Coal Fire, Not Just Iceberg, Doomed the Titanic, a Journalist Claims
LONDON — Maybe it wasn’t just the iceberg.
Ever since the Titanic sank more than 104 years ago, killing more than 1,500 men, women and children, mystery has swirled around the tragedy. No one doubts that the ship collided at high speed with an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland.
But a new documentary posits that the sinking of the ship — hailed at the time as the largest ever built, and praised for its professed unsinkability — may have been accelerated by a giant coal fire in its hull that appeared to have started as long as three weeks before it set off on its fateful journey to New York from Southampton, England.
In the documentary, which was broadcast on Channel 4 in Britain on New Year’s Day, Senan Molony, an Irish journalist who has spent more than 30 years researching the Titanic, contends that the fire, in a three-story-high bunker next to one of the ship’s boiler rooms, damaged its hull, helping to seal its fate long before it slammed into the iceberg.
这部纪录片于新年在英国的第4频道(Channel 4)播放，花了30多年时间研究泰坦尼克号的爱尔兰记者塞南·莫洛尼(Senan Molony)在片中提出，船只某个锅炉舱旁边一个三层楼高的煤舱曾经起火，损坏了船体，早在泰坦尼克号撞上冰山之前就决定了它的命运。
“It’s a perfect storm of extraordinary factors coming together: fire, ice and criminal negligence,” he argues in the documentary, “Titanic: The New Evidence.” “The fire was known about, but it was played down. She should never have been put to sea.”
“火、冰，以及可耻的疏忽，种种异常因素聚集在一起，形成一场完美风暴，”他在这部纪录片《泰坦尼克号：新的证据》(Titanic: The New Evidence)中说。“人们知道有这场火灾，但是被淡化了。这艘船根本就不应该出海。”
Molony’s potential breakthrough can be traced to an attic in Wiltshire, in southwest England, where a previously unpublished album of photographs chronicling the ship’s construction and the preparations for its maiden voyage had been gathering dust for more than a century.
The photographs were discovered by a descendant of a director of the Belfast-based company, Harland and Wolff, that built the Titanic. About four years ago, a collaborator of Molony’s acquired the rare photographs of the ship, meticulously taken by Harland and Wolff’s engineering chief before it left a Belfast shipyard.
这些照片是由位于贝尔法斯特的哈兰德与沃尔夫(Harlan and Wolff)公司一位董事的后代发现的，制造泰坦尼克号的正是这家公司。大约四年前，莫洛尼的一个合作者收购了这些珍贵照片。它们由哈兰德与沃尔夫的工程主任精心拍摄，之后泰坦尼克号便离开了贝尔法斯特造船厂。
When the two men looked closely at the images, Molony said, they were shocked to discover a 30-foot-long diagonal black mark on the hull’s front starboard side, close to where the ship was pierced by the iceberg. An analysis by engineers at Imperial College London subsequently revealed that the mark was most likely caused by a fire in a coal bunker of the ship.
Molony called the photographs “the Titanic equivalent of Tutankhamen’s tomb,” because of the richness of historical detail they conveyed, including the mark highlighting the extent of the damage.
Experts said the theory was compelling but were divided over how important a role the fire may have played.
In an interview, Richard de Kerbrech, a marine engineer based on the Isle of Wight who has written two books on the Titanic disaster, said that the fire would have damaged the ship’s bulkhead, a wall of steel within the ship’s hull, and made it more vulnerable after it was pierced by an iceberg. An official British inquiry, in 1912, mentioned the fire, but the judge who presided over it, whom critics saw as sympathetic to shipping interests, played it down.
理查德·德·科布莱奇(Richard de Kerbrech)是怀特岛的一位船舶工程师，他撰写过两本关于泰坦尼克号灾难的书，在接受采访时，他说这场火灾可能会损坏船的舱壁，也就是船体内的一道钢墙，使船体更容易被冰山刺穿。 1912年，英国的官方调查提到了这场火灾，但是批评者认为，主持这项调查的法官出于对船运业的同情淡化了这一点。
“This discovery is a revelation and could change our knowledge of the history of what happened,” de Kerbrech said.
Molony contends that the ship’s owners knew about the fire but chose to let it go, since delaying the ship’s journey would have been financially ruinous. At the time of departure, the ship was berthed so that the marks caused by the fire were facing the sea, away from the dock, and therefore concealed from passengers.
Molony said he believed the fire had been played down, in part because death by iceberg was a more dramatic explanation.
“The ship was seen as a heroic unsinkable ship and, as a result, people focused on explanations that fed that narrative,” he said.