Q. What sparked your fascination with Titanic?
A. It all started when I watched Walter Lord’s film “A Night To Remember” when I was seven years old – probably too young to see such a powerful film! The story stuck in my mind, particularly the scene where the ship tips up and the silver trolley rolls down the First Class dining saloon and smashes into the new crockery.
Q. How long have you spent researching Titanic?
A. Thirty years. After that, I began to read more and more about the ship. The more I learned, the more I realized there was to learn. Today I have read almost every survivor account, so I have a pretty good idea of what went on that incredible night.
Q. In your research, was there a “eureka moment” when everything suddenly fell into place or did you piece things together in a more methodical way over time?
A. Yes, the “Eureka Moment” was in the Meteorological Office archive in Exeter, when I found the log of the steamship Marengo. She was in the right place at the right time, only one degree south of the Titanic as she was sinking, and she reported seeing abnormal refraction or miraging on the horizon.
Q. What are some of the most common myths about Titanic you would like to clear up?
A. That she wasn’t weak: Her hull was very well-built and strong.
That her rudder wasn’t too small for her size – she was actually very responsive to her helm.
That Captain Smith wasn’t drunk – he never drank at sea.
That Titanic was in fact carrying more lifeboats than the regulations required.
That Titanic was not simply going too fast: She was doing what all transatlantic passenger liners did in 1912, which was keep speed up and trust a good lookout in clear weather, in ice. There are many more of these in my other book ‘101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!’
Q. If you could have the chance to interview one person associated with Titanic – crew member or passenger – to help further support your theory, who would you want to speak with?
A. Second Class passenger and survivor Lawrence Beesley, because of his scientific observations of the peculiar atmospheric conditions that night. And First Officer Murdoch, who died in the tragedy, because only he really knows exactly what happened on the bridge that night.
Q. The Titanic has earned a very special following – with millions of people around the world passionate about her story. How has this community of Titanic aficionados responded to your new theory, which offers conclusive proof that unusual atmospheric conditions sealed the ship’s fate?
A. At the time of writing, I have not yet released my research to the public, but I have shared it with George Behe, who is an ex-vice president of the Titanic Historical Society, and whose own Titanic research I admire greatly. He very much enjoyed reading my research and believes that my discoveries are an important part of the Titanic story.
Q. Given what you’ve discovered about the Titanic’s tragic end, are there lessons you would like to see modern day captains take away?
A. Yes, the Titanic disaster could happen again. In most instances of sinking ships – even today – conditions are not suited to the safe evacuation of passengers in lifeboats. Even modern radar does not function normally in abnormally refracting conditions, nor can it detect very low icebergs or ‘growlers’, which can be hidden by the waves. Titanic’s watertight subdivision would have complied with today’s SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) regulations.