The Titanic Disaster Was Not Completely Nature’s Fault, New Research Shows

By Shweta Iyer on April 11, 2014 3:45 PM EDT

titanic
Academics at the University of Sheffield have challenged this belief by saying that there are more icebergs in the ocean now than there were when the Titanic sank. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

It has been more than 102 years since the Titanic sank after colliding with an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912, but the memory of this supposedly unsinkable ship still fascinates researchers and the general public alike. Forces of nature had long been blamed for the large number of icebergs present in the ocean that year. But now, academics at the University of Sheffield have challenged this belief by saying that there are more icebergs in the ocean now than there were then, according to a press release Thursday.

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Lunar and solar effects had been thought to have caused a rise in the number of icebergs in the Atlantic Ocean, the year the ship set sail. Since 1912, authorities have stringently kept track of iceberg locations in the world oceans to prevent a repeat similar to the Titanic tragedy. The Sheffield researchers, after analysing data on icebergs, recorded since 1913, have come to the conclusion that 1912 was a significant ice year, but not extreme.

Lead researcher, Professor Grant Bigg said, "We have seen that 1912 was a year of raised iceberg hazard, but not exceptionally so in the long term. 1909 recorded a slightly higher number of icebergs and more recently the risk has been much greater - between 1991 and 2000 eight of the ten years recorded more than 700 icebergs and five exceeded the 1912 total."

He added, "As use of the Arctic, in particular, increases in the future with the declining sea-ice the ice hazard will increase in water not previously used for shipping. As polar ice sheets are increasingly losing mass as well, the iceberg risk is likely to increase in the future, rather than decline."

On this day, almost a century ago (10 April 1912), the Titanic set sail from Southampton, England on its maiden voyage and just four days later it sank, about 1,000 miles from its destination in New York. The iceberg that hit the Titanic was spotted before midnight when it was just 500 meters away. Even though the ship sent distress signals to Carpathia, a steamer ship, by the time help arrived the Titanic was already at the bottom of the ocean, less than three hours since it hit the iceberg. Of the 2220 passengers and crew who were on board the ship, only 700 survived.

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