by Terri Bey
On September 14, 2021, I published a blog on this site about the October "Book of the Month," "Titanic: Solving the Mysteries." I had not read the book at that time. However, I was familiar with one of the two claims that continue to be made about the disaster, the time between time ashore and the Titanic's shipboard clocks as the great liner was sinking and the "coal fire" theory which claims that the 10-day coal fire that had been burning in a coal bunker in the ship was the reason for why the ship sank so fast and was the reason for the disaster.
As I didn't have the book at that point, I decided to write about the "coal fire" theory, as I was very familiar with it. I said in the blog when I was able to get the book itself, I would give it a review. I have read it, and here is my review of "Titanic: Solving the Mysteries."
If you would like to read my blog before reading the review, here is the link: Debunking the RMS Titanic "Bunker Fire" Sinking Theory (titanicbookclub.com)
"Titanic: Solving the Mysteries" is a masterly written book, debunking a long-held belief that a coal fire weakened the hull of the Titanic and was the cause of the disaster and proving that there was a 2 hour and 2 minute time difference between the events of the disaster and time ashore. The authors meticulously use charts, photos, graphs, and even passenger testimony to set the record straight. It is one book that a Titanic enthusiast must own.
In my September 14th blog, the link of which is included, I gave some general reasoning of why Senan Molony and others who push the "coal fire" theory are totally wrong, as supported by this book. What I liked about this book was the use of photographs and graphs in disproving the existence of this so-called "smudge" that Molony claims proved some "raging fire." The authors show that the "smudge" was most likely caused by the way the sunlight hit the Titanic, and even her sister, the Olympic, because of how their hulls were constructed (pgs 87-94). The reader can see how this so-called "smudge" shows up on these Olympic Class ships. The "smudge" was a trick of light."
Another famous claim is that this "raging fire," located in WTB E, caused the hull to become weakened throughout the voyage and do so much damage to the hull, that it was the cause of the disaster and was the reason the ship sank so fast. The authors show, through testimony in proper context and through countless photographs and graphs that this claim is just not true. On pages 42-43 of the book, on the day the ship left Belfast, April 2nd, when the fire might have started, the authors point out where WTB E was and the reader can see no hull damage. There are plenty of photos of the ship at Southampton, where there is no hull damage (pg 57). As I said in the blog, the Swimming Pool Bath was also in the vicinity of WTB E. In a photo of the pool on page 39, taken right before the liner left Southampton on April 10th, the reader can see the WTB E, and off to the side on the right would be the outside hull without any sign of damage whatsoever. Had the fire been that hot that it was destroying and warping the steel during the voyage, the water in the pool would have been so hot, that the passengers would have noticed. First Class passenger Colonel Archibald Gracie said that he was reminded of being "on the seashore" and that the pool was a "comfortable temperature. He wouldn't have said that, had the fire been doing all that damage that some are claiming. The authors also go into great detail dismissing other rumors, such as cover-ups for the fire, the Titanic had too little coal, the Titanic was built poorly and had low quality steel, and other falsities that people still repeat till this day.
The other subject that the authors cover is the time difference between the events on the Titanic and time onshore. As most people who are familiar with the disaster know, the RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg on Saturday, April 14, 1912, at 11:40 pm ATS, meaning Apparent Ship Time. The liner sank at 2:00 pm ATS. The authors go into great detail discussing the creation of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and the 5-hour difference between GMT and EST (Eastern Standard Time). They explained how New York City was in EST and Southampton, UK was in GMT.
The authors wrote about the operation of the Magenta Clocks and showed the practice of adjusting the time of 47 minutes back at 12 midnight, and the fact that Officer Pitman testified at the U.S. Inquiry that the Titanic's clocks were NOT turned back because "we had something else to think of" according to his "own clock" proved that the time between the events of the Titanic disaster and times ashore on New York EST was 2 hours and 2 minutes and not 1 hour 33 minutes as others believe. The authors also deftly show the reader how the 1hour 33 minute time difference is not possible and also examine the Titanic's chronometer.
As I said, "Titanic: Solving the Mysteries" is incredibly well written, especially for a well-versed Titanic enthusiast. While the is well written for a student of the disaster to comprehend, I will say that it can be very technical at times, so for those folks, I would advise them to pay close attention when reading it or I would use a highlighter to emphasize some parts you may want to remember. The appendices and endnotes are also worth reading as well. The authors did a great job and I highly recommend the book.