A Very Deceiving Night: Introduction

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Captain Smith Titanic. 100 years after the Titanic sank on 15th April 1912, the world is still fascinated by the story of how 1,500 people froze to death in the calm waters of the North Atlantic, on the maiden voyage of the largest and safest ship in the world.  But the true cause of the Titanic disaster has never been revealed, until now.  This book proves the presence of abnormal refraction – or mirage – at Titanic’s crash site and reveals its previously unseen but crucial role, shedding new light on the tragedy.

The enduring nature of the story of the Titanic lies in its power as a metaphor for the human condition: she represented the best that the science of man could achieve and carried with her the confidence and hope of her age, but she was destroyed on her maiden voyage by the humbling power of nature, perfectly represented by an unseen mountain of ice lurking in the darkness.  As 1,500 people who had just been enjoying the luxury, comfort and fun of the newest and largest liner in the world froze to death in the calm, ink black water of the North Atlantic that night, their surprise turned to anger and despair as they stared up into a perfect canopy of stars and demanded an answer.

The sinking of the Titanic on the 15th April 1912 was as shocking to the world as the destruction of the Twin Towers on 11th September 2001.  In the new age of wireless it caused the first global media storm, with the New York Times devoting its first 12 pages to the disaster. As soon as the news arrived, exhaustive public enquiries were ordered, on both sides of the Atlantic. At these, hundreds of eye witnesses were asked more than fifty thousand questions about the catastrophe, and their sworn testimonies faithfully recorded and preserved.  As a result, Titanic is one of the best-documented disasters in history.

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The Titanic is seen here on the right, next to her twin sister, the Olympic, in Belfast

© Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Titanic had a slightly older, almost identical twin sister called The Olympic, who had sucessfully completed her maiden voyage less than a year before the Titanic, on the same route, with the same captain and carrying many of the same people that would later die on Titanic’s maiden voyage.

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Olympic arriving into New York on her maiden voyage in 1911; her sister would never see the New World © Science Photo Library

Captain Smith on board the unfinished Titanic

Captain Smith on board the unfinished Titanic ©Mary Evans Picture Library

To the delight of her passengers, on only her second crossing to New York, and without her owner Joseph Bruce Ismay being on board, Captain Smith cooly brought the Olympic in on Tuesday night, instead of on Wednesday morning, when she had been scheduled to arrive. Olympic went on to steam more than 600,000 miles, succesfully carrying 200,000 troops in the First World War, when she also sucessfully used the strength and manoeverability she shared with her sister, the Titanic, to deliberately ram and sink an enemy submarine – the only merchant ship ever to do so. Eventually, she was scrapped in 1935, due to reduced transatlantic passenger numbers.

RMS Olympic in dazzle paint during the First World War, where the strength and manoeverability she shared with her sister, Titanic, allowed her to ram and sink an enemy submarine

RMS Olympic in dazzle paint during the First World War, where the strength and manoeverability she shared with her sister, Titanic, allowed her to ram and sink an enemy submarine

The fates of the two sisters could not have been more different, but what really caused the Titanic disaster?  Over the years people have come up with many theories: Captain Smith was drunk; her builders cut corners; her lookouts should have had binoculars; her rudder was too small.  But none of these explanations bears any real scrutiny: Smith never drank at sea and was around Titanic’s bridge all that night; Titanic was built on a cost-plus contract, meaning the more her builders spent on her construction the more they got paid; the naked eye is the best way to spot icebergs at night, because binoculars reduce the field of vision and are therefore only for the inspection of objects, not their detection; and she had the same sized rudder as her sister, who her wartime captain regarded as the best-handling ship he had ever had the pleasure to command.

No, the more one learns about the Titanic disaster, the more one realizes that the truth about what really happened the incredible night she sank is far stranger than any fiction could ever make it.

I hope by blogging chapters from my book, A Very Deceiving Night, it will contribute to the ongoing discussions regarding the atmospheric conditions on the night of the tragedy and the true causes of the disaster. At the moment, the book is only available as an e-book. If you wish to purchase it then you can do so in Amazon Kindle format here and other formats, including Apple, Kobo and Nook, here. Thank you.

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