The RMS Titanic wasn’t supposed to sink, but it did. The ship sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912, claiming 1,522 lives. But could the tragedy have been prevented? It wasn’t until recently that researchers discovered the history behind an important artifact that could have changed RMS Titanic’s history — and saved thousands of lives.

The story behind the RMS Titanic

Contrary to a certain major motion picture that will remain unnamed, the events that took place on the RMS Titanic in April 1912 were not romantic. Frigid waters caused icebergs to drift in the area of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Instead of responding to warning calls from other ships, the RMS Titanic pushed on toward their destination — the United States.

The decision sealed the fate of every passenger on board.

Iceberg! Straight ahead!

By the time lookouts, including Frederick Fleet, spotted an iceberg it was too late. The RMS Titanic was heading straight toward the jagged ice and the two eventually collided. But something could have helped Fleet with his job, if only he had the tool: a key.

This isn’t your ordinary key; it’s a remarkable artifact that fitted the locker that contained the crow’s nest binoculars. Fleet, who miraculously survived the disaster, later told officials that if he had binoculars, he could have seen the iceberg sooner and told Captain Edward John Smith to change the ship’s direction. The RMS Titanic would have had enough time to dodge the iceberg— saving everyone on the ship.

So, what happened?

What happened to this key, you might ask? It belonged to Second Officer David Blair, who was replaced with a more experienced officer shortly before the RMS Titanic departed Southampton. Blair mistakenly took the key with him when he left his job and forgot to hand it to his replacement, Charles Lightoller.

Talk about an unfortunate error. Blair later realized his mistake, but it was too late. The RMS Titanic was off to her disastrous fate, and no one could open the locker to retrieve the binoculars when they really needed them.

The key was recently discovered and is expected to be auctioned for at least $80,000.