Saturday, 4 October 2008

Titanic Conspiracy: The Olympic Switch

I have always loved the story of the Titanic. I mean the real story, not that silly film which actually started to turn me off the whole thing. The themes of bravery, tragedy and farce make it one of the most heart wrenching stories around. But despite having read quite a bit on the subject I was completely unaware that there is alternative story to the sinking, one that turns the incompetence of the White Star Line into murder.

The story, supposedly, begins on the 20th September 1911. The RMS Olympic, the sister ship to the Titanic and the Britanic, collided with the HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight. She sustained severe damage but was able to make it safely back to Southampton. This was a disaster for the White Star Line, who not only lost revenue whilst she was out of service but had to pay both for her repairs and slow work on the Titanic to allow the Olympic into dry dock at Belfast for repairs.

After the Olympics accident the Titanic (right) leaves drydock so the Olympic can be repaired.

Worse still, in February, she lost a propeller blade and delayed the maiden voyage of the Titanic by a month as resources were pulled to get the Olympic back into action. So far this is all considered fact. This is where the conspiracy diverges from accepted history.

The proponents of the Olympic Switch scenario believe that the incredible financial lose caused by the RMS Olympic's problems caused the owners of the White Star Line to consider drastic solutions. They say that during the time in Belfast when the Olympic had to swap with the Titanic and use the dry dock a plan was put into place. This would swap the names between the ships (along with a few details, as though similar they were not exact twins) meaning the brand new Titanic would now become the Olympic and the badly damaged Olympic would become the Titanic. 

The plan went as follows:
The Olympic-Titanic would be sunk on it's "maiden" voyage in an insurance scam to get back the money lost in repairing the Olympic. The crew and passengers would be rescued by the SS Californian which conspiracy theorists say had been rushed out to mid-Atlantic to await it's part in the plan. The Captain and possibly senior crew would have been aware of this plan.

Sadly before the plan could be put into place, the ship struck an iceberg (some theories say it struck a ship blacked out and ready to initiate the rescue of the Titanic once the plan took shape) and sank just out of view of the SS Californian and the planned rescue thus never occurred. (the SS Californian's part in the tragedy, even under the accepted history, is controversial check it out here). 1517 people lost their lives. A more through look at the theory can be found here.

Titanic at Southampton 5th April 1912

Unfortunately, for the proponents at least, there are a few issues with this scenario. As I stated there were differences, mainly cosmetic, between the two ships. Most theorists claim that "obviously" the Olympic and Titanic were worked on to ensure they matched each other and that the irregularities in their designs were swapped over. But this would mean not only involvement by a few people but a large scale conspiracy across many people including the skilled ship builders in Belfast. Did all these people manage to keep their silence, even after the plan went horribly wrong? Would the thought that you had taken part in such an awful plan eaten away at you until you couldn't take it any longer?

Images from the wreck also begin to show cracks in the story. The wheelhouse of the Olympic was curved, the wheel house of the Titanic was straight. Pictures of the famous wheel under water show the wheelhouse wall. And it's straight.

And why would the White Star Line executives really risk their reputation and their lives upon such a plan? They weren't crazy!

I think that I can not refute the theory any more expertly than this dissertation. Conspiracy theories can be amusing, and occasionally necessary but sometimes they cross a line. Just as with those who support "9/11 Truth", I believe that those who support a theory like this based on nothing more than rumours and conjecture risk insulting the memory of those who lost their lives in this tragedy. The Captain may have made mistakes, and he paid for them with his life, but this does not mean he is a murderer something which this conspiracy theory suggests. So until some actual physical evidence is brought up from the wreck proving it to be the Olympic I shall not be giving this theory any more of my time.

Any conspiracy theory that bases it's main points upon the silence of the hundreds of people supposedly involved should be laughed out of the room. It shows a naive belief in the ability of humans to keep secrets en masse and renders this theory a good story but far from acceptable fact.

Further Reading

Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank? - Robin Gardiner - The most in depth look at the theory by it's most famous proponent .

Olympic & Titanic: The Truth Behind the Conspiracy - Bruce Beveridge and Steve Hall - A rebuttal of the conspiracy theory.


Gareth said...

I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories for the reasons you mention above. I mean one person thinking that deliberately sinking a ship would be a good idea is possible. Several people agreeing to do it and then keep silent about it after would is, erm, not all that possible really.

So I agree with the sentiment that something like this shouldn't be taken too seriously at all. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

The whole story of the Titanic is fascinating to me. Researching my geneaology, I learned that my grandma sailed from Europe to the U.S. just four months after the disaster. I can't imagine how she must have felt knowing of the Titanic's sinking.

Anonymous said...

I never paid much attention to the Titanic story, but that's very interesting.

Velu said...

Great post and a terrific idea for the blog.

Ofcourse working on ships, Titanic is of great intrest to me, but anyway it was well written.

Keep up the good work.


Jae Kay said...

Thanks for your comments guys! Always appreciated.

Anonymous said...

The 91 dive put that theory to rest. The designated shipyard number "401" is still clearly seen on the starboard propeller of the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

The 9-11 Commission Report is a blatant insult to the intelligence of Americans. I don't blame the US government though, because Americans as a group are among the dumbest, most ignorant, most easily misled and most misinformed people in the world. The corporate-owned mainstream media has succeeded in stupefying Americans over the past 3-4 decades.

The professional groups and those properly educated and informed people have voiced their disbelief. But they are a minority, just as top-ranked, truly intelligent students are no more than 3-5 percent of school population.

Same for the blatantly nonsensical Warren Commission report on the assassination of JFK.

I'm not certain about the Titanic. But 9-11 and JFK were both inside jobs. 100% certainty. This is a matter of science and laws of physics, not BS opinions.

Pity the ignorant, uneducated average / typical Americans