The Titanic story has been making the headlines for a century now, and much has been written about the ill-fated ship, that hit an iceberg and sunk on its maiden voyage on April 15th, 1912. 1500 people out of 2200 onboard, died in that tragic accident. Being the largest ship at that time, and being called unsinkable, the news of its destruction shocked everyone and made it the subject of much fiction and non-fiction over the following years. Although the events happened when our grandparents and great-grandparents were young, the story still attracts many readers and fascinates everyone. Monuments have been erected for the dead and museums have exhibited artifacts found on the wreck. There is probably no person nowadays, who does not know about the Titanic tragedy.
Out of all the stories written about the ship, one stands out as curious, because it speaks about insurance fraud and about the real Titanic never having actually sunk. The Titanic had an older sister, an identical ship, that was built earlier, and was already sailing at the time Titanic was still under construction. The two ships looked almost the same, and the theory says that they were built so similarly, to allow the possibility of being switched, in case of need. The core design was the same for both ships, and an untrained eye could have probably never been able to tell the difference.
During a voyage that happened on 20 September 1911, the Olympic collided with the HMS Hawke near the Isle of Wight and it was damaged on the rear starboard side. This event had unpleasant financial consequences for the owners.
The repairs would take the Olympic out of service for a while, which would have brought a loss of revenue to White Star Line, but it also meant the delay of the maiden voyage of the new ship, the Titanic. To solve these unexpected financial problems, the owners had to come up with the plan of switching the ships, sinking the damaged one, and claiming compensation.
To achieve this plan, a few weeks before the Titanic set sail, the Olympic returned for repairs to Belfast. The switch between the two ships could have been done at that time. Considering how easily car thieves can replace the identification elements of a car, one can easily imagine that this is what the purpose of the "repairs" of the Olympic actually meant. On March 2, 1912, the two ships were photographed moored next to each other in the port, and it is clear that there is no visible difference between the two ships, except for the names written on them.
Because the Olympic had tile flooring, and this one showed the wear from the footprints of passengers, the company covered the floors with carpets, to make the signs of wear on the floors invisible. They even took out some cabins, to make everything more realistic. It is said that some of the workers claimed that they witnessed the switch, but being menaced that they would get fired and never find a job again, they had to keep quiet about the fraud.
Another curious thing is the remains of the Olympic. In 1935 the ship was broken down, being taken out of service. The White Swan Hotel in Alnwick used the wood paneling from the Olympic. The strange thing about this is the fact that the number that appears on this paneling is not 400, which is the actual number of the Olympic, but 401, which was the number of the Titanic.
The same story says that the owners intended for the ship to be sunken slowly so that the passengers could be all evacuated. If this story is actually true, and not just another conspiracy theory, we may never know. But it is nevertheless an interesting theory, worth reading about.