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I keep running into a (quite frankly daft) conspiracy theory regarding the sinking of the Titanic. It posits that the RMS Olympic was secretly swapped in to replace the RMS Titanic and was deliberately sunk.

The motivations given tend to be either J.P. Morgan wanted to assassinate his rivals, or White Star Line were perpetrating an insurance fraud to try to recoup losses from the damage caused to the Olympic in a previous collision with HMS Hawke.

Most of these claims are easy to debunk, but one that seems to keep cropping up regards the SS Californian - a ship that was nearby the Titanic when it hit the iceburg, but, controversially, didn't respond to the distress signals in a timely manner.

The claim is that the Californian was intended to act as a rescue ship for the passengers, and was (deliberately) carrying a cargo of items that would have been useful for a rescue attempt - variously reported as lifebelts, sweaters and warm clothing.

The SS Californian's cargo manifest is said to provide evidence for this, and hence evidence that the Californian was intended as a resuce ship and that the Titanic sinking was deliberate, but I have been unable to locate it.

Was the SS Californian intended to be a rescue vehicle?

  • According to the FAQ, Skeptics.SE is for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read. This question didn't quite fit our scope, and I have made some major edits so it does - please check you are comfortable with them. – Oddthinking Nov 8 '14 at 1:10
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    It would be improved further by explicit links and quotes from people making the claim about lifebelts/sweaters/warm clothes. – Oddthinking Nov 8 '14 at 1:33
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    I disagree with you both about linking - but probably should be a Meta or chat issue, not comments. Our M.O. here isn't to starve bad ideas of oxygen, but shine a light on them and reveal their flaws. In the meantime, we need links to avoid arguing against strawmen, which, I would argue, is one of the most serious causes of low-quality discussions. – Oddthinking Nov 8 '14 at 11:42
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    If these theories state the SS Californian had been intended to be a rescue ship, do they bother attempting to explain why it failed miserably in that assignment? Crew members of the Californian testified they saw rockets fired from the location of Titanic, but didn't bother investigating until the RMS Carpathia showed up a full hour and a half after the Titantic sunk. – Jimmy M. May 19 '16 at 18:40
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    It seems strange, that if they had intended to sink the Titanic but save the passengers, that they didn't load it full of enough lifeboats for all passengers (though thinking about it a bit more, maybe the rivals were all men and they provided only lifeboats for women and children) . And also the captain would surely have had to be in on it and known he'd be going down with the ship, and so be willing to sacrifice his life for JP Morgan's insurance scam? The crew of the Californian would also have to be in on it if it was an assassination attempt, to avoid rescuing the intended targets – colmde Mar 9 '18 at 12:57

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