Did Titanic Have an Achilles Heel?

Did Titanic Have an Achilles Heel?

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Did Titanic Have an Achilles Heel? - HISTORY

Above: Although simplistic, as they do not show the intricate details of the bridge deck&rsquos thin side plating or expansion joints, these diagrams give a good idea of the pattern of fractures that were localised at the corners of windows close to each of the expansion joints - particularly towards the forward end of Olympic&rsquos B-deck. (Courtesy National Archives, Author&rsquos Collection.)

This article was first published in the Titanic Historical Society&rsquos Titanic Commutator 2007 : Volume 31 Number 178: Pages 84-86.
There seem to be some popular misconceptions regarding the expansion joints of the &lsquoOlympic&rsquo class ships prior to, and after, the recent (June 2007) airing of the History Channel&rsquos programme Titanic&rsquos Achilles Heel. The following article is not a direct response to the programme. Its purpose is merely to point out that Harland & Wolff were aware that Olympic&rsquos expansion joints could have been increased in number and their design refined and improved early in 1912, before Titanic sank. As practical experience was gained with Olympic, so improvements were incorporated into each succeeding vessel - part of the shipbuilders&rsquo philosophy of continuous improvement. Such was the nature of progressive shipbuilding. Given that it can be demonstrated that Harland & Wolff had reason to improve Britannic&rsquos expansion joints prior to Titanic&rsquos loss, it is hard to accept that they were changed as part of some sort of &lsquoconspiracy&rsquo, and it is important that this evidence is made available.
Olympic&rsquos expansion joints served her well throughout her twenty-four years&rsquo service, and performed as well as similar expansion joints did on other large liners of the period, such as Aquitania and Berengaria, yet there is always room for improvement and Harland & Wolff worked to improve Britannic.

It is to their credit that Harland & Wolff were engaged in a policy of continuous improvement, making changes to Olympic based on her performance in service, improving Titanic and assessing the design of the third sister ship.

Olympic and Titanic were constructed with two expansion joints. These allowed the superstructure to flex on top of the structural hull. The heavy sheer strake plating between C and B-deck formed the top of the structural hull proper, even if C-deck was white painted as the superstructure was. On B-deck, Scott Andrews explains that: &lsquoEverything above the level of the deck plates was superstructure, and was built of light plating none of it was intended to take any degree of severe stress.&rsquo

It is important to emphasize that Titanic&rsquos expansion joints did not cause the ship&rsquos hull to break apart. They did not penetrate the strength deck or sheer strake, as they were intended to relieve stresses in the superstructure. The superstructure plating near an expansion joint would not be under tension stress, which would only be acting on the strength deck below (the uppermost part of the hull girder). However, that tends to create a slight stress concentration point. If the hull girder gets stressed by tension to the point of failing then the initial failure has to begin somewhere. Areas in close proximity to the joints would therefore be more likely to experience failure as opposed to elsewhere along the sheer strake, regardless of whether the ship initially broke &lsquobottom up&rsquo or &lsquotop down&rsquo.

Britannic&rsquos forward expansion joint was located in the same place as her sisters&rsquo, yet in 2006 the History Channel expedition team discovered the base shape had been altered and widened to a &lsquopear&rsquo like shape. (Although &ndash if the forward expansion joint&rsquos base was changed &ndash it seems probable that the others were as well, this has not yet been confirmed by exploration of the wreck) An additional joint was installed toward the middle of the superstructure, the aft expansion joint was moved closer to the stern, and the newly-enclosed aft well deck required a fourth expansion joint there. In many ways Britannic was very different from her sisters, and it is not the purpose to argue precisely why her expansion joint arrangement was changed, but to point out that Olympic&rsquos early performance may have convinced the shipbuilders to review and improve the arrangement of the expansion joints even before Titanic&rsquos loss.

By early 1912, Olympic had been in service for half a year, and experienced two very heavy storms in December 1911 and January 1912. When she was dry-docked for a new propeller blade to be fitted, early in March 1912 some signs of &lsquoundue stress&rsquo were observed. On the bridge deck, B, there were a number of fractures at the corners of rectangular windows near the expansion joints, while &lsquoone very short fracture only was found in the houses on the promenade deck [A].&rsquo Fortunately the fractures were &lsquoconfined entirely to what is shown here, neither the promenade deck or bridge deck plating nor the bulwark plating at the sides showing any signs.&rsquo

It is important to emphasize that these fractures were not of a serious structural nature, for the plating was light, yet they indicated that the expansion joints were not facilitating the &lsquoworking&rsquo of the bridge deck enough to prevent some localised stress fractures in severe weather conditions. The window corners allowed stress concentrations to form, facilitating fracture, and it was preferable to try and avoid these issues in future.

There was a very interesting surveyor&rsquos observation:

&lsquoIt will be observed that these fractures have occurred at the portion of the [deck] houses between the expansion openings and near to the openings.&rsquo

Technical researcher Scott Andrews offered some fascinating comments about the fracturing:

&lsquoI think the problems with the exterior screen plating occurred along this deck [B-deck] simply because of the long lengths at which it continued unbroken by any sort of joint [author&rsquos emphasis], coupled with the fact that the bottom edge of this screen was securely riveted to the top edge of the shell [plating of the sheer strake]. This last part is critical here because this meant that even though the side screen plates were not designed as part of the hull structure, all of the flexing and bending the hull experienced was being directly transmitted to this entire line of light plating. The deckhouse bulkheads inboard of these screens were in a better position to handle this movement, partly due to the greater internal bracing they had in places, and also because of the numerous changes in direction they made along their path lengths, which would tend to behave like the expansion loops and bends designed into long runs of steam piping.&rsquo

Although Lusitania had two expansion joints, Aquitania was constructed with three, as did other large liners. It became unusual for a liner Olympic&rsquos length to have only two.

Another interesting point is that two of the small fractures were located on the port and starboard sides beneath the aft expansion joint. This suggests that Harland & Wolff were already aware that the design could be improved by changing the shape of the base of the joint, thus reducing the likelihood of localised stress cracking.

It was Olympic&rsquos aft expansion joint that was observed to have fractured at the light plating near the base. That would seem to indicate that it had opened more than anticipated. At the aft end of the deck, there was far less fracturing yet spread over a wider area, whereas at the forward end the fracturing was more extensive but around fewer windows. What seems apparent is that the forward end of Olympic&rsquos bridge deck &lsquoworked&rsquo considerably more than the after end. Britannic&rsquos forward expansion joint was located in the same place and this may have been an influence as regards its altered shape. Her additional expansion joints reduced the likelihood of one of the after joints opening more than was desirable.

It can be demonstrated that Harland & Wolff were continuously improving their designs that prior to the disaster they were aware that Olympic&rsquos two expansion joints had not been sufficient to prevent localised stress fractures as the bridge deck erections &lsquoworked&rsquo at sea and that a fracture in the light plating had been observed at the base of the aft expansion joint. Titanic&rsquos construction was too far advanced for her expansion joints to be modified, yet Britannic&rsquos was not. In the absence of more evidence, a strong circumstantial case can be made that the changes to Britannic were under consideration before the Titanic disaster. Harland & Wolff were certainly aware of the potential for improvement and continued to improve their previous best practise.


Chirnside, Mark. The &lsquoOlympic&rsquo Class&rsquos Expansion Joints. Titanic Research & Modelling Association. October 2005. http://titanic-model.com/articles/markchirnside3/index.shtml (Accessed June 22nd 2007.)
Warren, Mark D. (Ed.) The Shipbuilder 1907-14 Volume 2. Blue Riband Publications 1997.


I am grateful to Scott Andrews for his assistance and interpretation Bruce Beveridge for his ever-helpful comments Sam Halpern for his valued suggestions and explanation. It is also of prime importance to acknowledge the 2006 History Channel Britannic expedition team members for the discovery of the expansion joint shape, for their exploration continues to yield new and significant information. Any errors are entirely my own fault.

Titanic’s “Brittle” Steel?

Olympic and Titanic were built using Siemens-Martin formula steel plating throughout the shell and upper works. This type of steel was first used in the armed merchant cruisers, Teutonic and Majestic in 1889/90. This steel was high quality with good elastic properties, ideal for conventional riveting as well as the modern method (in 1912) of hydraulic riveting. Each plate was milled and rolled to exact tolerances and presented a huge material cost to both yard and ship owner. The steel was not a new type, as already stated, but shows that yard and owner only put material and equipment into these two giants that was tried and tested. Reports of Teutonic’s and Majestic’s hull condition 20 years after they entered service showed that both were in remarkable condition. The excellent properties of this steel and resistance to corrosion made it the natural choice for the new sisters.

Yard workers at the time referred to this steel as “battleship quality.” I had several conversations with retired shipbuilders at Harland and Wolff and they confirm this. Harland and Wolff used larger sized plates to reduce the amount of butts and overlaps. The shells themselves were generally 6 feet wide and 30 feet long weighing between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 tons depending on thickness. The double bottom plating was 1 1/2 inches thick and hydraulically riveted up to the bilge. Some of the largest plates were 6 feet wide and 36 feet long and weighed 4 1/2 tons.

White Star gave Harland and Wolff complete freedom to build the very best ships they could, adding a percentage profit to the final cost of the building. The so-called “cost-plus” arrangement was used on all but one of the company’s ships. From 1869 until 1919, it was said that there was never a single day that Harland and Wolff was not working on one of the White Star Line’s ships. White Star was Harland and Wolff’s best customer and they undertook to build Olympic and Titanic on the same basis as before, cost-plus. The ships were the largest in the world and would require numerous calculations as to the strength of hull required at this size. Much of the ships’ arrangement was tried and tested basic shipbuilding design — just larger with greater added strength. The strength was entirely provided by the ship’s shell plating and rivets. Hydraulic riveting was used for much of the 3 million rivets, in some places the hull quadruply riveted.

Titanic’s impact with an iceberg caused the rippling and springing of the joints between plates. Rivet heads ripped off would not cause massive flooding, rather the long leaking that is recorded to have happened in her forward compartments. Science tells us that in order for steel of this quality to fracture due to cold and impact would mean the steel being brought down to below the temperature of liquid nitrogen. As the water in Titanic’s ballast tanks had not frozen on the night she struck the iceberg, it’s safe to say the steel was above the freezing point of ordinary seawater.

We discovered on the Arabic (White Star liner of 1903) dive the ship’s shell plating was in remarkable condition, but the rivets had “let go.” That is to say, sprung — allowing the plates to come apart. In places the ship was like a stack of playing cards not relating to any structure. I have some of these and I’m organizing a scientific study of them and will keep you apprised of the results.

I think — and this is just a theory — the rivets were heated so they could be riveted into place by hand or by hydraulic riveter. The steel would have to be capable of easy heating, malleable, and perhaps weaker by design. Is this the Achilles’ heel of the Titanic? So much time is spent looking at the steel but I think these 3 million mild steel rivets might hold the secret.

Patroclus and Hector

After he left the conflict at Troy, Achilles urged one of his closest friends Patroclus, to go fight in Troy, offering his armor. Patroclus donned Achilles's armor--except for his ash spear, which only Achilles could wield--and went into battle as a direct substitute (what Nickel refers to as "doublet") for Achilles. And at Troy, Patroclus was killed by Hector, the greatest warrior on the Trojan side. Upon word of the death of Patroclus, Achilles finally agreed to fight with the Greeks.

As the story goes, an enraged Achilles put on the armor and killed Hector--significantly with the ash spear--directly outside of the gates of Troy, and then dishonored Hector's body by dragging it around tied to the back of a chariot for nine consecutive days. It is said that the gods kept Hector's corpse miraculously sound during this nine-day period. Eventually, Hector's father, King Priam of Troy, appealed to the better nature of Achilles and persuaded him to return Hector's corpse to his family in Troy for proper funeral rites.

Statius' Achilleid

The most popular version of Thetis' attempt to immortalize her son survives in its earliest written form in Statius' Achilleid 1.133-34, written in the first century AD. The nymph holds her son Achilles by his left ankle while she dips him in the River Styx, and the waters confer immortality on Achilles, but only on those surfaces that contact the water. Unfortunately, since Thetis dipped only once and she had to hold onto the baby, that spot, Achilles' heel, remains mortal. At the end of his life, when the arrow of Paris (possibly guided by Apollo) pierces Achilles' ankle, Achilles is mortally wounded.

Imperfect invulnerability is a common theme in world folklore. For example, there is Siegfried, the Germanic hero in the Nibelungenlied who was vulnerable only between his shoulder blades the Ossetian warrior Soslan or Sosruko from the Nart Saga who is dipped by a blacksmith into alternating water and fire to turn him into metal but missed his legs and the Celtic hero Diarmuid, who in the Irish Fenian Cycle was pierced by a venomous boar bristle through a wound to his unprotected sole.


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Achilles, in Greek mythology, son of the mortal Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and the Nereid, or sea nymph, Thetis. Achilles was the bravest, handsomest, and greatest warrior of the army of Agamemnon in the Trojan War. According to Homer, Achilles was brought up by his mother at Phthia with his inseparable companion Patroclus. Later non-Homeric tales suggest that Patroclus was Achilles’ kinsman or lover. Another non-Homeric episode relates that Thetis dipped Achilles as a child in the waters of the River Styx, by which means he became invulnerable, except for the part of his heel by which she held him—the proverbial “Achilles’ heel.”

Who was Achilles?

In Greek mythology, Achilles was the strongest warrior and hero in the Greek army during the Trojan War. He was the son of Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and Thetis, a sea nymph. The story of Achilles appears in Homer’s Iliad and elsewhere.

Why was Achilles considered a hero?

Achilles was considered a hero because he was the most successful soldier in the Greek army during the Trojan War. According to post-Homeric myths, Achilles was physically invulnerable, and it was prophesied that the Greeks could not win the Trojan War without him.

How did Achilles die?

According to legend, the Trojan prince Paris killed Achilles by shooting him in the heel with an arrow. Paris was avenging his brother, Hector, whom Achilles had slain. Though the death of Achilles is not described in the Iliad, his funeral is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.

What is an Achilles heel?

The term Achilles heel references a vulnerability or weakness. It is rooted in the myth of Achilles’ mother dipping him in the River Styx, making his entire body invulnerable except for the part of his foot where she held him—the proverbial Achilles heel. (Achilles tendon is an anatomical term.)

The later mythographers related that Peleus, having received an oracle that his son would die fighting at Troy, sent Achilles to the court of Lycomedes on Scyros, where he was dressed as a girl and kept among the king’s daughters (one of whom, Deïdamia, bore him Neoptolemus). Hearing from the soothsayer Calchas that Troy could not be taken without Achilles, the Greeks searched for and found him.

During the first nine years of the war, Achilles ravaged the country around Troy and took 12 cities. In the 10th year a quarrel with Agamemnon occurred when Achilles insisted that Agamemnon restore Chryseis, his prize of war, to her father, a priest of Apollo, so as to appease the wrath of Apollo, who had decimated the camp with a pestilence. An irate Agamemnon recouped his loss by depriving Achilles of his favourite slave, Briseis.

Achilles refused further service, and consequently the Greeks floundered so badly that at last Achilles allowed Patroclus to impersonate him, lending him his chariot and armour. Hector (the eldest son of King Priam of Troy) slew Patroclus, and Achilles, having finally reconciled with Agamemnon, obtained new armour from the god Hephaestus and slew Hector. After dragging Hector’s body behind his chariot, Achilles gave it to Priam at his earnest entreaty. The Iliad concludes with the funeral rites of Hector. It makes no mention of the death of Achilles, though the Odyssey mentions his funeral. The poet Arctinus in his Aethiopis took up the story of the Iliad and related that Achilles, having slain the Ethiopian king Memnon and the Amazon Penthesilea, was himself slain in battle by Priam’s son Paris, whose arrow was guided by Apollo.

Titanic Myths

The Titanic disaster is a classic tale and now has become a modern folk story, but like all folk stories our understanding of what really happened has been clouded by the way the disaster has been recounted over the years following that terrible night in April 1912. As soon as the waves of the North Atlantic closed over her stern the myths began.

It was said that the builders and owners of Titanic claimed she was unsinkable. Actually, the claim made was that she was “practically unsinkable.” Close enough, but nevertheless an unfortunate statement and one which would haunt both the builder and owner for years.

Titanic, the largest vessel in the world when she entered service in 1912, was not the finest nor the most technically advanced of her day. Size is seldom an indication that something is better and that was the only record she held… and only for five weeks when a larger liner, Hamburg-America’s Imperator was launched on May 23 rd .

Titanic and her slightly older sister Olympic were designed to compete with the Cunard liners Lusitania and Mauretania which entered service in 1907. Designed and built as record breakers, both held the coveted “Blue Riband” for the fastest Atlantic crossing. The sisters were built principally from lessons learned from advances in warship construction, but most importantly both were powered by steam turbines driving quadruple screws, each fitted with a large balanced rudder, making them faster than their competition and easier to maneuver — a giant leap forward in marine engineering that is comparable to the advances made in 1969 with the introduction of the Concorde supersonic aircraft.

Titanic and her sister should best be described as the 747s of their day. Massive people carriers, traveling at moderate speed, with space for large cargos, which meant the new ships posed a great commercial threat to the smaller and more expensive Cunarders to operate.Building ships this large lead to inevitable compromises. Being identical in almost every respect to her sister, constructing Titanic meant adopting tried and true methods for her design and construction. No risks were taken with the choice of engines which actually were enlarged versions of the propulsion system first used experimentally in Laurentic in 1909, another White Star liner. That triple screw vessel proved that two expansion engines feeding exhaust steam into a low pressure turbine was more economical than vessels using expansion engines or turbines alone.

Titanic‘s hull and upper works were also enlarged versions of designs of previous White Star vessels only they had been refined over several decades. There was nothing custom made that was new or cutting edge. As stated, no risks were taken with the design and inside the ships were traditional Edwardian and conservative. If you take the time to look at photographs of the bridge, crow’s nest and superstructure on previous White Star ships, there is a similar look. As with the exterior, the interiors followed a similar theme from public rooms to furnishings.

Her stern, with its high graceful counter and long thin rudder was, in fact, a copy of an 18th century steel sailing ship, a perfect example of the lack of technical development. Compared with the modern rudder design of the Mauretania or Lusitania, Titanic‘s was a fraction of the size. Apparently no account was made for advances in scale and little thought given to how a ship 852 feet in length, might turn in an emergency or avoid a collision with an iceberg. This was Titanic‘s Achilles heel.

Naturally these design differences meant that she would never be able to challenge the speed or maneuverability of the Cunarders but this did not matter. White Star had given up all thought of speed records more than a decade before, in 1899, with the introduction of Oceanic, a ship that was given the title “Crowning Glory of the 19th Century.” It was justly deserved for it was said that her interiors were the finest ever created by Harland & Wolff. But Oceanic was relatively small compared with Titanic and White Star could not afford to lavish the same scale of expense on their new ship. Titanic, nevertheless, was a first-rate vessel, well built, with large and spacious public rooms and finely appointed suites for those traveling in first class. There also were many other ocean liners built in Britain, France and Germany that were technically superior with interiors best described as magnificent and stunning.

Speed plays a major part in the continuing story of Titanic. It is often said she was trying to make a record on her maiden voyage, attempting to arrive ahead of schedule in New York. That is not true. In actuality, she was following the pattern of her sister’s first crossing the previous year and, like Olympic, not all of Titanic‘s boilers had been lit. Also she was sailing on the longer southern route across the Atlantic in order to avoid the very threat which caused her eventual loss. Even if all boilers had been lit, her maximum speed was 21 knots, a far cry from the 26 knots the Cunarders regularly recorded. The most important reasons why Titanic did not attempt a full speed crossing was the risk of potential engine damage. If, as the some speculate, she arrived Tuesday evening, her passengers would have been very much inconvenienced. By arriving a day before their hotel, train bookings, etc., were in effect, there would be a mad scramble to rearrange schedules and likely miss people enroute for pickup at the pier. Not a good way to make your customers happy.

Bruce Ismay, chairman and managing director of the White Star Line, was a passenger onboard. Married with three young children and contrary to perception, this was only his third maiden voyage since becoming the chairman in 1899. At the age of 39 he was also president of the International Mercantile Marine Company, J. Pierpont Morgan’s giant American combine that was owner and operator of several transatlantic businesses, at the head of which was White Star. The myths surrounding Ismay are many but almost all center on allegations of cowardice by escaping the sinking ship while fellow passengers, notably women and children, were left to fend for themselves. Claims made at the time and repeated today that he “saved his own skin” while others died is very harsh. The truth was Ismay helped with loading and lowering several lifeboats and acquitted himself better than the behavior of many of the crew and passengers. He only entered a half-filled lifeboat when that boat was actually being lowered and no other passengers were in the vicinity. Witnesses like Mr. A. H. Weikman, Titanic’s barber, stated he was ordered into the lifeboat, but whatever happened, Lord Mersey said at the British Inquiry into the loss of Titanic, “Had he not jumped in he would simply have added one more life, namely his own, to the number of those lost.”

Ismay’s fault was that he survived and, as a consequence laid himself open to the somewhat dubious moral code of the press in the United States, especially through Anglophobe, William Randolph Hearst, whose syndicated newspapers were sold across the country. Hearst was the first man to syndicate so it was his newspapers that were mainly responsible for spreading vicious articles and editorials. The 1912 book “Sinking of the Titanic” consisted mainly of stories from newspapers and was sold door-to-door by the hundreds of thousands. Through these books and newspapers, Hearst’s version became “fact” that persists to this day.

Almost universally condemned in America, when Ismay finally arrived home he was cheered and applauded as he descended the gangway at Liverpool. The British press treated the whole episode in a far less judgmental way.

A second and more serious allegation was the claim that he ordered Captain Edward J. Smith, Titanic‘s commander, to “make a record crossing” thus indirectly causing the collision with the iceberg. It is unlikely that an experienced ship master like Smith, on his last voyage before retirement, and the highest paid commander in the mercantile marine, would defer to Ismay on matters of navigation. No firm evidence has ever come to light to suggest that Ismay interfered with the navigation of Titanic and, other than talking with the various heads of departments onboard, he conducted himself like many other passengers. Yet the opposite image of him exists today. Where did all these stories come from?

On Olympic‘s maiden voyage to New York less than a year previously, Ismay’s quotes are from an interview by a New York Times reporter. (Excerpts are from Ray Lepiens, “Olympic’s Maiden Voyage” in The Titanic Commutator, No 162):

“Captain Smith and Mr. Ismay chatted to the reporters assembled he was in excellent spirits. If he had any reservations about talking to the Press, he put them aside. One newspaperman asked, ‘What did she cost?’ (Eight to nine million dollars with furniture, fittings and such, 10 million.) ‘How much the ship was insured?’ (White Star carried a $500,000.00 risk the remainder was covered by the underwriters.) ‘How much did it cost to run the ship for one voyage?’ ($175,000.00.)

“When Ismay was asked if he thought the combination of reciprocating engines with a center low-pressure turbine was the best method of propulsion for big liners, he replied, ‘Well, we think so, and that is why we have ordered engines on the same principle for our big Australian steamship [Ceramic] now building. †In addition to the ship’s steadiness, this method of having two reciprocating engines with one turbine in the center is the more economical, as the turbine is fed by the exhaust steam from the reciprocating engines which would be otherwise wasted.’ ‘She had done all that was expected and behaved splendidly,’ said Captain Smith. Another question asked, ‘Will she ever dock on Tuesday?’ ‘No,’ Smith said emphatically, ‘and there will be no attempt to bring her in on Tuesday. She was built for a Wednesday ship and her run this first voyage has demonstrated that she will fulfill the expectations of the builders.’ Mr. Ismay said, ‘…that on her return trip she would steam at 21 knots the first day then gradually work her speed to see what her engines could do.’ †At this time, no one implied Ismay was a acting like a ‘super captain’ who told Captain Smith how to run the ship as some passengers charged on Titanic‘s voyage. Confirming Smith and Ismay’s remarks, White Star Line officials said the ship will maintain an average speed of 21 knots and will make her landing here on Wednesdays.”

All of the negative stereotypes of the ruthless businessman can be tracked back to the American press and, in particular, to the newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst one of the most powerful and influential men in America. Hearst and Ismay had met years before when Ismay was agent for his company working at the New York office. Ismay married an American woman from Philadelphia society which did not go over well with the likes of Hearst. Besides, Ismay had a retiring personality and valued his privacy. He disliked press attention. The two men did not get along and, as a consequence of his refusal to cooperate with the newspaperman, Hearst never forgot and in April 1912, his syndicated newspapers prosecuted a smear campaign against him even giving him the nickname “J. Brute Ismay.” Ismay was defenseless in the eye of the hurricane. Stories were invented and witnesses, wishing to strengthen large insurance claims for lost baggage against the company, declared he had in fact ordered Smith to make a record crossing. The heart of all these allegations was that he was one of the first to leave the sinking.

Reading the social history of the Edwardian era, the popular press in 1912 expected men to be heroes and die like heroes. After all, Captain Smith had done just that, or had he? In a strange quirk of history the man directly responsible for the loss of Titanic is remembered as hero, with a bronze statue erected in his honor, yet the man who tried to save lives has been labeled a coward.

The buck always stops at the top. As commander, all responsibility falls on Captain Smith and he failed the passengers and crew of Titanic. He failed to heed ice warnings, he did not slow his ship when ice was reported directly in his path and he allowed lifeboats to leave the sinking ship partially filled, unnecessarily adding at least 500 names to the list of the dead.

What organization or individual was ultimately to blame? The British Government’s Board of Trade allowed Titanic to sail with insufficient lifeboat accommodation. The government simply had not kept up with advances in marine engineering and based all lifesaving regulations on ships up to 10,000 grt (gross registered tons) that were required to carry 16 lifeboats. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1864 was the first comprehensive set of rules and regulations governing ships that companies were required to follow. They had been updated in 1902 and 1906 but, typical of government even to this day, they were hopelessly always behind the curve.

Titanic was 46,329 grt. A ship designed to accommodate 3,511 passengers and crew was only required to provide lifeboat accommodation for 962. In fact, White Star provided her with four extra collapsible boats, increasing capacity to 1,178. If Smith had not failed in his duty, all these lifeboats could have been loaded to their stated capacity in time, or even with many more, for the numbered capacity reflected shipyard workers, not women and children and, in the flat calm conditions that night, the first boat to leave Titanic‘s side, with a capacity of 40, contained just 12 people!

What happened to the White Star Line? Another myth is that following the disaster the company went into terminal decline which is not true. In 1913 White Star posted record profits. Immigrants in enormous numbers crossed the Atlantic, securing the company’s future.

The British Inquiry, a 1,000 page report, full title, “Shipping Casualties, (Loss of the Steamship “Titanic”) Report of a Formal Investigation into the circumstances attending the foundering on 15th April, 1912, of the British Steamship “Titanic,” of Liverpool, after striking ice in or near Latitude 41.46 N., Longitude 50.14 W., North Atlantic Ocean, whereby loss of life ensued. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1912. The Court and Inquiry, Report Evidence, etc was reprinted by the Public Record Office. This massive report contains a number of unanswered questions, leads not properly followed up, witnesses never pressed or simply let off the hook, is staggering. RE: The Californian Incident.

This is a complicated subject and was hardly touched on in either the US Senate or Britsh Inquiries.

Company Signals are different from Distress Signals. Most people assume rockets are rockets and mean distress only. In the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 the following may help to explain the confusion people have with the idea of a ship at sea firing rockets and what this form of signaling was also used for:

Article 27 (later Art. 31). When a ship is in distress and requires assistance from other ships or from the shore, the following shall be the signals to be used or displayed by her, either together or separately that is to say, In the daytime (Text is omitted as it’s not relevant to Titanic). At Night:

1. A gun fired at intervals of about one minute

2. Flames on the ship (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.)

3. Rockets or shells, throwing stars of any colour or description, fired one at a time, at short intervals.

Titanic only fired 8 rockets out of a stock of 36. The rockets were not fired at the correct intervals (about one minute as laid down by international agreement) instead taking just over an hour to fire them at intervals ranging from 4 to 6 minutes as reported by those on board.

No adequate explanation was ever given at both Inquiries as to why Titanic failed to follow the correct procedures regarding the firing of rockets to denote distress and why so few were fired. Many ships had not yet installed wireless. (Those that had wireless did not have an operator on round the clock. The operators were a Marconi Co franchise to acquaint passengers on their convenience of sending messages.) In order to communicate at night, a ship used a display of lights or rockets fired called company signals. These were colored and each shipping company had its own designation. An officer would note the colours and details of the display and refer to a book giving an explanation.

An example of the different company signals used:

The White Star Line Company Signals were two green lights simultaneously.

Cunard, by comparison was blue light and two Roman candles each throwing six blue stars in quick succession.

The Leyland Line (owners of Californian) three red lights in quick succession.

For real style, the Company Signals the Hamburg-American Line holds the record – Roman candles at stern, throwing seven stars white, red, blue, white, red, blue, white in quick succession.

After referring to the book it would then be relatively easy to answer the following questions What company does that vessel belong to? And, depending on date and direction, what her name was? How else would one vessel signal another at night on the vast oceans in order for a ship to report on arrival having passed such and such vessels in position X?

Mistakes were made by Titanic and Californian but it’s too simplistic to blame one ship for not responding to another’s signals. Hindsight is a real hurdle for students of Titanic history to overcome because we know Titanic was sinking. Those officers on Californian didn’t know. No vessel in living memory had suffered such a terrible catastrophe as Titanic on that night and those men just assumed it was one steamer signaling another and following usual practice, thus confirming to those on board Californian that she was using Company Signals. If all the rockets had been fired at the intervals laid down by the Board of Trade then it’s possible those on board would have become alerted to the situation. Another of Captain Smith’s failings.

The public thinks they know the story and has an unshakable belief that Captain Smith was a hero and J. Bruce Ismay and Captain Lord were villains. There’s none so blind as those that can’t see.


Linear B tablets attest to the personal name Achilleus in the forms a-ki-re-u and a-ki-re-we, [1] the latter being the dative of the former. [2] The name grew more popular, even becoming common soon after the seventh century BC [3] and was also turned into the female form Ἀχιλλεία (Achilleía), attested in Attica in the fourth century BC (IG II² 1617) and, in the form Achillia, on a stele in Halicarnassus as the name of a female gladiator fighting an "Amazon".

Achilles' name can be analyzed as a combination of ἄχος (áchos) "distress, pain, sorrow, grief" [4] and λαός (laós) "people, soldiers, nation", resulting in a proto-form *Akhí-lāu̯os "he who has the people distressed" or "he whose people have distress". [5] [6] The grief or distress of the people is a theme raised numerous times in the Iliad (and frequently by Achilles himself). Achilles' role as the hero of grief or distress forms an ironic juxtaposition with the conventional view of him as the hero of κλέος kléos ("glory", usually in war). Furthermore, laós has been construed by Gregory Nagy, following Leonard Palmer, to mean "a corps of soldiers", a muster. [6] With this derivation, the name obtains a double meaning in the poem: when the hero is functioning rightly, his men bring distress to the enemy, but when wrongly, his men get the grief of war. The poem is in part about the misdirection of anger on the part of leadership.

Another etymology relates the name to a Proto-Indo-European compound *h₂eḱ-pṓds "sharp foot" which first gave an Illyrian *āk̂pediós, evolving through time into *ākhpdeós and then *akhiddeús. The shift from -dd- to -ll- is then ascribed to the passing of the name into Greek via a Pre-Greek source. The first root part *h₂eḱ- "sharp, pointed" also gave Greek ἀκή (akḗ "point, silence, healing"), ἀκμή (akmḗ "point, edge, zenith") and ὀξύς (oxús "sharp, pointed, keen, quick, clever"), whereas ἄχος stems from the root *h₂egʰ- "to be upset, afraid". The whole expression would be comparable to the Latin acupedius "swift of foot". Compare also the Latin word family of aciēs "sharp edge or point, battle line, battle, engagement", acus "needle, pin, bodkin", and acuō "to make pointed, sharpen, whet to exercise to arouse" (whence acute). [7] Some topical epitheta of Achilles in the Iliad point to this "swift-footedness", namely ποδάρκης δῖος Ἀχιλλεὺς (podárkēs dĩos Achilleús "swift-footed divine Achilles") [8] or, even more frequently, πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς (pódas ōkús Achilleús "quick-footed Achilles"). [9]

Some researchers deem the name a loan word, possibly from a Pre-Greek language. [1] Achilles' descent from the Nereid Thetis and a similarity of his name with those of river deities such as Acheron and Achelous have led to speculations about his being an old water divinity (see below Worship). [10] Robert S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek origin of the name, based among other things on the coexistence of -λλ- and -λ- in epic language, which may account for a palatalized phoneme /l y / in the original language. [2]

Achilles was the son of the Thetis, a nereid, and Peleus, the king of the Myrmidons. Zeus and Poseidon had been rivals for Thetis's hand in marriage until Prometheus, the fore-thinker, warned Zeus of a prophecy (originally uttered by Themis, goddess of divine law) that Thetis would bear a son greater than his father. For this reason, the two gods withdrew their pursuit, and had her wed Peleus. [11]

There is a tale which offers an alternative version of these events: In the Argonautica (4.760) Zeus' sister and wife Hera alludes to Thetis' chaste resistance to the advances of Zeus, pointing out that Thetis was so loyal to Hera's marriage bond that she coolly rejected the father of gods. Thetis, although a daughter of the sea-god Nereus, was also brought up by Hera, further explaining her resistance to the advances of Zeus. Zeus was furious and decreed that she would never marry an immortal. [12]

According to the Achilleid, written by Statius in the 1st century AD, and to non-surviving previous sources, when Achilles was born Thetis tried to make him immortal by dipping him in the river Styx however, he was left vulnerable at the part of the body by which she held him: his left heel [13] [14] (see Achilles' heel, Achilles' tendon). It is not clear if this version of events was known earlier. In another version of this story, Thetis anointed the boy in ambrosia and put him on top of a fire in order to burn away the mortal parts of his body. She was interrupted by Peleus and abandoned both father and son in a rage. [15]

None of the sources before Statius make any reference to this general invulnerability. To the contrary, in the Iliad, Homer mentions Achilles being wounded: in Book 21 the Paeonian hero Asteropaeus, son of Pelagon, challenged Achilles by the river Scamander. He was ambidextrous, and cast a spear from each hand one grazed Achilles' elbow, "drawing a spurt of blood". [16]

In the few fragmentary poems of the Epic Cycle which describe the hero's death (i.e. the Cypria, the Little Iliad by Lesches of Pyrrha, the Aithiopis and Iliou persis by Arctinus of Miletus), there is no trace of any reference to his general invulnerability or his famous weakness at the heel. In the later vase paintings presenting the death of Achilles, the arrow (or in many cases, arrows) hit his torso.

Peleus entrusted Achilles to Chiron the Centaur, who lived on Mount Pelion, to be reared. [17] Thetis foretold that her son's fate was either to gain glory and die young, or to live a long but uneventful life in obscurity. Achilles chose the former, and decided to take part in the Trojan War. [18] According to Homer, Achilles grew up in Phthia with his companion Patroclus. [1]

According to Photius, the sixth book of the New History by Ptolemy Hephaestion reported that Thetis burned in a secret place the children she had by Peleus. When she had Achilles, Peleus noticed, tore him from the flames with only a burnt foot, and confided him to the centaur Chiron. Later Chiron exhumed the body of the Damysus, who was the fastest of all the giants, removed the ankle, and incorporated it into Achilles' burnt foot. [19]

Other names

Among the appellations under which Achilles is generally known are the following: [20]

  • Pyrisous, "saved from the fire", his first name, which seems to favour the tradition in which his mortal parts were burned by his mother Thetis
  • Aeacides, from his grandfather Aeacus
  • Aemonius, from Aemonia, a country which afterwards acquired the name of Thessaly
  • Aspetos, "inimitable" or "vast", his name at Epirus
  • Larissaeus, from Larissa (also called Cremaste), a town of Thessaly, which still bears the same name
  • Ligyron, his original name
  • Nereius, from his mother Thetis, one of the Nereids
  • Pelides, from his father, Peleus
  • Phthius, from his birthplace, Phthia
  • Podarkes, “swift-footed”, due to the wings of Arke being attached to his feet. [21]

Hidden on Skyros

Some post-Homeric sources [22] claim that in order to keep Achilles safe from the war, Thetis (or, in some versions, Peleus) hid the young man at the court of Lycomedes, king of Skyros.

There, Achilles was disguised as a girl and lived among Lycomedes' daughters, perhaps under the name "Pyrrha" (the red-haired girl). With Lycomedes' daughter Deidamia, whom in the account of Statius he raped, Achilles there fathered two sons, Neoptolemus (also called Pyrrhus, after his father's possible alias) and Oneiros. According to this story, Odysseus learned from the prophet Calchas that the Achaeans would be unable to capture Troy without Achilles' aid. Odysseus went to Skyros in the guise of a peddler selling women's clothes and jewellery and placed a shield and spear among his goods. When Achilles instantly took up the spear, Odysseus saw through his disguise and convinced him to join the Greek campaign. In another version of the story, Odysseus arranged for a trumpet alarm to be sounded while he was with Lycomedes' women. While the women fled in panic, Achilles prepared to defend the court, thus giving his identity away.

According to the Iliad, Achilles arrived at Troy with 50 ships, each carrying 50 Myrmidons. He appointed five leaders (each leader commanding 500 Myrmidons): Menesthius, Eudorus, Peisander, Phoenix and Alcimedon. [23]


When the Greeks left for the Trojan War, they accidentally stopped in Mysia, ruled by King Telephus. In the resulting battle, Achilles gave Telephus a wound that would not heal Telephus consulted an oracle, who stated that "he that wounded shall heal". Guided by the oracle, he arrived at Argos, where Achilles healed him in order that he might become their guide for the voyage to Troy. [24]

According to other reports in Euripides' lost play about Telephus, he went to Aulis pretending to be a beggar and asked Achilles to heal his wound. Achilles refused, claiming to have no medical knowledge. Alternatively, Telephus held Orestes for ransom, the ransom being Achilles' aid in healing the wound. Odysseus reasoned that the spear had inflicted the wound therefore, the spear must be able to heal it. Pieces of the spear were scraped off onto the wound and Telephus was healed. [24]


According to the Cypria (the part of the Epic Cycle that tells the events of the Trojan War before Achilles' wrath), when the Achaeans desired to return home, they were restrained by Achilles, who afterwards attacked the cattle of Aeneas, sacked neighbouring cities (like Pedasus and Lyrnessus, where the Greeks capture the queen Briseis) and killed Tenes, a son of Apollo, as well as Priam's son Troilus in the sanctuary of Apollo Thymbraios however, the romance between Troilus and Chryseis described in Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and in William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida is a medieval invention. [25] [1]

In Dares Phrygius' Account of the Destruction of Troy, [26] the Latin summary through which the story of Achilles was transmitted to medieval Europe, as well as in older accounts, Troilus was a young Trojan prince, the youngest of King Priam's and Hecuba's five legitimate sons (or according other sources, another son of Apollo). [27] Despite his youth, he was one of the main Trojan war leaders, a "horse fighter" or "chariot fighter" according to Homer. [28] Prophecies linked Troilus' fate to that of Troy and so he was ambushed in an attempt to capture him. Yet Achilles, struck by the beauty of both Troilus and his sister Polyxena, and overcome with lust, directed his sexual attentions on the youth – who, refusing to yield, instead found himself decapitated upon an altar-omphalos of Apollo Thymbraios. [29] [30] Later versions of the story suggested Troilus was accidentally killed by Achilles in an over-ardent lovers' embrace. [31] In this version of the myth, Achilles' death therefore came in retribution for this sacrilege. [29] [32] Ancient writers treated Troilus as the epitome of a dead child mourned by his parents. Had Troilus lived to adulthood, the First Vatican Mythographer claimed, Troy would have been invincible however, the motif is older and found already in Plautus' Bacchides. [33]

In the Iliad

Homer's Iliad is the most famous narrative of Achilles' deeds in the Trojan War. Achilles' wrath (μῆνις Ἀχιλλέως, mênis Achilléōs) is the central theme of the poem. The first two lines of the Iliad read:

οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί' Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε' ἔθηκε, [. ]

the accursed rage that brought great suffering to the Achaeans, [. ]

The Homeric epic only covers a few weeks of the decade-long war, and does not narrate Achilles' death. It begins with Achilles' withdrawal from battle after being dishonoured by Agamemnon, the commander of the Achaean forces. Agamemnon has taken a woman named Chryseis as his slave. Her father Chryses, a priest of Apollo, begs Agamemnon to return her to him. Agamemnon refuses, and Apollo sends a plague amongst the Greeks. The prophet Calchas correctly determines the source of the troubles but will not speak unless Achilles vows to protect him. Achilles does so, and Calchas declares that Chryseis must be returned to her father. Agamemnon consents, but then commands that Achilles' battle prize Briseis, the daughter of Briseus, be brought to him to replace Chryseis. Angry at the dishonour of having his plunder and glory taken away (and, as he says later, because he loves Briseis), [34] with the urging of his mother Thetis, Achilles refuses to fight or lead his troops alongside the other Greek forces. At the same time, burning with rage over Agamemnon's theft, Achilles prays to Thetis to convince Zeus to help the Trojans gain ground in the war, so that he may regain his honour.

As the battle turns against the Greeks, thanks to the influence of Zeus, Nestor declares that the Trojans are winning because Agamemnon has angered Achilles, and urges the king to appease the warrior. Agamemnon agrees and sends Odysseus and two other chieftains, Ajax and Phoenix. They promise that, if Achilles returns to battle, Agamemnon will return the captive Briseis and other gifts. Achilles rejects all Agamemnon offers him and simply urges the Greeks to sail home as he was planning to do.

The Trojans, led by Hector, subsequently push the Greek army back toward the beaches and assault the Greek ships. With the Greek forces on the verge of absolute destruction, Patroclus leads the Myrmidons into battle, wearing Achilles' armour, though Achilles remains at his camp. Patroclus succeeds in pushing the Trojans back from the beaches, but is killed by Hector before he can lead a proper assault on the city of Troy.

After receiving the news of the death of Patroclus from Antilochus, the son of Nestor, Achilles grieves over his beloved companion's death. His mother Thetis comes to comfort the distraught Achilles. She persuades Hephaestus to make new armour for him, in place of the armour that Patroclus had been wearing, which was taken by Hector. The new armour includes the Shield of Achilles, described in great detail in the poem.

Enraged over the death of Patroclus, Achilles ends his refusal to fight and takes the field, killing many men in his rage but always seeking out Hector. Achilles even engages in battle with the river god Scamander, who has become angry that Achilles is choking his waters with all the men he has killed. The god tries to drown Achilles but is stopped by Hera and Hephaestus. Zeus himself takes note of Achilles' rage and sends the gods to restrain him so that he will not go on to sack Troy itself before the time allotted for its destruction, seeming to show that the unhindered rage of Achilles can defy fate itself. Finally, Achilles finds his prey. Achilles chases Hector around the wall of Troy three times before Athena, in the form of Hector's favorite and dearest brother, Deiphobus, persuades Hector to stop running and fight Achilles face to face. After Hector realizes the trick, he knows the battle is inevitable. Wanting to go down fighting, he charges at Achilles with his only weapon, his sword, but misses. Accepting his fate, Hector begs Achilles not to spare his life, but to treat his body with respect after killing him. Achilles tells Hector it is hopeless to expect that of him, declaring that "my rage, my fury would drive me now to hack your flesh away and eat you raw – such agonies you have caused me". [35] Achilles then kills Hector and drags his corpse by its heels behind his chariot. After having a dream where Patroclus begs Achilles to hold his funeral, Achilles hosts a series of funeral games in honour of his companion. [36]

At the onset of his duel with Hector, Achilles is referred to as the brightest star in the sky, which comes on in the autumn, Orion's dog (Sirius) a sign of evil. During the cremation of Patroclus, he is compared to Hesperus, the evening/western star (Venus), while the burning of the funeral pyre lasts until Phosphorus, the morning/eastern star (also Venus) has set (descended).

With the assistance of the god Hermes (Argeiphontes), Hector's father Priam goes to Achilles' tent to plead with Achilles for the return of Hector's body so that he can be buried. Achilles relents and promises a truce for the duration of the funeral, lasting 9 days with a burial on the 10th (in the tradition of Niobe's offspring). The poem ends with a description of Hector's funeral, with the doom of Troy and Achilles himself still to come.

Later epic accounts: fighting Penthesilea and Memnon

The Aethiopis (7th century BC) and a work named Posthomerica, composed by Quintus of Smyrna in the fourth century CE, relate further events from the Trojan War. When Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons and daughter of Ares, arrives in Troy, Priam hopes that she will defeat Achilles. After his temporary truce with Priam, Achilles fights and kills the warrior queen, only to grieve over her death later. [37] At first, he was so distracted by her beauty, he did not fight as intensely as usual. Once he realized that his distraction was endangering his life, he refocused and killed her.

Following the death of Patroclus, Nestor's son Antilochus becomes Achilles' closest companion. When Memnon, son of the Dawn Goddess Eos and king of Ethiopia, slays Antilochus, Achilles once more obtains revenge on the battlefield, killing Memnon. Consequently, Eos will not let the sun rise until Zeus persuades her. The fight between Achilles and Memnon over Antilochus echoes that of Achilles and Hector over Patroclus, except that Memnon (unlike Hector) was also the son of a goddess.

Many Homeric scholars argued that episode inspired many details in the Iliad ' s description of the death of Patroclus and Achilles' reaction to it. The episode then formed the basis of the cyclic epic Aethiopis, which was composed after the Iliad, possibly in the 7th century BC. The Aethiopis is now lost, except for scattered fragments quoted by later authors.

Achilles and Patroclus

The exact nature of Achilles' relationship with Patroclus has been a subject of dispute in both the classical period and modern times. In the Iliad, it appears to be the model of a deep and loyal friendship. Homer does not suggest that Achilles and his close friend Patroclus had sexual relations. [38] [39] Although there is no direct evidence in the text of the Iliad that Achilles and Patroclus were lovers, this theory was expressed by some later authors. Commentators from classical antiquity to the present have often interpreted the relationship through the lens of their own cultures. In 5th-century BCE Athens, the intense bond was often viewed in light of the Greek custom of paiderasteia. In Plato's Symposium, the participants in a dialogue about love assume that Achilles and Patroclus were a couple Phaedrus argues that Achilles was the younger and more beautiful one so he was the beloved and Patroclus was the lover. [40] However, ancient Greek had no words to distinguish heterosexual and homosexual, [41] and it was assumed that a man could both desire handsome young men and have sex with women. Many pairs of men throughout history have been compared to Achilles and Patroclus to imply a homosexual relationship.


The death of Achilles, even if considered solely as it occurred in the oldest sources, is a complex one, with many different versions. [42] In the oldest version, the Iliad, and as predicted by Hector with his dying breath, the hero's death was brought about by Paris with an arrow (to the heel according to Statius). In some versions, the god Apollo guided Paris' arrow. Some retellings also state that Achilles was scaling the gates of Troy and was hit with a poisoned arrow. All of these versions deny Paris any sort of valour, owing to the common conception that Paris was a coward and not the man his brother Hector was, and Achilles remained undefeated on the battlefield.

After death, Achilles' bones were mingled with those of Patroclus, and funeral games were held. He was represented in the Aethiopis as living after his death in the island of Leuke at the mouth of the river Danube.

Another version of Achilles' death is that he fell deeply in love with one of the Trojan princesses, Polyxena. Achilles asks Priam for Polyxena's hand in marriage. Priam is willing because it would mean the end of the war and an alliance with the world's greatest warrior. But while Priam is overseeing the private marriage of Polyxena and Achilles, Paris, who would have to give up Helen if Achilles married his sister, hides in the bushes and shoots Achilles with a divine arrow, killing him.

In the Odyssey, Agamemnon informs Achilles of his pompous burial and the erection of his mound at the Hellespont while they are receiving the dead suitors in Hades. [43] He claims they built a massive burial mound on the beach of Ilion that could be seen by anyone approaching from the ocean. [44] Achilles was cremated and his ashes buried in the same urn as those of Patroclus. [45] Paris was later killed by Philoctetes using the enormous bow of Heracles.

In Book 11 of Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus sails to the underworld and converses with the shades. One of these is Achilles, who when greeted as "blessed in life, blessed in death", responds that he would rather be a slave to the worst of masters than be king of all the dead. But Achilles then asks Odysseus of his son's exploits in the Trojan war, and when Odysseus tells of Neoptolemus' heroic actions, Achilles is filled with satisfaction. [46] This leaves the reader with an ambiguous understanding of how Achilles felt about the heroic life.

According to some accounts, he had married Medea in life, so that after both their deaths they were united in the Elysian Fields of Hades – as Hera promised Thetis in Apollonius' Argonautica (3rd century BC).

Fate of Achilles' armour

Achilles' armour was the object of a feud between Odysseus and Telamonian Ajax (Ajax the greater). They competed for it by giving speeches on why they were the bravest after Achilles to their Trojan prisoners, who, after considering both men's presentations, decided Odysseus was more deserving of the armour. Furious, Ajax cursed Odysseus, which earned him the ire of Athena, who temporarily made Ajax so mad with grief and anguish that he began killing sheep, thinking them his comrades. After a while, when Athena lifted his madness and Ajax realized that he had actually been killing sheep, he was so ashamed that he committed suicide. Odysseus eventually gave the armour to Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles. When Odysseus encounters the shade of Ajax much later in the House of Hades (Odyssey 11.543–566), Ajax is still so angry about the outcome of the competition that he refuses to speak to Odysseus.

A relic claimed to be Achilles' bronze-headed spear was preserved for centuries in the temple of Athena on the acropolis of Phaselis, Lycia, a port on the Pamphylian Gulf. The city was visited in 333 BCE by Alexander the Great, who envisioned himself as the new Achilles and carried the Iliad with him, but his court biographers do not mention the spear however, it was shown in the time of Pausanias in the 2nd century CE. [47] [48]

Achilles, Ajax and a game of petteia

Numerous paintings on pottery have suggested a tale not mentioned in the literary traditions. At some point in the war, Achilles and Ajax were playing a board game (petteia). [49] [50] They were absorbed in the game and oblivious to the surrounding battle. [51] The Trojans attacked and reached the heroes, who were saved only by an intervention of Athena. [52]

The tomb of Achilles, [54] extant throughout antiquity in Troad, [55] was venerated by Thessalians, but also by Persian expeditionary forces, as well as by Alexander the Great and the Roman emperor Caracalla. [56] Achilles' cult was also to be found at other places, e. g. on the island of Astypalaea in the Sporades, [57] in Sparta which had a sanctuary, [58] in Elis and in Achilles' homeland Thessaly, as well as in the Magna Graecia cities of Tarentum, Locri and Croton, [59] accounting for an almost Panhellenic cult to the hero.

The cult of Achilles is illustrated in the 500 BCE Polyxena sarcophagus, which depicts the sacrifice of Polyxena near the tumulus of Achilles. [60] Strabo (13.1.32) also suggested that such a cult of Achilles existed in Troad: [53] [61]

Near the Sigeium is a temple and monument of Achilles, and monuments also of Patroclus and Anthlochus. The Ilienses perform sacred ceremonies in honour of them all, and even of Ajax. But they do not worship Hercules, alleging as a reason that he ravaged their country.

The spread and intensity of the hero's veneration among the Greeks that had settled on the northern coast of the Pontus Euxinus, today's Black Sea, appears to have been remarkable. An archaic cult is attested for the Milesian colony of Olbia as well as for an island in the middle of the Black Sea, today identified with Snake Island (Ukrainian Зміїний, Zmiinyi, near Kiliya, Ukraine). Early dedicatory inscriptions from the Greek colonies on the Black Sea (graffiti and inscribed clay disks, these possibly being votive offerings, from Olbia, the area of Berezan Island and the Tauric Chersonese [63] ) attest the existence of a heroic cult of Achilles [64] from the sixth century BC onwards. The cult was still thriving in the third century CE, when dedicatory stelae from Olbia refer to an Achilles Pontárchēs (Ποντάρχης, roughly "lord of the Sea," or "of the Pontus Euxinus"), who was invoked as a protector of the city of Olbia, venerated on par with Olympian gods such as the local Apollo Prostates, Hermes Agoraeus, [56] or Poseidon. [65]

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD) in his Natural History mentions a "port of the Achæi" and an "island of Achilles", famous for the tomb of that "man" (portus Achaeorum, insula Achillis, tumulo eius viri clara), situated somewhat nearby Olbia and the Dnieper-Bug Estuary furthermore, at 125 Roman miles from this island, he places a peninsula "which stretches forth in the shape of a sword" obliquely, called Dromos Achilleos (Ἀχιλλέως δρόμος, Achilléōs drómos "the Race-course of Achilles") [66] and considered the place of the hero's exercise or of games instituted by him. [56] This last feature of Pliny's account is considered to be the iconic spit, called today Tendra (or Kosa Tendra and Kosa Djarilgatch), situated between the mouth of the Dnieper and Karkinit Bay, but which is hardly 125 Roman miles (c. 185 km) away from the Dnieper-Bug estuary, as Pliny states. (To the "Race-course" he gives a length of 80 miles, c. 120 km, whereas the spit measures c. 70 km today.)

In the following chapter of his book, Pliny refers to the same island as Achillea and introduces two further names for it: Leuce or Macaron (from Greek [νῆσος] μακαρῶν "island of the blest"). The "present day" measures, he gives at this point, seem to account for an identification of Achillea or Leuce with today's Snake Island. [67] Pliny's contemporary Pomponius Mela (c. 43 AD) tells that Achilles was buried on an island named Achillea, situated between the Borysthenes and the Ister, adding to the geographical confusion. [68] Ruins of a square temple, measuring 30 meters to a side, possibly that dedicated to Achilles, were discovered by Captain Kritzikly in 1823 on Snake Island. A second exploration in 1840 showed that the construction of a lighthouse had destroyed all traces of this temple. A fifth century BC black-glazed lekythos inscription, found on the island in 1840, reads: "Glaukos, son of Poseidon, dedicated me to Achilles, lord of Leuke." In another inscription from the fifth or fourth century BC, a statue is dedicated to Achilles, lord of Leuke, by a citizen of Olbia, while in a further dedication, the city of Olbia confirms its continuous maintenance of the island's cult, again suggesting its quality as a place of a supra-regional hero veneration. [56]

The heroic cult dedicated to Achilles on Leuce seems to go back to an account from the lost epic Aethiopis according to which, after his untimely death, Thetis had snatched her son from the funeral pyre and removed him to a mythical Λεύκη Νῆσος (Leúkē Nêsos "White Island"). [69] Already in the fifth century BC, Pindar had mentioned a cult of Achilles on a "bright island" (φαεννά νᾶσος, phaenná nâsos) of the Black Sea, [70] while in another of his works, Pindar would retell the story of the immortalized Achilles living on a geographically indefinite Island of the Blest together with other heroes such as his father Peleus and Cadmus. [71] Well known is the connection of these mythological Fortunate Isles (μακαρῶν νῆσοι, makárôn nêsoi) or the Homeric Elysium with the stream Oceanus which according to Greek mythology surrounds the inhabited world, which should have accounted for the identification of the northern strands of the Euxine with it. [56] Guy Hedreen has found further evidence for this connection of Achilles with the northern margin of the inhabited world in a poem by Alcaeus, speaking of "Achilles lord of Scythia" [72] and the opposition of North and South, as evoked by Achilles' fight against the Aethiopian prince Memnon, who in his turn would be removed to his homeland by his mother Eos after his death.

The Periplus of the Euxine Sea (c. 130 AD) gives the following details:

It is said that the goddess Thetis raised this island from the sea, for her son Achilles, who dwells there. Here is his temple and his statue, an archaic work. This island is not inhabited, and goats graze on it, not many, which the people who happen to arrive here with their ships, sacrifice to Achilles. In this temple are also deposited a great many holy gifts, craters, rings and precious stones, offered to Achilles in gratitude. One can still read inscriptions in Greek and Latin, in which Achilles is praised and celebrated. Some of these are worded in Patroclus' honour, because those who wish to be favored by Achilles, honour Patroclus at the same time. There are also in this island countless numbers of sea birds, which look after Achilles' temple. Every morning they fly out to sea, wet their wings with water, and return quickly to the temple and sprinkle it. And after they finish the sprinkling, they clean the hearth of the temple with their wings. Other people say still more, that some of the men who reach this island, come here intentionally. They bring animals in their ships, destined to be sacrificed. Some of these animals they slaughter, others they set free on the island, in Achilles' honour. But there are others, who are forced to come to this island by sea storms. As they have no sacrificial animals, but wish to get them from the god of the island himself, they consult Achilles' oracle. They ask permission to slaughter the victims chosen from among the animals that graze freely on the island, and to deposit in exchange the price which they consider fair. But in case the oracle denies them permission, because there is an oracle here, they add something to the price offered, and if the oracle refuses again, they add something more, until at last, the oracle agrees that the price is sufficient. And then the victim doesn't run away any more, but waits willingly to be caught. So, there is a great quantity of silver there, consecrated to the hero, as price for the sacrificial victims. To some of the people who come to this island, Achilles appears in dreams, to others he would appear even during their navigation, if they were not too far away, and would instruct them as to which part of the island they would better anchor their ships. [73]

The Greek geographer Dionysius Periegetes, who likely lived during the first century CE, wrote that the island was called Leuce "because the wild animals which live there are white. It is said that there, in Leuce island, reside the souls of Achilles and other heroes, and that they wander through the uninhabited valleys of this island this is how Jove rewarded the men who had distinguished themselves through their virtues, because through virtue they had acquired everlasting honour". [74] Similarly, others relate the island's name to its white cliffs, snakes or birds dwelling there. [56] [75] Pausanias has been told that the island is "covered with forests and full of animals, some wild, some tame. In this island there is also Achilles' temple and his statue". [76] Leuce had also a reputation as a place of healing. Pausanias reports that the Delphic Pythia sent a lord of Croton to be cured of a chest wound. [77] Ammianus Marcellinus attributes the healing to waters (aquae) on the island. [78]

A number of important commercial port cities of the Greek waters were dedicated to Achilles. Herodotus, Pliny the Elder and Strabo reported on the existence of a town Achílleion (Ἀχίλλειον), built by settlers from Mytilene in the sixth century BC, close to the hero's presumed burial mound in the Troad. [55] Later attestations point to an Achílleion in Messenia (according to Stephanus Byzantinus) and an Achílleios (Ἀχίλλειος) in Laconia. [79] Nicolae Densuşianu recognized a connection to Achilles in the names of Aquileia and of the northern arm of the Danube delta, called Chilia (presumably from an older Achileii), though his conclusion, that Leuce had sovereign rights over the Black Sea, evokes modern rather than archaic sea-law. [73]

The kings of Epirus claimed to be descended from Achilles through his son, Neoptolemus. Alexander the Great, son of the Epirote princess Olympias, could therefore also claim this descent, and in many ways strove to be like his great ancestor. He is said to have visited the tomb of Achilles at Achilleion while passing Troy. [80] In AD 216 the Roman Emperor Caracalla, while on his way to war against Parthia, emulated Alexander by holding games around Achilles' tumulus. [81]

In Greek tragedy

The Greek tragedian Aeschylus wrote a trilogy of plays about Achilles, given the title Achilleis by modern scholars. The tragedies relate the deeds of Achilles during the Trojan War, including his defeat of Hector and eventual death when an arrow shot by Paris and guided by Apollo punctures his heel. Extant fragments of the Achilleis and other Aeschylean fragments have been assembled to produce a workable modern play. The first part of the Achilleis trilogy, The Myrmidons, focused on the relationship between Achilles and chorus, who represent the Achaean army and try to convince Achilles to give up his quarrel with Agamemnon only a few lines survive today. [82] In Plato's Symposium, Phaedrus points out that Aeschylus portrayed Achilles as the lover and Patroclus as the beloved Phaedrus argues that this is incorrect because Achilles, being the younger and more beautiful of the two, was the beloved, who loved his lover so much that he chose to die to avenge him. [83]

The tragedian Sophocles also wrote The Lovers of Achilles, a play with Achilles as the main character. Only a few fragments survive. [84]

Towards the end of the 5th century BCE, a more negative view of Achilles emerges in Greek drama Euripides refers to Achilles in a bitter or ironic tone in Hecuba, Electra, and Iphigenia in Aulis. [85]

In Greek philosophy

The philosopher Zeno of Elea centred one of his paradoxes on an imaginary footrace between "swift-footed" Achilles and a tortoise, by which he attempted to show that Achilles could not catch up to a tortoise with a head start, and therefore that motion and change were impossible. As a student of the monist Parmenides and a member of the Eleatic school, Zeno believed time and motion to be illusions.


In Hippias Minor, a dialogue attributed to Plato, an arrogant man named Hippias argues with Socrates. The two get into a discussion about lying. They decide that a person who is intentionally false must be "better" than a person who is unintentionally false, on the basis that someone who lies intentionally must understand the subject about which they are lying. Socrates uses various analogies, discussing athletics and the sciences to prove his point. [86]

The two also reference Homer extensively. Socrates and Hippias agree that Odysseus, who concocted a number of lies throughout the Odyssey and other stories in the Trojan War Cycle, was false intentionally. Achilles, like Odysseus, told numerous falsehoods. Hippias believes that Achilles was a generally honest man, while Socrates believes that Achilles lied for his own benefit. The two argue over whether it's better to lie on purpose or on accident. Socrates eventually abandons Homeric arguments and makes sports analogies to drive home the point: someone who does wrong on purpose is a better person than someone who does wrong unintentionally. [86]

In Roman and medieval literature

The Romans, who traditionally traced their lineage to Troy, took a highly negative view of Achilles. [85] Virgil refers to Achilles as a savage and a merciless butcher of men, [87] while Horace portrays Achilles ruthlessly slaying women and children. [88] Other writers, such as Catullus, Propertius, and Ovid, represent a second strand of disparagement, with an emphasis on Achilles' erotic career. This strand continues in Latin accounts of the Trojan War by writers such as Dictys Cretensis and Dares Phrygius and in Benoît de Sainte-Maure's Roman de Troie and Guido delle Colonne's Historia destructionis Troiae, which remained the most widely read and retold versions of the Matter of Troy until the 17th century.

Achilles was described by the Byzantine chronicler Leo the Deacon, not as Hellene, but as Scythian, while according to the Byzantine author John Malalas, his army was made up of a tribe previously known as Myrmidons and later as Bulgars. [89] [90]


The Titanic struck an iceberg, damaging the hull's plates in her starboard side causing her front compartments to flood below the waterline. The ship then sank, causing about 1500 fatalities. [ citation needed ]

One of the most controversial [1] [2] and elaborate theories surrounding the sinking of the Titanic was forwarded by Robin Gardiner in his book, Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank? [3] 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 fact Titanic ' s sister ship Olympic, 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 harbor 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 her waterline (HMS Hawke was fitted with a reinforced '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 Olympic was 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 nameplates. 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 names engraved into their hulls, the Titanic alone had her name riveted over the top.

The Olympic had allegedly been damaged beyond economic repair. Gardiner suggests that the plan was to dispose of the Olympic 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 points to the length of Titanic ' s sea trials as evidence. Olympic ' s trials in 1911 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 hypothesizes that the ship that was hit by the Titanic was the one seen by the SS 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. [1] Author Mark Chirnside has also raised serious questions about the switch theory. [2] British historian Gareth Russell, for his part, calls the theory "so painfully ridiculous that one can only lament the thousands of trees which lost their lives to provide the paper on which is has been articulated. He notes that, since the sister ships had significant interior architectural and design differences, switching them secretly in a week would be nearly impossible from a practical standpoint. A switch would also not be economically worthwhile, since the ship's owners could have simply damaged the ship while docked (for instance, by setting a fire) and collected the insurance money from that "accident," which "would have been far less severe, and infinitely less stupid, than sailing her out into the middle of the Atlantic with thousands of people, and their luggage, on board, and ramming her into an iceberg."

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. [4] Additionally, the lighting would have been lost about 70 minutes after the collision due to the flooding of the boiler rooms. [4] Bedford and Hacket also analyzed the hypothetical case that there were no bulkheads at 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, [5] 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.

Titanic researchers continued to debate the causes and mechanics of the ship ' s breakup. According to his book, A Night to Remember, Walter Lord described Titanic as assuming an "absolutely perpendicular" position shortly before its final plunge. [6] This view remained largely unchallenged even after the wreck was discovered by Robert Ballard in 1985, which confirmed that Titanic had broken in two pieces at or near the surface paintings by noted marine artist Ken Marschall and in James Cameron's film Titanic, both of which depicted the ship attaining a steep angle prior to the breakup. [7] 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, [8] though debate continued as to whether the ship had broken from the top downwards or from the bottom upwards.

In 2005, a History Channel expedition to the wreck site scrutinized 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 [9] which was publicised in the television documentary Titanic's Final Moments: Missing Pieces in 2006. 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. [10] 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. [11] 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. [12]

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 funnels 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 she took a sudden lurch forwards and downwards 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.

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 her voyage. [13] [14] Fires occurred frequently on board steamships due to spontaneous combustion of the coal. [15] 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. [16] This event has led some authors to theorize that the fire exacerbated the effects of the iceberg collision, by reducing the structural integrity of the hull and a critical bulkhead. [17] [18]

In 2011 David J H Smith put forward this idea in his book The Titanic's Mummy [19] which looked at the event in a docudrama style. It was stated that the bunker fire was at the heart of the eventual disaster claiming that decisions made because of the blaze led it to a collision course with the iceberg. The book also looks at the fire's physical effect on the ship which claims it weakened the area of impact.

Senan Molony has suggested that attempts to extinguish the fire – by shoveling burning coals into the engine furnaces – may have been the primary reason for the Titanic steaming at full speed prior to the collision, despite ice warnings. [20] Most experts disagree. Samuel Halpern has concluded that "the bunker fire would not have weakened the watertight bulkhead sufficiently to cause it to collapse." [21] [22] 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. [23] Some of these foremost Titanic experts have published a detailed rebuttal of Molony's claims. [24]

Watch the video: New CGI of How Titanic Sank. Titanic 100