The unexpected discovery emerged from an expedition to the luckless liner on the seabed by a team of scientists and engineers last August. From a submersible, the team carried out the first ultrasonic scan of the front end of the ship, much of which is buried in mud.
The finding will force a rewriting of the countless histories of the disaster that claimed 1,500 lives. It will also offer posthumous vindication to Edward Wilding, a naval architect with Harland & Wolff, who testified in 1912 that uneven flooding of airtight compartments argued against a single gash.
Such was the shock at the tragedy, that no explanation other than a cataclysmic tear in the hull's side seemed acceptable to the public, which had been conditioned to believe that the Titanic had been built to be unsinkable.
But according to this latest evidence, Mr Wilding was correct. The team found six slits, the longest of which was only 30 feet, affecting the front six of the ship's 16 sealed compartments. The total area of the openings was found to be only about 12 or 13 square feet.
"There is no gash," Paul Matthias, one of the ultrasound team told the New York Times. "What we're seeing is a series of deformations in the starboard side that start and stop along the hull".
Though small, the gaps would have been roughly 20 feet below the water line. The high pressure would have forced the ocean through the holes fast enough to flood the ship with about 39,000 tonnes of water before she finally went down.