Tim Maltin, author of Titanic books and films.
Tim Maltin is a British author, historian and TV presenter. He is also one of the world’s leading experts on the Titanic and the author of three books on the subject, including 101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, Titanic: First Accounts, both published by Penguin, and his latest book Titanic: A Very Deceiving Night, which is the subject of his Smithsonian Channel documentary Titanic’s Final Mystery and National Geographic film, Titanic: Case Closed. Tim is also a TV presenter and broadcaster, writing and presenting the above documentaries, as well as the landmark BBC Radio 2 live broadcast, Titanic, Minute by Minute, which he co-wrote and presented with Jeremy Vine, for Titanic’s centenary. This won a Bronze Award at the Sony Radio Awards, and the Grand Award and a Gold Award at the New York Radio Awards. Tim works in London and lives in Wiltshire with his wife and two children.
For recent views from Tim on the atmospheric conditions of the night of the tragedy, do visit his contributions to the Encylopedia Titanica discussion here.
Dear Mr Martin,
A thoroughly cracking analysis of Titanic’s fate due to atmospheric conditions! I just saw the Nat’l Geo documentary highlighting this observation that figures into the famous disaster. This is entirely new ground never covered by anything I’ve ever read.
As much as I have enjoyed the various perspectives of why and how she sank that night, why hadn’t this angle been brought front and center before? Seems most crucial a piece of the puzzle.
I must say, perhaps another reason why both vessels were visually misunderstanding each other could have been due to either one spinning, mainly Titanic, as a result of the current. Such as the Californian seeing Titanic broadside, then straight-on, as the current gently spun her. Appearing whole (albeit warped), then minuscule. Also, perhaps x
Perhaps if a film is again made to portray the horrors of that night, they could factor your findings into the story in a large way, as well as any new evidence revealed in the past decade.
I am still amazed at how much new insight I gained from an event I felt I knew enough about. I say old chap, well done!
All the best,
Many thanks Alby. The spinning of Californian was certainly a factor in her appearing to be approaching and then receeding from Titanic, when she was in fact stationary all night: Californian spun becuase her rudder was left hard-over, but Titanic’s rudder was straightened up after the collision, so she did not spin as Californian did. Best wishes, Tim
A new and scientifically (rather than emotionally) -based take on the events leading to the sinking of The Titanic. Thought-provoking and illuminating. The stars quite literally “lined up” against the fate of the ship and its passengers. A true tale of man against nature ..along a similar line as Jack London’s fictional “To Build A Fire”, but with a much broader scale of catastrophe. Points out the fact that Nature is not only indifferent to the plight of Man, but can seem even hostile.
Thoroughly researched and well presented. Good job, Mr. Maltin.
I just watched the documentary on Titanic’s Final Mystery and I was so awestruck that I felt compelled to drop this quick note. I was absolutely mesmorized as I watched the film and the efforts put forth by yourself to uncover the logical truth behind the Titanic disaster. I just wanted to say thank you for providing one of most interesting documentaries I have ever seen.
I continue to marvel at your particularly insightful solution to the problems facing the Titanic that deadly evening. I believe you have solved the mystery of how the ship came to it’s tragic end. There is merely one point on which I will choose to disagree with you and that is the matter of Captain Lord. For all the discussion of what sort of ship Lord may have seen or not seen, for all the dismissing of seeing or not seeing the signal lamps back and forth, the simple truth remains: The California was equipped with the Marconi device and an operator. He went to bed, as did Lord. They should have continued on using the telegraph to attempt to find out what was happening. They could see and admitted they saw, the signal rockets. No matter what color they claimed to see, the fact there was a ship and the fact that rockets were going off and PARTICULARLY if Captain Lord truly did not believe he was seeing Titanic and thus could not presume the rockets to be some kind of “party event”, makes it clear he was AT FAULT for not investigating further. He was derelict of duty to NOT wake his Marconi operator and to resist being awakened himself. There just is no using the distortion theory to dismiss Lord’s criminal neglect. No matter what color the rockets, no matter what shape the ship, he had the means to investigate and instead chose a good nights’ sleep and let his Marconi operator get one too. I still believe Lord was not only negligent but was desperately fearful of having to negotiate the ice field at night and chose to ignore the whole thing. He simply cannot be excused because of distortions to the view ahead. They changed what he might be seeing but WHATEVER he was seeing required his further investigation. Lord’s neglect resulted in many more deaths and whitewashing him years later is a mere travesty of justice done long before your own investigative efforts explained so much. Still, it does not justify Lord’s conduct.
Sincerely yours, and thanking you for a brilliant investigatory presentation,
Daniel Bartlow Hart
Dan, because Titanic appeared ‘higher up’, but not bigger, she appeared to Californian to be a 400ft ship five miles away, instead of an 800ft ship 10 miles away. Tragically, because Californian knew Titanic to be the only ship within range which had radio, this led Californian to assume that the ship they were looking at did not have radio, because it appeared not to be the Titanic.
Captain Lord of the Californian should have gone to the aid of the nearby ship that night, but had it not been for abnormal refraction, he would have gone, because he would gave realised it was the Titanic in distress, and not just some smaller vessel which apparently did not answer his Morse lamp enquiries, and which he judged it was too dangerous to go to the aid of, at least until daylight.
I once wrote a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that, unfortunately, read a bit too much like the sort of government memos I wrote by day, but which, I must say, had a wonderful plot (IF another, better writer can be found to actually write it, lol!). In any case I used Lord as an accomplice of Moriarty in a time travel sequence that turned out to be critical to the plot (there being something on the Titanic that Moriarty wanted destroyed). In any case, my thought has always been that, regardless of what ship they were seeing, the entire situation demanded more than Lord or the Californian gave to it. This opinion about them does NOTHING to reduce the admiration and respect I have for YOUR FINDINGS, which are brilliant and which explain so very much, so well. Best wishes, Dan.
I completely agree with you. Lord SHOULD have gone…but had it not been for abnormal refraction, he WOULD have gone.
Dear Mr. Maltin,
I just saw your masterful documentary Titanic’s Final Mystery. I want to echo the comments here about what a wonderful thorough scientific job you did in your investigation. I don’t disagree with anything you said. However, there is one glaring omission in your report. It is what Mr. Hart referred to in his comment. The Titanic fired off numerous distress rockets. These were seen on the Californian. That is irrefutable. They claim there was confusion as to what the color of the rockets meant (which has always struck me as rationalization for doing nothing, but that’s just me). But you will admit will you not that when a ship sends up rockets in the middle of an ice field, the very ice field which has stopped the Californian dead, no rational person on Earth would conclude that the ship is having a party? It’s in distress!! At the very least it’s an unusual occurrence that must be investigated. The fact that Captain Lord may have thought it was “just some smaller vessel” does not excuse his refusal to provide assistance. Too dangerous?! Too dangerous to aid your fellow man?! Thanks a lot! Lord could have come dead slow and still gotten there within an hour. The Carpathia came at full speed. THAT is why Lord is justly condemned for doing nothing. All of your analysis did not change any of this, which is why it is so disappointing that you didn’t mention it.
Dear David, thank you for your comments. Do please take a look at my current discussions with others on this on the Encylopedia Titanica here: https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/community/threads/superior-mirage-and-the-californian.38988/ With best wishes, Tim
Congrats on great research re air/sea temperature interaction. As a retired marine meteorologist, am interested in your research data sets re air temps, sea temps, delineation of Labrador/Gulfstream interface pos’n’s Lat/Long & wave hts.
I’ve tried to get hard copy of your latest book: “Titanic: A Very Deceiving Night”, but to no avail. Only opportunity is electronic copy 199pp via kindle, or such. Did NOAA/NWS Asheville, NC have enough nearby ship wx/obs vintage Apr.1912 to allow valid micro-temp analyses for your calculations, etc? many tks 04/22/2014
Thanks Rob, I used the NOAA data in Asheville to discover my findings. Ebook only at present 🙂
To Mr Maltin,
As a Belfast citizen and lover of maritime history it is only natural that I’ve also shared a lifelong fixation of story of Titanic and the era of which such a feat was achieved. I have more than often had difficulty accepting the notion that there was structural flaw in the vessel, after all it the sea floor at around 40 knots and remained intact. In addition the prospect of the crew being inept is also problematic
with the senior crew members being hand picked and were held in high esteem by the maritime society. Your endeavour to properly research the topic from logical and original angles and present an explanation which not not only fully justified in every way, but easily dispels all other accusations the Titanic’s tragedy. I find it absolutely staggering that you have inadvertently deduced the Titanic’s fate single handed, whilst for 100 years whole inquiries have never came close to presenting a case so well justified as your explanation of extremely rare discrete factors in the climate propelling the Titanic’s demise. I cannot stress enough the importance of this work and in an effort help notify your impeccable work, I have written to the titanic museum in belfast asking them to look into your argument and build a section in one of their exhibitions as to promote your take on the reason the titanic sank. For everyones sake it should be done as this explanation is as flawless as the Titanic herself.
Thanks Chris, I really appreciate that and would love to give a lecture on my findings at Titanic Belfast.
Just saw the Smithsonian program on your research and thoughts on Titanic’s sinking. I find your findings so profound, thankyou!
I vividly remember your documentary shown on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy in 2012, but only now just discovered your own personal website. Firstly, I congratulate you on what was a truly engaging and genuinely intriguing piece of investigative journalism, and it’s directly because of your documentary, I eventually started my own interest in the so-called ‘Californian incident’, and would like to throw a few ideas and opinions your way, if I may.
The documentary’s repeated assertion that Titanic and Californian were but ten miles apart is not borne out by evidence. We know precisely where Californian was between 10:21 pm April 14th and 6:00 am April 15th because she was stopped by ice and had radioed her position to all surrounding vessels. And we know where Titanic foundered because of the position of the wreck (the bow in particular)… the distance between the two is approximately 19 miles. Cold water mirage or not, the distance between the two vessels rules out them being in the visible horizon line of each other.
Had the ship seen by Californian that night off it’s starboard bow been Titanic, then conversely, Californian herself would have been visible to Titanic… but both Titanic’s lookouts at that time – Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee – testified they saw NO ships whatsoever in their vicinity, before or after the collision until they were relieved at 12:23 am.
The unidentified ship seen by passengers and crew of Titanic that night – from around 12:30 am – was moving in their direction, then stopped, turned around, and sailed away into the distance (discerned by the testimony of witneses on Titanic of BOTH sidelights and stern light of the unidentified vessel being visible prior to it steaming away from view). This obviously could not have been Californian because she was stationary all night.
Lastly, Californian’s Second Officer Herbert Stone and Apprentice James Gibson – both on the bridge during that watch – saw rockets and undoubtedly they were from Titanic, but they were not coming from the ship nearest Californian, and we know this because of the seemingly low altitude the rockets were reaching before exploding (according to Stone, only going as far as half the masthead), whereas had Titanic been the vessel the Californian was watching, the rockets would clearly have seen to have been several hundred feet in the air upon detonation, in addition to the fact that neither Stone nor Gibson heard any sounds remotely like rocket detonations (nor any sounds at all), something they most certainly would have heard had they been anywhere close to a distance of ten miles between the two vessels… cold water mirages distort visual sights not audio sounds.
Of your assertion regarding unusually strong atmospheric conditions in the Titanic’s immediate vicinity at the time, that likely aided to not indentifying the iceberg before it was too late, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever, but I don’t believe that had anything to do with the Californian’s part in the unfolding tragedy, the two ships were separated by a distance of such that refraction simply played no part in; in short, they were both well out of the visible horizon line of each other, and thus were not susceptible to observing each other’s lights, distorted or otherwise… my own humble, fallible, and entirely subjective opinion, of course.
Again, my heartfelt thanks on an otherwise splendid programme and one which directly led to my own individual investigation and continued passionate interest of both an appalling tragedy but also a terrible miscarriage of justice on the part of Captain Lord and his good name and reputation.
Sincerest regards and very best wishes…
Many thanks indeed for your kind note. Firstly, I agree with you that Lord was unfairly blamed for not going to Titanic’s aid. However, it is my conclusion that he chose not to go, believing Titanic to be a small ship 4-5 miles away, which did not reply to his Morse lamp signals (instead of the largest ship in the world 10 miles away). His choice – a reasonable one – was not to risk the lives of his own men until daylight, when any rescue could be performed safely and effectively. Had he realised it was Titanic, sinking on her maiden voyage, of course he would have gone immediately to her aid – the huge risk to his own ship being worth it. He regretted that decision for the rest of his life, but publicly denied it was Titanic which he saw that night.
Re distance, the reason Titanic did not see Californian at the time of her collision is that Californian was at that time heading towards the Northward, away from Titanic, thus shutting in her mainmast light. As she swung around in the gentle current and light airs that night, she gradually bore towards southward – towards Titanic – and thus opened out her navigation lights to Titanic.
Titanic’s rockets appeared low to Californian, not because they were not from the nearby ship they could see, but because that were too faint to see at that range at their full height: it was only when they were lower (nearer the sea) that they were magnified sufficiently by the cold air in the thermal inversion, thus becoming visible to Californian – but *appearing* low.
As Captain Lord said, it really was “a very deceiving night”. My ebook of that name explains all the elements I have touched upon here in full detail. Best wishes, Tim
Dear Mr. Maltin,
I recently watched the documentary that you were featured in regarding the weather events that may have played into the Titanic’s sinking. I believe you’ve found the proverbial smoking gun.
This afternoon I was watching a news story on the CBS News website and clicked on a link to a photo collection taken from the Carpathia as they rescued Titanic survivors.
Photo 7 was particularly interesting in light of your hypothesis. The caption reads, “An image of the ocean from the deck of the Carpathia.”
It may, in fact be a photograph of the weather phenomena that you suspect lead to the Titanic disaster. Here is the link.
Hi Chris, that’s a photo of the ice barrier itself, which I refer to in my recent correspondence with Mark Golben, above. Thanks for your note, Tim
Bravo on what I think is the solving of the case! Well done! Your refraction theory can be used in other instances too, but it fits perfectly with what happened to the Titanic!
Dearest Mr. Maltin,
Just finished watching Titanic’s Final Mystery, for the third time, and I must thank you for such a compelling and fascinating work. It’s evident that you were on a mission to solve the mystery, and the passion for your work, was and is frankly a gift to us all and came through every minute of the documentary. It was a story well told, one that could have very easily gotten bogged down with the science. Instead it captured my attention and imagination for the entire two hours! The world needs more people like you… you’re an inspiration for sure.
Can you dispel the Titanic/Olympic swap? Even if just privately.
Yes, it did not happen 🙂
Dear Mr. Maltin,
Saw the video last weekend, well done!
But I have been thinking all week about one of the strangest item from the investigation…
That being the stoppage of the California due to the 30 mile long, 3 mile wide (and +300 foot high) wall of floating ice. Could this have also been a factor?
Could this have partially blocked the starry background of the horizon thus impairing the view of the Titanic’s lookouts?
Best, Mark Golben email@example.com
Yes, that almost certainly was a major factor – Fleet spoke of a brightening/intensifying of the haze dead ahead, just prior to the collision, and it could have been caused by the ice barrier. Titanic was only about seven minutes steaming time away from the barrier Californian came up against (although it was only about 1ft high), at the time of her collision. Many thanks for your comment, Tim
Greetings, I like your theory about the cold weather mirage as a contributing factor for the Titanic sinking. However, in the Simthsonian documentary Titanic’s Final Mystery there was never any mention of the distress rockets fired from the sinking ship. Certainly the Californian should have at least responded to these flares in some regard whether it be by motoring toward the scene or turning their wirless back on. Maybe some of your books elude to this better than the movie but certainly captain Lord should be blamed to some degree for not being more inquisitive about the rockets. Again, great job with your theory, I just would’ve like to see the movie addresss theories as to why no one reponded to the distress rockets.
Like many others I’m impressed if not astounded by your recent documentary – indeed it’s the most major revelation about the whole Titanic saga since err… probably the finding of the wreck itself! I’ve been a lifelong amateur Titanic fan – indeed I gave a public talk on the disaster in the seventies aged only twelve!
But please tell me if you’re planning on publishing your findings as a book, rather than just an ebook, as the latter doesn’t look anywhere near as good on my bookcase amongst all my other Titanic related books…!
Wow, really really nice job on discovering the truth about Tiranics mysteries! Excellent work! You should be proud! Thank you for sharing this amazing information.
Hi, I have RMS TITANIC Passenger & Crew List. Would you be interested in it?
Hi Tim ,
I am a undergraduate History Student in Leeds , Titanic is one of my most favourite topics to be able to research and write about. i was wandering if you would be able to help me out as i have an essay to do and i choose to write about the titanic and historiography debates about the titanic , mainly in why the Titanic sank and why so many passengers perished, i am mainly focusing on an analysis of why historians’ arguments have changed over the period, with reference to e.g. emergence of new sources or reviews of existing ones, biographical and historical contexts, and new historiographical trends;
I wanted to ask you, is there any way for my family and I to go to the Titanic as tourists?
Greetings from Colombia!!
Dear Mr. Maltin,
I am hitting a brick wall, family rumour has it that a relative of mine was a crew member, was rescued from the Titanic, went to Newfoundland, returned to Oxford and bought a garage. He then appeared many years later and his mother nearly had a heart attack. Despite the wealth of ‘information’ I can’t find his name, perchance you have come across this character?
Many thanks in advance for any help you can give me
Was Titanic switched with her sister ship Olympic?
Hi im jordan and I saw the new documentry on titanic on channel 4. Ive studied the whole titanic accident for years just as a hobby and the idea of the fire in no 6 bunker lending a helping hand to the sinking of the ship is an interesting one but the conclusion of the heat of the metal alone causing the bunker to warp isnt realistic. There has already been tests done on the quality of the steel used and it was pretty good. I have however thought of another possiblity as to how the bunker was probably damaged. Would i be ablr to contact you about this? Coal bunker fires were common on ships at the time as they could start for no reason and certainly didnt cause major damages on those other ships
Tim, I have watched your Titanic documentaries. Have you considered putting your knowledge to use regarding the ghost ship Marie Celeste? Its a very intriguing case. I am certainly not convinced of any of the guesswork presented on a recent dhow on Smithsonian, a great channel. Rick
Dear Tim Maltin, My name is Nathan Cooper, from Mississippi; I just had to say I just finished your documentary of the Titanic Diaster and you’re work was astounding! The way your pieced together the testimonies and the cold air refractions was incredible. I’m very pleased and couldn’t be more enthused. I do have a few questions though if you could answer for me I’d be very much greatful.
Enjoyed the documentary about the Titanic, but I am left with one question: What about the distress flares that were allegedly launched from the Titanic? Surely they could have been seen by the California and possibly other ships as well. Are the flares a myth, or is it possible that the atmosphereics caused them to be invisible?
Just finished watching Titanic’s Final Mystery and had to tell you how much I thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the finest documentaries I’ve seen! Your focus on the scientific facts in order to cut through myth and conjecture was inspiring. It’s amazing that all data needed to solve this 100-year old mystery has been around sitting in archives for all this time just waiting for the right mind to deduce its secrets. Fantastic work! Thank you for your dedication and for sharing your superb work with the world. I’m looking forward to reading your books next!
I just finished watching the documentary “Titanic’s Final Mystery” on the Smithsonian Channel in the United States. I was enthralled, not only by the scope of your research but the ground breaking analysis of the events of that night.
I have but one question which was not covered in the documentary; what of the rockets that Titanic was supposed to have fired as a signal to the Californian? Is this just a bit of “conspiracy theory” which is so popular here in America or is this based in fact?
I am a history buff, but to now I have submerged myself in American history, specifically the American Civil War, however I believe it is time to branch out and I believe I will start with Titanic, beginning with ordering your book.
Thank you for your wonderful work and I can’t wait to read your book providing it is available as yet. I await your reply at your convenience.
Akron, Ohio, USA
Having watched your documentary again this week, i must commened you on your fascinating analyis and research. As a history buff, its historians like yourself that make me love reading and learning more about history. Look forward to more of your works in the future.
Also as a Californian, great to see the Mojave Desert in your documentary!
Mr. Maltin, I would love to meet you and hear all about your theories and all about the research you have done on Titanic. I’ve done much research myself since I was first in middle school and now I am senior and still have billions of questions. I have yet to meet another person with the same passion about learning all about Titanic and I just heard about you.
I am currently reading 101 Things. It is a fascinating read for sure; so I have nothing awful to say regarding what is being written but how. As a writer, you should know simple grammatical rules and distracting tendencies that stop the flow of reading. There were SEVERAL moments where you simply repeated or restated what you quoted. Who does that at your level? Were you trying for a specific word count? Also, there were several instances where you switched from using numerical figures to spelling out the numbers within pages of each other, describing the EXACT same phrase word for word (i.e. page 154 “400-foot ship five miles away instaed of an 800-foot ship 10 miles away.” then followed by page 157 “a four-hundred foot ship five miles away, instead of the eight-hundred foot ship ten miles away…”) Like really? you need to repeat the same phrase again? At least be consistent; use numerical values both times or spell it out both times. Also, the matter of switching from spelling “inquiry” with an I to spelling it with an E? Like what it with that? The first half of the book, we read “US Inquiry”, then all of a sudden, you use “Enquiry”. Am I missing something? Either you are simply lazy with your writing style or the editors of this book need to be fired..holy cow!
Guilty as charged on both counts. My apologies – I wish you had proofread my book! Thank you, Tim
Hello Tim, I literally loved your documentary and your approach of going back to testimonies from different sources of the time to arrive at your theory of refraction and that seems to explain a lot of things. It is extremely rigorous and well-done investigative work. I congratulate you. Your passion shines through on screen. I have a very simple question unrelated to your documentary, but to which I find few answers in the Titanic literature: why in 1912 it was considered the largest ship in the world while its twin, the Olympic have the same dimensions? There seems to be a small variation in tonnage, but are they similar in size? Besides its unequaled luxury and the story of its fateful fate, why is it called bigger than the Olympic?
I have always thought that Mr. Maltin is an excellent researcher and fair and open-minded individual. That said, I don’t wish to comment on any post, but to make an observation, not a criticism of Mr. Maltin, which nevertheless I think very important.
Titanic presents a tantalizing research challenge: On the one hand it is one of the most, if not the most, documented shipwrecks in modern history. By the same token, the fact that a vast amount of that documentation is predicated upon eye witness accounts constitutes a huge foundational weakness. To this fact James Cameron referred somewhat facetiously in “Breaking New Ground” as history as being a “collective hallucination” of what those that survived said happened.
Many other historians have ignored the fact, which has been obvious to law enforcement and to the accident reconstructionist for decades, that eye witness reports are highly unreliable especially in situations of mortal danger.
In addition to the terror factor, on Titanic the unreliability factor is further aggravated by the fact that for an extended period of time many passengers and crew perceived no mortal danger therefore presumably paying little attention to surrounding events. Even once danger was appreciated by the masses, no one was holding a watch, misidentifications were not uncommon, and the dim lighting on the boat deck, which has never been portrayed accurately in film, further complicated identification of the different players.
I think that therefore, one has to be especially careful about embracing any eye witness account, even if others/another seem to coincide, before arriving at a final conclusion or marketing a book on an alleged “newly discovered” piece of information.
For example, even if I weren’t a medical doctor, I would find Charles Joughin’s testimony about surviving for “over two hours” in 28 degree water, however well-intentioned, the poster boy for why all eye witness accounts must be held to a very high standard (which in this case also contradicts common sense and would be possible only if Joughin were wearing a modern cold water immersion suit).
T. Andrews, MA, D.O.