland-based author Senan Molony along with London-based fire scientist Dr. Guillermo Rein are huge proponents of this coal bunker fire theory which claims that this coal bunker fire made the Titanic's steel so hot, that the steel weakened, and compromised the safety features and the ship's internal structures. There are a few reasons why this theory is totally wrong. Coal bunker fires were quite commonplace in ships of Titanic's day, so this particular fire was not unusual. The coal bunker fire, located in Coal Bunker W of Stokehold No. 9 in Boiler Room 5 on the ship's starboard side did rage for about a total of 10 days but was put out on Saturday night, April 13th, the night before the accident by the stokers removing the burning coal from the starboard side and transferring it to the port side. Dr. Rein and Sean Molony claimed that the coal fire reached temperatures between 932 to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. They claimed this would have made the steel brittle. One huge problem with this idea is that right above the bulkhead where the fire occurred was the First Class Swimming Pool. Passengers would have certainly noticed that the water was close to boiling. The hull plates around the pool would have definitely buckled. First Class passenger Archibald Gracie testified that the pool was always "comfortably warm."

This blog is just a small sample size of why the coal bunker fire theory is not valid. Given the background of these esteemed historians and experts, I do plan to purchase this book sooner or later, as I am interested in reading more about this subject in greater detail.


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please excuse my horrific lazy grammar and punctation LOL and I enjoy a healthy debate I am not trying to be antagonistic just very interesting!


I think that the fact that the fire had gone out and may have cooled in ice cold sea water made the metal more brittle - a lower temperature fire could in fact result in a weakening of the hull as well - which explains the lack of issue to the swimming pool - Im not a fanatic but to rule out something as integrity compromising as a prolonged fire in the way you have above is much more challenging to me than accepting that this fire made the initial collision much worse as you will also be aware that the steel used was also sub standard - now if the right bit of the iceberg hit the right bit…


Depending on the project, hot and malleable steel will be dipped in either water or oil to cool. This brings the steel back to a solid state and often leaves it brittle.


This simple act, if heated to an exact temperature range, can create a more pure, hard metal. It’s often used to create steel that is stronger than annealing the metal, but also creates a less ductile product. So, heat can indeed make metal weaker.

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