London, Dec 26 (ANI): The explosion on royal warship HMS London, which claimed 300 lives, might not have resulted due to an unstable mix of chemicals as earlier thought, according to an engineer and naval historian.
Richard Enser says that build-up of methane from rotting faeces in the bilges of the ship might have been the real cause of the fire.
He came to this conclusion following a 20-year study of another 17th-century warship called the Lennox, which was launched a decade after the London exploded.
He said that the men on board, generally, tend to relieve themselves into the deepest recesses of the ship, which could have resulted in a build-up of methane that could have been ignited by a candle below decks.
This study will be part of Restoration Warship, to be published in the new year, which takes the Lennox as the archetypal ship of the period.
Among her records was an account of a curious incident, recorded while she was laid up at Chatham.
The ship's lieutenant fell down the well, an aperture running from the top deck beside the mast to the bottom of the hold, through which the crew could pump out the bilges.
It appears that the skeleton crew had been using the well as a lavatory, rather than relieving themselves over the side as they would have done at sea.
When two sailors were sent to find the fallen lieutenant, according to the report, "they were rendered in a manner dead by the stench".
"They were unconscious. Of course, it is not the smell that makes you unconscious, it's the methane," Times Online quoted Enser, as saying.
He thought this could be the cause of many ship explosions reported in the 17th century.
"When you have that concentration of methane, all it would take is someone being sent down there with a lantern to set it off. The powder room is in the hold as well," he said. (ANI)