The sinking of the RMS Titanic is one of the most researched tragedies of all time, but now new evidence has emerged that suggests much of what we thought we knew about the event might have been wrong, reports the Independent.

As the story is typically understood, Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, which slowly flooded the ship until it finally succumbed to the sea 2 hours and 40 minutes later. The fact that the ship hit an iceberg is not in doubt, but that impact alone might not have been enough to sink the ship, the new evidence suggests.

It was not ice, but fire that may have determined Titanic's fate.

A new theory

The Channel 4 documentary "Titanic: The New Evidence" showcases rarely seen photographs of the iconic ship before it departed on its fateful journey. Using these photos, journalist Senan Molony, a longtime researcher of the sinking of the Titanic, was able to identify a 30-foot-long black mark along the front right-hand side of the hull, which is right where the iceberg is believed to have struck. These marks seem to confirm a long-time tale about the ship, that it had sustained an intense fire in its hull in the weeks leading up to its departure.

"We are looking at the exact area where the iceberg stuck, and we appear to have a weakness or damage to the hull in that specific place, before she even left Belfast," said Molony.

He continued: "Nobody has investigated these marks before. It totally changes the narrative. We have metallurgy experts telling us that when you get that level of temperature against steel it makes it brittle, and reduces its strength by up to 75 per cent."

Fresh mysery

Why haven't we heard of this fire before? There may have been a cover-up to hide the disaster from the public, so as not to delay the ship's maiden voyage. Officers on board were reportedly under strict instruction from J. Bruce Ismay, president of the company that built the Titanic, not to mention the fire to any of the ship’s 2,500 passengers. Titanic may even have had its berth reversed in Southampton to prevent passengers from seeing damage made to the side of the ship by the ongoing fire, according to some reports.

If true, it changes everything we know about the ironically-labeled "unsinkable" ship. Although the iceberg still would have been the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Titanic, it may have only been a part of a chain of events which ultimately began with the hull fire.

"The official Titanic inquiry branded [the sinking] as an act of God. This isn't a simple story of colliding with an iceberg and sinking," explained Malony. "It's a perfect storm of extraordinary factors coming together: fire, ice and criminal negligence."

It's a theory that only deepens the intrigue around the historical event. Titanic may have disappeared beneath the waves in April of 1912, but its story is one that continues to fascinate and perplex us; one that will undoubtedly continue to be debated for years to come.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

Fire, not ice, may have sunk the Titanic
New theory suggests it wasn't the iceberg that was the biggest problem.