National Geographic : 1998 Feb
Within milliseconds, the exploding six-inch reserve magazine would have touched off a hellish chain reaction-massive explosions inside the ten-inch and other nearby maga zines, unleashing the power of several World War II-era bombs. According to this theory, the expanding gas generated by the explosions could have been driven outward through the exploding hull, then back in by the enormous pressure of water, bending the telltale section of the outer hull, section 1, inward as water rushed in behind. Section 1 (green), pushed upward and inward, suggests an explosion outside the ship. Coal fire advocates argue that a mine large enough to have penetrated and ignited the six-inch reserve magazine would have inflicted much more damage to the exterior of the ship. The explosion in the six-inch reserve magazine would have instantaneously triggered other, much larger explosions in nearby magazines. This monster explosion would blast the hull apart from the inside out, leaving only the bent-in metal of sec tion 1 to tell the tale of what really caused the disaster. The case remains open This study does not settle the issue once and for all but rather moves the century-old debate to a new level of scientific detail. Computer models patterned on the condition of the Maine before and after the explosion show that a fire in the coal bunker could have generated sufficient heat to touch off an explosion in the adjacent magazine. On the other hand, computer analysis also shows that even a small, handmade mine could have penetrated the ship's hull and set off explosions within. On what might have caused section 1 to buckle inward, the evidence is inconclusive. And since that telltale scrap of metal is now buried in mud somewhere off the shores of Cuba, the mystery of the Maine remains.