Titanic’s Bashful Secret

RMS Titanic, the unsinkable giant launched in 1912, had three powerful engines, each driving a screw propeller, and four tall smokestacks. What White Star Line didn’t advertise was, the fourth stack was a dummy, a glorified ventilator to make the ship look as powerful as previous titans of the sea.

Cunard Line’s RMS Lusitania and Mauretania, the best-known four-stackers since 1907, had four steam turbines and four screws. Titanic did not claim to match their top speed of 25 knots but made up for it in luxury and stability. Furthermore, with two ordinary steam engines and only one turbine, which couldn’t run in reverse, Titanic had the ability to back out of berths without being towed by tugboats.

White Star didn’t fake the smoke. Photos make it clear that Titanic’s stern chimney didn’t appear to smoke unless she was steaming directly upwind.

What most passengers on the Lusitania’s final voyage in 1915 didn’t notice was that their Speed Queen was also running on three stacks. Due to wartime coal shortages and reduced tourist revenue, the stern boiler room had been shut down and the steam pressure redistributed. Although Captain Turner and his crew boasted their ship could outrun an enemy U-boat, her speed was reduced.

Alma Brady, heroine of my novel LUSITANIA LOST whose parents had been globe-trotters, notices this change. But she doesn’t know that submarines lie in wait, or that the promised naval escort may not arrive. If not for this lack of coal, could the Lusitania have shifted to the safer northern route around Ireland? That is one of the questions history may never answer. Pre-order at facebook.com/lendicarpio .

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