“Iceberg, right ahead!” is one of the most famous lines when referring to the sinking of the Titanic and of course James Cameron’s cinematic film, but a team of astronomers now say the iceberg may not be fully at fault for the tragedy back in 1912.
After a great deal of research, astronomers from Texas State University-San Marcos has discovered the shipping lanes of the Atlantic Ocean contained extra icebergs, than the norm, due to an unusual lunar occurrence that may have also caused the Titanic to sink.
On Jan. 14, 1912, just three months before the deadly catastrophe, the moon made its closest approach in 1,400 years to the Earth in a single orbit. Our own planet and the moon must have been in cahoots that month, since the previous day the Earth nuzzled up to the sun, marking its closest approach. These extremely close encounters increased tide-raising effects, resulting in detrimental events.
As we said, higher tides aren’t a good thing, though surfers may disagree. In this case, the unique event caused icebergs in Greenland, which generally stay put in the shallow waters of the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland, to float themselves along southbound ocean currents. They eventually bobbed their way right into the path of the Titanic.
You might be asking yourself, “Don’t icebergs usually act this way?” The answer is no. It can take years for one iceberg to do what these rare icebergs did and not a few months.
Who knew something so beautiful like the moon could be so dangerous?
According to Donald Olson, physicist and co-author to the study, the moon isn’t at complete fault.“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. 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.”
To read the complete findings, check out the April 2012 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.