The iceberg’s accomplice: Did the moon sink the Titanic?

Mar 06, 2012 by Jayme Blaschke
These sketches showing the sequence of events during the foundering of the Titanic were widely published in newspapers and magazines shortly after the sinking. Lewis Palmer Skidmore, an art teacher from Brooklyn and a passenger on the Carpathia, created the drawings on April 15, 1912, based on the eyewitness descriptions of John Thayer, Jr., a Titanic survivor. (From the collection of Donald Olson)

(PhysOrg.com) -- The sinking of the ocean liner Titanic 100 years ago is perhaps the most famous--and most studied--disaster of the 20th century. Countless books and movies have examined in great detail the actions, choices and mistakes that led to the Titanic colliding with an iceberg the night of April 14, 1912, and sinking within hours, with approximately 1,500 people losing their lives in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

One question, however, has often been overlooked: Where did the killer iceberg come from, and could the moon have helped set the stage for disaster?

Now, a team of from Texas State University-San Marcos has applied its unique brand of celestial sleuthing to the disaster to examine how a rare lunar event stacked the deck against the Titanic. Their results shed new light on the hazardous sea ice conditions the ship boldly steamed into that fateful night.

Texas State physics Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, along with Roger Sinnott, senior contributing editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, publish their findings in the April 2012 edition of Sky & Telescope, on newsstands now.

“Of course, the ultimate cause of the accident was that the ship struck an iceberg. The Titanic failed to slow down, even after having received several wireless messages warning of ice ahead,” Olson said. “They went full speed into a region with icebergs—that’s really what sank the ship, but the lunar connection may explain how an unusually large number of icebergs got into the path of the Titanic.”

This map shows the known route of the Titanic and a possible path for the iceberg. We will never know the iceberg's actual trajectory, but modern knowledge of currents and drift patterns make this a highly plausible scenario. Had it not been for the enhanced tidal effects a few months earlier, the iceberg might have run aground on the Labrador or Newfoundland coast, and remained permanently stuck until it melted.

A tide for the ages

Inspired by the visionary work of the late oceanographer Fergus J. Wood of San Diego who suggested that an unusually close approach by the moon on Jan. 4, 1912, may have caused abnormally high tides, the Texas State research team investigated how pronounced this effect may have been.

What they found was that a once-in-many-lifetimes event occurred on that Jan. 4. The moon and sun had lined up in such a way their gravitational pulls enhanced each other, an effect well-known as a “spring tide.” The moon’s perigee—closest approach to Earth—proved to be its closest in 1,400 years, and came within six minutes of a full moon. On top of that, the Earth’s perihelion—closest approach to the sun—happened the day before. In astronomical terms, the odds of all these variables lining up in just the way they did were, well, astronomical.

“It was the closest approach of the moon to the Earth in more than 1,400 years, and this configuration maximized the moon’s tide-raising forces on Earth’s oceans. That’s remarkable,” Olson said. “The full moon could be any time of the month. The perigee could be any time of the month. Think of how many minutes there are in a month.”

Initially, the researchers looked to see if the enhanced tides caused increased glacial calving in Greenland, where most icebergs in that part of the Atlantic originated. They quickly realized that to reach the shipping lanes by April when the Titanic sank, any icebergs breaking off the Greenland glaciers in Jan. 1912 would have to move unusually fast and against prevailing currents. But the ice field in the area the Titanic sank was so thick with icebergs responding rescue ships were forced to slow down. Icebergs were so numerous, in fact, that the shipping lanes were moved many miles to the south for the duration of the 1912 season. Where did so many icebergs come from?

Icebergs run aground

According to the Texas State group, the answer lies in grounded and stranded icebergs. As Greenland icebergs travel southward, many become stuck in the shallow waters off the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland. Normally, icebergs remain in place and cannot resume moving southward until they’ve melted enough to refloat or a high enough tide frees them. A single iceberg can become stuck multiple times on its journey southward, a process that can take several years. But the unusually high tide in Jan. 1912 would have been enough to dislodge many of those icebergs and move them back into the southbound ocean currents, where they would have just enough time to reach the shipping lanes for that fateful encounter with the Titanic.

“As icebergs travel south, they often drift into shallow water and pause along the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland. But an extremely high spring tide could refloat them, and the ebb tide would carry them back out into the Labrador Current where the icebergs would resume drifting southward,” Olson said. “That could explain the abundant in the spring of 1912. We don’t claim to know exactly where the iceberg was in January 1912—nobody can know that--but this is a plausible scenario intended to be scientifically reasonable.”

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Provided by Texas State University

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TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (13) Mar 06, 2012
" They went full speed into a region with icebergsthats really what sank the ship, but the lunar connection may explain how an unusually large number of icebergs got into the path of the Titanic.

-Plus the helmsman steered directly into the berg. His excuse was that steering on a steamer is opposite that of a sailing ship. What the sinking did however was turn people away from the perceived safety and comfort of ship travel and embrace transatlantic flight which at the time must have seemed perilous indeed.

The akron and the Hindenburg were destroyed for the same reason. The airline industry was of such critical strategic military and economic importance that people HAD to accept it. And so the titanic was scuttled.
Reaper6971
5 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2012
... riiiight...
tadchem
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
"One question, however, has often been overlooked: Where did the killer iceberg come from, and could the moon have helped set the stage for disaster?"
That's 2 questions...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.4 / 5 (10) Mar 06, 2012
... riiiight...
"The granddaughter of an officer aboard the ill-fated Titanic reveals that the ship's helmsman turned the vessel toward the iceberg instead of away because of confusion over steering orders that applied differently to steamships and sailing ships."

-Is this what you take issue with reaper? Or dont you think it possible that there are People in the world capable of Machinating such Events to steer the course of humanity?

Commercial aviation is primarily military in nature, as is the interstate highway system. The need to transport men and material quickly, anywhere on the globe, is of extreme importance. Hitler created the autobahn for the same reason.

Once it became possible to create such a system, it became essential that it be created. Not only can commercial airlines be commandeered whenever needed; but a thriving plane manufacturing industry brings the cost of R&D and cost-per-unit down to where a military can afford to be based entirely upon it.
cont>
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.5 / 5 (8) Mar 06, 2012
We have seen the value of air superiority in every war since ww1. Imagine trying to convince people to get in a rickety airplane to fly across an ocean for 12 hours, when they could take a big comfortable ship whose safety was not in question... until the titanic. Even a zeppelin would seem safer than a plane back then.

But after a few suspicious and bizarre and very high profile disasters the paradigm shifted. While ships were being torpedoed in the north atlantic and up and down the east coast in ww2, planes were flying critical supplies and passengers to britain.

The military advantages of aircraft were obvious but the industry itself did not take off until ship travel was convincingly discredited. This was relatively easy to Arrange.
drel
5 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2012
So by your "logic" the airline disasters of 911, Tenerif, Mt. Osutaka, New Delhi, and Bois d' Ermenonville France were all perpetrated in an attempt to boost funding of the sub-orbital Space Plane (or was it to fund the double extra secret military stepping disks system technology that we acquired from the Pierson's Puppeteers)?
jet
not rated yet Mar 06, 2012
nice one drel... has the RING of truth to it...
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Virtually all the industrialists and tycoons opposed to the Vatican Rothschilds Federal Reserve were aboard the Titanic.
nuge
not rated yet Mar 06, 2012
Exactly how and why there was an iceberg in that part of the ocean at that particular time is neither here nor there, the point I think is that it is certainly a possibility the captain and crew, and designers of the ship, should have been well aware of and ready for. The fact that they weren't led to the disaster.
Silverhill
5 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2012
GhostofOtto:
-Plus the helmsman steered directly into the berg. His excuse was that steering on a steamer is opposite that of a sailing ship.
And did the various helmsmen truly learn nothing about how to steer that steamer during her shakedown cruise, and the other bits of the journey before setting out for New York, and the entire long path from Ireland to the Grand Banks?
Frostiken
3 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2012
The airline industry was of such critical strategic military and economic importance that people HAD to accept it. And so the titanic was scuttled.


Why are conspiracy theorists so blissfully unaware of what total nutjobs they sound like? I'd say it was a mental illness but there's so many of them...
Quarl
3 / 5 (4) Mar 07, 2012
If I remember correctly, steering directly into the berg would have resulted in a crushed bow and one or two compartments opened to the sea...which would have been survivable. Steering away from the berg led to the long lateral impact which compromised the ability of the ship to remain afloat. I could be wrong...
Pyle
5 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2012
I'd say it was a mental illness but there's so many of them...
Hmmm, funny. I think the same of religious zealots. Maybe it is a human flaw? Just maybe?

Anyway, wouldn't it be cool if all of this WERE orchestrated? Maybe we're like the "play" species for Puppeteers to get their feet wet before they move on to truly dangerous lifeforms. Every once in a while the trainers have to come in and make an adjustment. Conspiracy theories are so much fun!!!

Keep spinnng tales Ghost. Love 'em!
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2012
GhostofOtto:
-Plus the helmsman steered directly into the berg. His excuse was that steering on a steamer is opposite that of a sailing ship.
And did the various helmsmen truly learn nothing about how to steer that steamer during her shakedown cruise, and the other bits of the journey before setting out for New York, and the entire long path from Ireland to the Grand Banks?
You saw the quote I posted. Strange as hell. Google it for the full article. As I said, another mystery-laden mega-event with world-changing consequences.

Pyle on sabbatical? Only one Tale - Empire. The world will NOT be allowed to progress by itself. Because it would not.
Why are conspiracy theorists so blissfully unaware of what total nutjobs they sound like? I'd say it was a mental illness but there's so many of them...
It's like religions... At the very most only one of us can be right (otto).
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2012
(or was it to fund the double extra secret military stepping disks system technology that we acquired from the Pierson's Puppeteers)?
Yeah maybe our Shepherds are really Pak. No they're not they're people just like you and me. People with a little more Pragmatism perhaps.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2012
Sorry quarl I 1/5'd you by iPhone mishap.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (2) Mar 11, 2012
It wasn't the moon it was the Earth's gravity.. Evil earth!!

Virtually all the industrialists and tycoons opposed to the Vatican Rothschilds Federal Reserve were aboard the Titanic.

Do you have evidence for that.

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