It is an undisputed fact that the Titanic sunk in 1912 with the loss of more than 1500 lives. What is in dispute is how and why it sank. Was there a cover-up? Was there a nefarious reason to purposely sink the Titanic? There have been numerous theories postulated to answer those questions – they have commonly become to be known as Alternative Theories:
RMS Titanic alternative theories
The loss of the Titanic in 1912, with about 1500 lives, attracted so much controversy that several alternative theories about its sinking have gained support.
One version suggests that the sunken ship was actually the Olympic, near-identical sister-ship of the Titanic, which was the subject of a large insurance claim, and that the two vessels were secretly switched before the voyage. Another was that the Titanic’s owner, J.P. Morgan, wanted to eliminate several prominent bankers who were opposing his plan for the creation of a U.S. central bank.
During her maiden voyage, the famous ocean liner struck an iceberg at 11:40 pm on 14 April 1912, buckling the hull plates allowing water to enter the ship’s first five watertight compartments (one more than the Titanic was designed to survive), which resulted in her sinking early the next morning.
Gardiner’s Ship That Never Sank
One of the most controversial and complex theories was put forward by Robin Gardiner in his book, Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank?. In it, Gardiner draws on several events and coincidences that occurred in the months, days, and hours leading up to the sinking of the Titanic, and concludes that the ship that sank was in factTitanic‘s sister shipOlympic, disguised as Titanic, as an insurance scam by her owners, the International Mercantile Marine Group, controlled by American financier J.P. Morgan that had acquired the White Star Line in 1902.
Olympic was the slightly older sister of Titanic, built alongside the more famous vessel but launched in October 1910. Her exterior profile was nearly identical to Titanic, save for minor details such as the number of portholes on the forward C decks of the ships, the spacing of the windows on the B decks, and the forward section of the A deck promenade on Titanic that had been enclosed only a few weeks before she set sail on her ill-fated maiden voyage. Both ships were built with linoleum floors, but shortly before she was due to set sail J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, inexplicably ordered the floors aboard Titanic carpeted over.
On 20 September 1911, the Olympic was involved in a collision with the Royal Navy Warship HMS Hawke in the Brambles Channel in Southampton Water while under the command of a harbour pilot. The two ships were close enough to each other that Olympic’s motion drew the Hawke into her aft starboard side, causing extensive damage to the liner – both above and below its waterline (HMS Hawke was fitted with a re-inforced ‘ram’ below the waterline, purposely designed to cause maximum damage to enemy ships). An Admiralty inquiry assigned blame to the Olympic, despite numerous eyewitness accounts to the contrary.
Gardiner’s theory plays out in this historical context. Olympic was found to be at blame in the collision (which, according to Gardiner, had damaged the central turbine’s mountings and bent the keel, giving the ship a slight permanent list to port). Because of this finding, White Star’s insurers Lloyd’s of London allegedly refused to pay out on the claim. White Star’s flagship would also be out of action during the extensive repairs, and the Titanic‘s completion date, which was already behind schedule due to Olympic‘s return to the yard after her loss of a propeller blade, would have to be delayed. All this would amount to a serious financial loss for the company. Gardiner proposes that, to make sure at least one vessel would be earning money, the badly damaged Olympicwas patched up and then converted to become the Titanic. The real Titanic when complete would then quietly enter service as the Olympic.
The Titanic indeed had a list to port leaving Southampton. Inadequate trimming of cargo and bunkers would likely result in such and the crew seems to have demonstrated a lack of proficiency on several occasions. A list to port was noted by several Titanic survivors including Lawrence Beesley who wrote in his book about the sinking: “I then called the attention of our table to the way the Titanic listed to port (I had noticed this before), and we watched the skyline through the portholes as we sat at the purser’s table in the saloon.” (The dining saloon windows were double rows of portholes covered on the inside with screens of leaded decorative glass with no clear view of the outdoors.) This was echoed by survivor Norman Chambers, who testified that after the collision: “However, there was then a slight list to starboard, with probably a few degrees in pitch; and as the ship had a list to port nearly all afternoon, I decided to remain up.”
Gardiner states that few parts of either ship bore the name, other than the easily removed lifeboats, bell, compass binnacle, and name plates. Everything else was standard White Star issue and was interchangeable between the two ships, and other vessels in the White Star fleet. While all other White Star Line Ships had their name engraved into the hull, the Titanic alone had its name riveted over top. In recent pictures of the wreck depicting a spot where two riveted plates that had spelledTitanic fell off, the letters MP appear to be stamped into the hull.[unreliable source?]
The plan, Gardiner suggests, was to dispose of the Olympic, which had allegedly been damaged beyond economic repair in a way that would allow White Star to collect the full insured value of a brand new ship. He supposes that the seacocks were to be opened at sea to slowly flood the ship. If numerous ships were stationed nearby to take off the passengers, the shortage of lifeboats would not matter as the ship would sink slowly and the boats could make several trips to the rescuers.
Gardiner uses as evidence the length of Titanic‘s sea trials. Olympic‘s trials in 1910 took two days, including several high speed runs, but Titanic‘s trials reportedly only lasted for one day, with (Gardiner alleges) no working over half-speed. Gardiner says this was because the patched-up hull could not take any long periods of high speed. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Titanic as a nearly identical twin sister of the Olympic was expected to handle exactly the same, or perhaps the Board of Trade inspectors were in on the scheme.
Gardiner maintains that on 14 April, First Officer Murdoch (who was not officially on duty yet) was on the bridge because he was one of the few high-ranking officers other than Captain Smith who knew of the plan and was keeping a watch out for the rescue ships. One of Gardiner’s most controversial statements is that the Titanic did not strike an iceberg, but an IMM rescue ship that was drifting on station with its lights out. Gardiner based this hypothesis on the idea that the supposed iceberg was seen at such a short distance by the lookouts on the Titanic because it was actually a darkened ship, and he also does not believe an iceberg could inflict such sustained and serious damage to a steel double-hulled vessel such as the Titanic.
Gardiner further hypothesises that the ship that was hit by the Titanic was the one seen by the Californian firing distress rockets, and that this explains the perceived inaction of the Californian(which traditionally is seen as failing to come to the rescue of the Titanic after sighting its distress rockets). Gardiner’s hypothesis is that the Californian, another IMM ship, was not expecting rockets but a rendezvous. The ice on the deck of the Titanic is explained by Gardiner as ice from the rigging of both the Titanic and the mystery ship she hit. As for the true Titanic, Gardiner alleges that she spent 25 years in service as the Olympic and was scrapped in 1935.
Researchers Bruce Beveridge and Steve Hall took issue with many of Gardiner’s claims in their book, Olympic and Titanic: The Truth Behind the Conspiracy. Author Mark Chirnside has also raised serious questions about the switch theory.
Some conspiracy theorists believe that the Titanic was sunk on purpose to eliminate opposition to the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank. Some of the wealthiest men in the world were aboard the Titanic for its maiden voyage. Several of whom including John Jacob Astor IV, Benjamin Guggenheim, and Isidor Straus were allegedly opposed to the creation of a U.S. central bank. All three men died during the sinking. Conspiracy theorists suggest that J.P. Morgan, the legendary 74-year-old financier who set up the investment banking firm that still bears his name, arranged to have the men board the ship and then sink it to eliminate them. Morgan, nicknamed the “Napoleon of Wall Street,” had helped create General Electric, U.S. Steel and International Harvester, and was credited with almost single-handedly saving the U.S. banking system during the Panic of 1907. Morgan did have a hand in the creation of the Federal Reserve, and owned the International Mercantile Marine, which owned the White Star Line, and thus the Titanic, but that is about where the evidence for the conspiracy theory ends.
Morgan, who had attended the Titanic’s launching in 1911, had a personal suite aboard the ship with his own private promenade deck and a bath equipped with specially designed cigar holders. He was reportedly booked on the ship’s maiden voyage but instead canceled the trip and remained at the French resort of Aix-les-Bains to enjoy his morning massages and sulfur baths. His last-minute cancellation has fueled speculation among conspiracy theorists that he knew her fate.
Closed watertight doors
Another theory involves Titanic‘s watertight doors. This theory suggests that if these doors had been opened, the Titanic would have settled on an even keel and therefore, perhaps, remained afloat long enough for rescue ships to arrive. However, this theory appears to be far from reality for two reasons: first, there were no watertight doors between any of the first four compartments,[clarification needed] thus it was impossible to lower the concentration of water in the bow significantly. Second, Bedford and Hacket have shown by calculations that any significant amount of water aft of boiler room No.4 would have resulted in capsizing of the Titanic, which would have occurred about 30 minutes earlier than the actual time of sinking. Additionally, the lighting would have been lost about 70 minutes after the collision due to the flooding of the boiler rooms. Bedford and Hacket also analysed the hypothetical case that there were no bulkheadsat all. Then, the vessel would have capsized about 70 minutes before the actual time of sinking and lighting would have been lost about 40 minutes after the collision.
Later, in a 1998 documentary titled Titanic: Secrets Revealed, the Discovery Channel ran model simulations which also rebutted this theory. The simulations indicated that opening Titanic‘s watertight doors would have caused the ship to capsize earlier than she actually sank by more than one half hour, confirming the findings of Bedford and Hacket.
Expansion joints theory
Titanic researchers continue to debate the causes and mechanics of Titanic‘s breakup. In his 1955 book A Night to Remember, Walter Lord described Titanic as assuming an “absolutely perpendicular” position before its final plunge. This view remained largely unchallenged even after the wreck’s discovery in 1985 confirmed that the ship had broken in two pieces at or near the surface; paintings by noted marine artist Ken Marschall as well as James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic depicted the ship attaining a steep angle prior to the breakup. Most researchers acknowledged that Titanic‘s after expansion joint—designed to allow for flexing of the hull in a seaway—played little to no role in the ship’s breakup, though debate continued as to whether the ship had broken from the top downwards or from the bottom upwards.[clarification needed]
In 2005, a History Channel expedition to the wreck site scrutinised two large sections of Titanic‘s keel, which constituted the portion of the ship’s bottom from immediately below the site of the break. With assistance from naval architect Roger Long, the team analysed the wreckage and developed a new break-up scenario which was publicised in the 2006 television documentary Titanic’s Final Moments: Missing Pieces. One hallmark of this new theory was the claim that Titanic‘s angle at the time of the breakup was far less than had been commonly assumed — according to Long, no greater than 11°.
Long also suspected that Titanic‘s breakup may have begun with the premature failure of the ship’s after expansion joint, and ultimately exacerbated the loss of life by causing Titanic to sink faster than anticipated. In 2006, the History Channel sponsored dives on Titanic‘s younger sister ship, Britannic, which verified that the design of Britannic‘s expansion joints was superior to that incorporated in the Titanic. To further explore Long’s theory, the History Channel commissioned a new computer simulation by JMS Engineering. The simulation, whose results were featured in the 2007 documentary Titanic’s Achilles Heel, partially refuted Long’s suspicions by demonstrating that Titanic‘s expansion joints were strong enough to deal with any and all stresses the ship could reasonably be expected to encounter in service and, during the sinking, actually outperformed their design specifications. But, most important is that the expansion joints were part of the superstructure, which was situated above the strength deck (B-deck) and therefore above the top of the structural hull girder. Thus, the expansion joints had no meaning for the support of the hull. They played no role in the breaking of the hull. They simply opened up and parted as the hull flexed or broke beneath them.
Brad Matsen’s 2008 book Titanic’s Last Secrets endorses the expansion joint theory.
One common oversight is the fact that the collapse of the first funnel at a relatively shallow angle occurred when the forward expansion joint, over which several funnel stays crossed, opened as the hull was beginning to stress. The opening of the joint stretched and snapped the stays. The forward momentum of the ship as it took a sudden lurch forward and downward sent the unsupported funnel toppling onto the starboard bridge wing.
One theory that would support the fracturing of the hull is that the Titanic partly grounded on the shelf of ice below the waterline as she collided with the iceberg, perhaps damaging the keel and underbelly. Later during the sinking, it was noticed that Boiler Room #4 flooded from below the floor grates rather than from over the top of the watertight bulkhead. This would be consistent with additional damage along the keel compromising the integrity of the hull.
Fire in coal bunker
A fire began in one of Titanic’s coal bunkers approximately 10 days prior to the ship’s departure, and continued to burn for several days into its voyage. Fires occurred frequently on board steamships due to spontaneous combustion of the coal. The fires had to be extinguished with fire hoses, by moving the coal on top to another bunker and by removing the burning coal and feeding it into the furnace. This event has led some authors to theorise that the fire exacerbated the effects of the iceberg collision, by reducing the structural integrity of the hull and a critical bulkhead.Senan Molony has suggested that attempts to extinguish the fire – by shovelling burning coals into the engine furnaces – may have been the primary reason for the Titanicsteaming at full speed prior to the collision, despite ice warnings. Most experts, on the contrary, disagree. Samuel Halpern, for example, has concluded that “the bunker fire would not have weakened the watertight bulkhead sufficiently to cause it to collapse.” Also, it has been suggested that the coal bunker fire actually helped Titanic to last longer during the sinking and prevented the ship from rolling over to starboard after the impact, due to the subtle port list created by the moving of coal inside the ship prior to the encounter with the iceberg. Some of these foremost Titanic experts have published a detailed rebuttal of Molony’s claims.
Bibliographic details for “RMS Titanic alternative theories”
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Legends and myths regarding RMS Titanic
There have been several legends and myths surrounding the RMS Titanic over the years. These have ranged from the myth about the ship being unsinkable, to the myth concerning the final song of the ship’s orchestra.
Contrary to popular mythology, Titanic was never described as “unsinkable“, without qualification, until after she sank. Three trade publications (one of which was probably never published) described Titanic as practically unsinkable prior to her sinking, but there is no evidence that the notion of Titanic‘s unsinkability had entered public consciousness until after the sinking. Harland and Wolff did not claim she was unsinkable, but a promotional item from the White Star Line stressed the safety of Olympic and Titanic, claiming that “as far as it is possible to do so, these two wonderful vessels are designed to be unsinkable”. Claims by trade publications that vessels were unsinkable or being practically unsinkable were not unique to the Olympic class liners or other White Star ships. Similar claims were made about the CunardersLusitania and Mauretania, and German liners Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and Kaiser Wilhelm II. Advanced safety features on these liners were heavily publicized, de-emphasizing the likelihood of these ships’ sinking in a serious accident.
The Titanic was designed to comply with the Grade 1 subdivision proposed by the 1891 Bulkhead Committee, meaning that it could stay afloat with any 2 adjoining out of its 16 main compartments open to the sea. The height of the bulkhead deck above the water line in flooded condition was well above the requirements, and the vessel would have been able to float with 3 adjoining compartments flooded in 11 of 14 possible combinations. The subdivisions could be sealed from communication with each other with cast iron watertight doors. To somewhat lower the chance of a sailor’s being caught in them, a geared system dropped the doors gradually, over 25 to 30 seconds, by sliding them vertically on hydraulic cataract cylinders.
The first unqualified assertion of Titanic‘s unsinkability appeared in The New York Times on 16 April 1912, a day after the tragedy. Philip A. S. Franklin, vice president of the International Mercantile Marine Company (White Star Line’s holding company) stated after being told of the sinking, “I thought her unsinkable, and I based my opinion on the best expert advice available. I do not understand it.” This comment was seized upon by the press, and the idea that the White Star Line had previously declared Titanic unsinkable (without qualification) gained immediate and widespread currency.
David Sarnoff, wireless reports and the use of SOS
An often-quoted story that has been blurred between fact and fiction states that the first person to receive news of the sinking was David Sarnoff, who would later lead media giant RCA. In modified versions of this legend, Sarnoff was not the first to hear the news (though Sarnoff willingly promoted this notion), but he and others did staff the Marconi wireless station (telegraph) atop the Wanamaker Department Store in New York City, and for three days, relayed news of the disaster and names of survivors to people waiting outside. However, even this version lacks support in contemporary accounts. No newspapers of the time, for example, mention Sarnoff. Given the absence of primary evidence, the story of Sarnoff should be properly regarded as a legend.
Despite popular belief, the sinking of Titanic was not the first time the internationally recognised Morse code distress signal “SOS” was used. The SOS signal was first proposed at the International Conference on Wireless Communication at Sea in Berlin in 1906. It was ratified by the international community in 1908 and had been in widespread use since then. The SOS signal was, however, rarely used by British wireless operators, who preferred the older CQD code. First Wireless Operator Jack Phillips began transmitting CQD until Second Wireless Operator Harold Bride half jokingly suggested, “Send SOS; it’s the new call, and this may be your last chance to send it.” Phillips then began to intersperse SOS with the traditional CQD call.
There are reports that, in 1936, a ham radio operator named Gordon Cosgrave claimed to be receiving long delayed echo SOS messages from the Carpathia and Titanic 24 years after their transmission.
One of the most famous stories of Titanic is of the ship’s band. On 15 April the eight-member band, led by Wallace Hartley, had assembled in the first-class lounge in an effort to keep passengers calm and upbeat. Later they moved on to the forward half of the boat deck. The band continued playing, even when it became apparent the ship was going to sink, and all members perished.
There has been much speculation about what their last song was. A first-class Canadian passenger, Mrs. Vera Dick, and several other passengers, alleged that the final tune played was that of the hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee“. Hartley reportedly once said to a friend if he were on a sinking ship, “Nearer, My God, to Thee” would be one of the songs he would play. But Walter Lord‘s book A Night to Remember popularised wireless operator Harold Bride‘s 1912 account (New York Times) that he heard the song “Autumn” before the ship sank. It is considered Bride either meant the hymn tune known as “Autumn” or the tune of the then-popular waltz “Songe d’Automne” but neither was in the White Star Line songbook for the band. Bride is one of only two witnesses who were close enough to the band, as he floated off the deck before the ship went down. Some consider his statement to be reliable. Mrs. Dick had left by lifeboat an hour and 20 minutes earlier and could not possibly have heard the band’s final moments. The notion that the band played “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as a swan song is possibly a myth originating from the wrecking of SS Valencia, which had received wide press coverage in Canada in 1906 and so may have influenced Mrs. Dick’s recollection.
There are three, very different versions of the hymn using the lyrics of “Nearer, My God, to Thee”: Horbury, written in 1861 by the Rev John Dykes was popular in Britain, and another, Bethany, written in 1856 by Dr Lowell Mason was popular in the U.S. The third tune associated with the hymn was Propior Deo, was written by Sir Arthur Sullivan and was also popular in Britain. Additionally, the British melody might sound like the other hymn (“Autumn”). On 24 May 1912, the seven chief London orchestras performed at a memorial for the musicians who perished, as they played Horbury, two Titanic survivors in the audience became emotional and stated that this was the tune they heard while they were in their lifeboat. The film A Night to Remember (1958) uses the tune Horbury; while the 1953 film Titanic, with Clifton Webb, uses the tune Bethany as does James Cameron‘s 1997 Titanic. To further complicate things, Horbury was the Anglican version of the hymn, while Propior Deo was the Methodist version. The Titanic’s bandmaster, Wallace Hartley was a devout Methodist and son of a Methodist choirmaster leading a band containing several devout Methodists. Propior Deo was not only sung at Hartley’s funeral but was also carved into his headstone. Recently, another possibility has been raised. Among items left behind by Hartley’s fiancee, Maria Robinson, was the sheet music of a third tune to the hymn written by Lewis Carey in 1902 and made popular by the Australian contralto Ada Crossley. As Crossley performed in both Britain and America, it is possible that this may have been a tune known to passengers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Colonel Archibald Gracie, an amateur historian who was aboard the ship until the final moments, and was later rescued on a capsized collapsible lifeboat, wrote his account immediately after the sinking but died from his injuries eight months later. His detailed account was kept by his family and only recently made public. According to Gracie, the tunes played by the band were “cheerful” but that he didn’t recognise any of them, claiming that if they had played “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as claimed in the newspaper, “I assuredly should have noticed it and regarded it as a tactless warning of immediate death to us all and one likely to create panic.”
The stories of W.T. Stead
Another oft-cited Titanic legend concerns perished first-class passenger William Thomas Stead. According to this folklore, Stead had, through precognitiveinsight, foreseen his own death on the Titanic. This is apparently suggested in two fictional sinking stories, which he penned decades earlier. The first, “How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid-Atlantic, by a Survivor” (1886), tells of a mail steamer’s collision with another ship, resulting in high loss of life due to lack of lifeboats. The second, “From the Old World to the New” (1892) features a White Star Line vessel, Majestic, that rescues survivors of another ship that had collided with an iceberg.
Some believe that there was another ship, the Norwegian sealer Samson, in the vicinity of Titanic when she sank. There is also speculation that this was the ship Titanic saw in the distance instead of the Californian. If correct, the coordinates of Samson place her within 10 miles of Titanic‘s position as the ship was sinking. The story of crewmate Hendrik Bergethon Naess suggests that when Titanic set off her distress rockets, Samson did not come to the rescue because she was illegally hunting seals, and instead thought that the rockets being fired off was a signal to other ships in regard to Samson being there. His statement allegedly states that they sailed north to avoid detection after seeing the rockets. However, research of Lloyd’s List records suggests that Samson was in port in Iceland for engine repairs on the date of the Titanic‘s sinking, making her presence near the incident on the night of April 14 impossible. Another possible candidate is the SS Mount Temple.[clarification needed]
The Titanic curse
One of the most widely spread legends linked directly into the sectarianism of the city of Belfast, where the ship was built. It was suggested that the ship was given the number 390904 which, when reflected, resembles the letters “NOPOPE”, a sectarian slogan attacking Roman Catholics, widely used by extreme Protestants in Northern Ireland, where the ship was built. In the extreme sectarianism of the region at the time, the ship’s sinking was alleged to be on account of anti-Catholicism by her manufacturers, the Harland and Wolff company, which had an almost exclusively Protestant workforce and an alleged record of hostility towards Catholics. (Harland and Wolff did have a record of hiring few Catholics; whether that was through policy or because the company’s shipyard in Belfast’s bay was located in almost exclusively Protestant East Belfast—through which few Catholics would travel—or a mixture of both, is a matter of dispute.) In fact, RMS OlympicandTitanicwere assigned the yard numbers 400 and 401 respectively.
On the night of the sinking, a young girl by the name of Jessie Sayre lay dying in the town of Kirkudbright, Scotland. In her delirious state she described seeing a large ship sinking and a man named Wally (a nickname for Wallace) playing a fiddle. Just hours after her death, Wallace Hartley continued to play his violin with the rest of his band as Titanic went down.
Literary foreshadowing of the disaster
At the time the Titanic sank, the 1 May 1912 issue of The Popular Magazine, an American pulp magazine, was on the news stands. It contained the short story “The White Ghost of Disaster,” which described the collision of an ocean liner with an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean, the sinking of the vessel, and the fate of the passengers. The story, by Mayn Clew Garnett (the pseudonym of sea-story author T. Jenkins Hains), created a minor sensation. In 1898, fourteen years prior to the Titanic disaster, Morgan Robertson wrote a book called Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan. This story features an enormous British passenger liner called the Titan, which, deemed to be unsinkable, carries insufficient lifeboats. On a voyage in the month of April, the Titan hits an icebergand sinks in the North Atlantic with the loss of almost everyone on board. There are some similarities between the fictional sinking of the Titan and the real-life sinking of the RMS Titanic.
In 1912, the German Berliner Tageblatt newspaper published a book in serial form that ran from January 9 until April 24. This work of fiction was written by Gerhard Hauptmann, who would receive the Nobel Prize in Literature later that year. One month before the fateful April maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, the story was published by S. Fischer Verlag as the novel Atlantis. Atlantis is a romantic tale set aboard the fictitious ocean liner Roland, which is coincidentally doomed to a fate very similar to that of the RMS Titanic. This perceived anticipation of the Titanicdisaster received considerable attention at the time. A Danish silent film also titled Atlantis was produced by Nordisk Film based on the novel. The film was released less than a year following the actual tragic event. The association became evident, and it was banned in Norway, perceived as being in “bad taste”.
Bibliographic details for “Legends and myths regarding RMS Titanic”
- Page name: Legends and myths regarding RMS Titanic
- Author: Wikipedia contributors
- Publisher: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Date of last revision: 22 June 2017 20:39 UTC
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