Most individuals are familiar with the story of the Titanic, but not as many know that she had a little sister known as the Britannic. Built before the Titanic, the Britannic had all of the elements of its big sister, but in a smaller scale. Also designed to be a luxury cruise liner, the Britannic now lies at the bottom of the Agean Sea with a story independent of the sinking of the Titanic. It is scheduled to become an underwater seabed museum.
Launched again in February of 1914, the Britannic had moved from being a cruise liner to becoming a wartime hospital ship during the first World War. The Britannic sank off of the coast of the Greek island of Kea in 1916 while on its way to pick up wounded soldiers in the Balkan campaign. The ship sank after an explosion tore a hole in its main hull. The wreckage of the Britannic was purchased from the UK government in 1996 by marine historian Simon Mills.
Mills plans on using submersibles to escort guests to the wreckage which Mills says is being well-preserved. Unlike the Titanic that lies in cold waters and is being fed on by iron eating bacteria, the Britannic is still well-intact and likely will remain that way for many years. Mills plans on using the Britannic as a vehicle for tourism and education as he will tell the story of the Titanic’s little sister to guests. He plans to conserve the wreck as much as possible in order to pay respects to those who died during its sinking.
The story of the Britannic is one that is shrouded in mystery. Little is known about what exactly caused the vessel to sink, but there are some theories that have been presented. Many believe that the boat was torpedoed by a German U-Boat, while others believe that a German mine was the reason for the explosion. The Britannic sunk in 55 minutes as opposed to the 2 and 1/2 hours it took for the Titanic to sink.
Only 30 people were lost during the sinking of the Britannic, but the story is just as if not more gruesome than that of the Titanic. After the explosion, two lifeboats were launched without the captain’s knowledge and immediately sucked into the propellers. Both the lifeboats and those who occupied them were torn to shreds by the moving propellers before the captain could turn the engine off.
Not many individuals have a first hand account of the sinking of the Britannic other than natives of Kea who witnessed it. Many local fishermen rushed to the aid of the sinking Britannic, but there was little that they could do. Many eyewitnesses say that the event was absolutely traumatizing to all who witnessed it just like with the sinking of the Titanic. Only 5 of the victims of the Britannic were ever found.