I’ve just visited the Maritime Museum in Liverpool that includes an excellent permanent exhibition on the Titanic. It also busts some of the lingering myths about the disaster that refuse to go down – pardon the tasteless pun.
The company that built this mega-ship – the White Star Line – was based in Liverpool while construction was carried out in Belfast and the Titanic sailed from Southampton. As we know, it promptly sank with a massive loss of life. And ever since, many myths have circulated about the Titanic disaster.
So, let’s bust some of those myths…
TITANIC MYTHS: It wasn’t really the Titanic that sank but another ship
To compete against its rival shipping company Cunard, the White Star Line built bigger and more luxurious. Titanic was one of these ships and another was called the Olympic. The theory runs that White Star lied about which ship went down. It wasn’t the Titanic – but the Olympic.
The Olympic had been damaged in a collision off the Isle of Wight, which threatened to put it out of service and delay the maiden voyage of the Titanic. So, White Star switched ships redecorating the Olympic as the Titanic and then sank it as an insurance scam.
This story can be researched further online but the more I read it, the less plausible it seems. And would White Star really have committed mass murder knowingly in this manner?
TITANIC MYTHS: The Egyptian mummy of an ancient priestess was on board
No it wasn’t. But the story is pretty amusing. I’m pretty sure it emerged in the early 20th century when amazing finds were taking place in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings like the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen. The story goes that an Englishman had come across the mummy of a priestess of Amen-Ra.
This chap conveniently disappears. And then everybody who comes into contact with this mummy has a terrible accident or dies. Eventually, it ends up with the British Museum but their staff are freaked out when they can hear the priestess trying to claw her way out. So, it’s sold to an American and placed as cargo on the Titanic. Then you know what happens next!
Some versions of this story have the famous Victorian occultist Madam Blavatsky warning that the mummy must not be taken on to the ship. The problem is that the Titanic sailed in 1912 while Blavatsky died in 1891. Therefore, impossible, unless she uttered this prophecy from the grave!
TITANIC MYTHS: Titanic was trying to break a world speed record when it hit the iceberg
Nope. I’m afraid not. White Star built its liners for size and opulence – but not speed. These were intended to be floating stately homes – well, at least for first and maybe second class. Third class had a more basic experience. But what they were not were turbo-charged vessels zooming across the Atlantic at dangerous speeds.
While I was at the Maritime Museum, I came across some objects rescued from the wreck site at the bottom of the sea and donated to the museum. Here are some of them.