Sink, Sank, Sunk: The Olympic

By: Malena Esposito

April 15th, 1912. You may think you know the story, but do you really? I am here to present you the greatest conspiracy theory ever on the greatest ship ever built: the Titanic. I am here to present to you the theory that this great ocean liner was switched with its sister ship, the Olympic.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy. Could the biggest ship wreck of all time be nothing but a lie? Maybe, but that is up for you to decide. However, as you read on, which hopefully you decide to do, rather than just casting me aside as an absurd speculator, while I ask you to consider the evidence I show you, I also ask you consider that this is just a theory.

With that being said, the theory goes as this: the Titanic was switched with the Olympic to pay for the completion of the Titanic and the repairs of the Olympic. While the Olympic was burning through its last lump of coal, the Titanic was in the spotlight, complete with press, prestige, and insurance money. If the Titanic was deliberately sunk, this money was able to be collected, thus opening the door of opportunity for one of the biggest insurance scams in maritime history to be committed.

It all started back in the late 1890s when investor J.P. Morgan made advances to control the shipping trade of this time. These efforts required the help of several other men, including Bruce Ismay of the White Star Line and John Ellerman of the Leyland Line, and led to the creation of the International Mercantile Marine Company.

By the early 1900s, the White Star Line ordered the assembly of the Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic to compete with Cunard Line’s Mauretania and Lusitania as the most luxurious passenger ships in the world. The construction of the Olympic started in 1908, while the construction of the Titanic started a year later, both located at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, Ireland.

However, just a few months after its maiden voyage, the RMS Olympic suffered its second collision under Captain Edward John Smith, this time with the HMS Hawke in September 1911. After investigation, the Royal Navy declared the Olympic to be at fault for the incident, leaving the White Star Line in physical and financial ruin. The Olympic suffered a damaged starboard side and keel, causing a list to port. To translate, the right side of the ship and the bottom of the ship were hit, and such an injury to the foundation caused the boat to tilt. As the Titanic would not be completed for another few months, it was difficult for the White Star Line to generate revenue for their company. The Olympic was so damaged that hope for the ship sailing again were slim, as it would “never pass another Board of Trade inspection again” and repairing it was a waste of money.


Nonetheless, all work on the Titanic stopped in order to tend to the Olympic’s damages. Originally, the Titanic was stamped with the number 401 and the Olympic with the number 400 to signify the order of construction. To speed up the repair process, the Olympic used newer parts from the Titanic, one of them being the number 401 starboard propeller. This saved money for White Star Line, as it was one less part to purchase until they could generate more revenue. Once the sunken ship was discovered years later, researchers uncovered that the starboard propeller was imprinted with the number 401. Could this mean the Olympic was really the legendary ship at the bottom of the ocean?


However, as repairs on the Olympic were almost complete by February 1912, it was time to refocus the workers’ attention on the finalization on the Titanic. Part of this meant hiring a crew and a captain. During this time in Europe and even in America, coal miners began going on strike, demanding better working conditions. This meant that although hundreds of men were out of jobs, White Star Line had an unnaturally hard time finding a crew for any amount of money. A beautiful ship, maybe, but one losing your life over? Maybe not.

As for a captain to control this great ocean liner’s maiden voyage, a man with the name none other than Captain Edward John Smith was chosen for this very prominent task. Yes, the same man who had crashed the Olympic — not once, but twice. Yes, they hired him. Nobody better to sink a ship than someone who was already an expert, right?

As for the designs of the two ships, an important thing to note is the portholes. When the Titanic was photographed during construction, it had fourteen portholes, as pictured here.


At a first glance, you only see eleven portholes, but there are three portholes behind the first steel beam. They are left, center, and rightly centered, making the spacing between each hole even.

However, weeks later when the Titanic was photographed leaving Belfast, it had sixteen unevenly spaced portholes, as pictured below.


The first ten are evenly spaced, but the last six are clustered differently. A clearer depiction of this can be seen here:


The word “Titanic” is still inscribed on the first picture, but due to the darkness of the photo, it is illegible.

Another piece of the puzzle to support evidence of the switch is the sea trials that took place before the Titanic’s maiden voyage. As previously stated, it was believed that the Olympic would never pass another inspection due to the immense damage. Well, coincidentally, the Titanic’s sea trials only lasted 12 hours, starting at 6am on April 12th, 1912. To compare, the Olympic’s original sea trials lasted several days, spanning from May 29th to May 30th. If the ships were to be switched, it would make sense that the Titanic’s sea trials were much shorter. The White Star Line wouldn’t have wanted the Board of Trade inspectors lurking around for something wrong on the ship, when the reality, everything was wrong.

In addition, several last-minute cancellations were made prior to her maiden voyage, including the owner of International Mercantile Maritime Company himself, J.P. Morgan. He claimed to be suffering an illness, but was actually found in France in “excellent health,” as the New York Times reported over a hundred years ago:

Rulers Compliment Morgan on Birthday

Several other high society passengers also failed to make the trip, including Horace J. Harding, Henry Clay Frick, George Washington Vanderbilt, Milton S. Hershey, and Robert Bacon. With occupations ranging from banking to Secretary of State, all of these men were close with Morgan. By missing out on one of the biggest opportunities of the decade, Morgan and his confidantes escaped an almost certain and rather icy death by just an inch. Did he let his little friends in on his little secret? Why else would they cancel on such an occasion?

Furthermore, a little-known fact about this well-known disaster can contribute to the ship’s sinkage, regardless of which ship. A 1000 degree, three-story-high fire ignited in bunker six, near a boiler room. As this took place in the hull (or core) of the ship, it can contribute to the unfortunate doom that so many faced. Stokers, crew members who worked specifically in the furnace, who survived the sinkage acknowledged the fire outbreak, but how long it it burned for is unclear, as some accounts say weeks, while other say a few days. Nonetheless, even if it was a few days, the fire would have occurred during the brief sea trials. Since majority of the crew knew of the incident, it was just another thing that had to be kept under wraps from the Board of Trade inspectors and the passengers. It almost makes you wonder, if ice couldn’t sink the ship, did they rely on fire as a last resort? The fire could’ve been a complete accident, but if it wasn’t, it serves as clear proof that someone wanted the Titanic’s maiden voyage to be her last.

By now, if you’ve kept up with me for this long, there has to be a reason why. Maybe it’s because you’re waiting for me to acknowledge the flaw in this theory, and if that’s the case, then wait no longer.

The sinking. Did they really kill hundreds of people solely for gaining insurance money? No. Well, yes — but no. Not intentionally, at least. There were several ships in the area the night of the sinking, including the Californian of the Leyland Line. Yes, the same Leyland Line that I mentioned earlier, also owned by the International Mercantile Marine Company. During this voyage, the Californian had no passengers, with its only cargo being 3,000 wooly sweaters and blankets. As the closest ship to the Titanic at the time of the sinking, it was expected to receive the distress calls, but failed to do so. This failure was caused by a simple, yet horrific, mistake, for in these waters at the same time was a seal hunting ship by the name of the Samson. When signaling it’s row boats to return to the ship, white lights were set off. White lights were also to be used once the Titanic needed aid, but that was not the only signal. Captain of the Californian, Lord Stanley, was instructed to respond if and only if red, white, and blue lights were present. However, due to the location of the ships and the visible angles, the Californian thought that the Samson was the Titanic and the Titanic thought that the Samson was the Californian. Due to incredulous error, not all of the 2,240 passengers made it to safety, but they were indeed supposed to.

As I wrap this article up, I leave you with these:








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