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RMS TITANIC ICEBERG FAQ


By the International Ice Patrol (IIP)

Q. How large was the iceberg that sank the RMS TITANIC?


A. The exact size of the iceberg will probably never be known but, according to early newspaper reports the height and length of the iceberg was approximated at 50 to 100 feet high and 200 to 400 feet long.

RMS Titanic, RMS Titanic Photo
This is a scanned copy of the photographic print of the iceberg with which the RMS TITANIC supposedly collided on April 14, 1912 at latitude 41-46N, longitude 50-14W.

This print was in possession of Captain De Carteret, the Captain of the Cable ship MINIA, reportedly stated that this was the only iceberg near the scene of the collision. The MINIA was one of the first ships to reach the scene following the disaster. It was dispatched after the Western Union Cable ship MACKAY BENNET by White Star Lines to recover debris from the Titanic. During this operation, the MINIA found debris and bodies floating in the vicinity of the above iceberg. Therefore, it is assumed that this is the iceberg that the TITANIC struck. Captain De Carteret gave the print to Captain A. L. Gamble, Commanding Officer of the USCGC SENECA.

RMS Titanic, RMS Titanic Photo
This is a scanned copy of the photographic print of the iceberg with which the RMS TITANIC supposedly collided on April 14, 1912 at latitude 41-46N, longitude 50-14W.

This iceberg was photographed by the chief steward of the liner Prinze Adelbert on the morning of April 15, 1912, just a few miles south of where the Titanic went down. The steward hadn't yet heard about the Titanic. What caught his attention was the smear of red paint along the base of the berg, indication that it had collided with a ship sometime in the previous twelve hours. This photo and informaiton was taken from "UNSINKABLE" The Full Story of RMS Titanic Written by Daniel Allen Butler, Stackpole Books 1998.

Other accounts indicated that there were several icebergs in the vicinity where the TITANIC collided.

Q. Where did the RMS TITANIC actually hit the iceberg?

A. The RMS TITANIC hit an iceberg on the evening of 14 April, 1912 and sank early in the morning of 15 April, 1912. TITANIC's CQD or SOS (distress call) position was 41-56 degrees North and 50-14 degrees West. TITANIC's final resting position, over 2000 meters below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean, is 41-44 degrees North and 49-56 degrees West. The CQD position is assumed to be near where the TITANIC struck the iceberg. This position is approximately 13 nautical miles from TITANIC's final resting place.

Also, in 1912, navigation at sea could be very imprecise. Obviously, today we have satellite navigation. Back then they used celestial navigation and dead reckoning. The night they struck the berg, there was no moon. In order to accurately compute your position using the stars or the moon, you need to be able to see the horizon through a sextant. Capt Smith may have tried to do this, but he would have been guessing as to the exact sighting of the horizon. Therefore his star-fixed position was probably several nautical miles off. Assuming he tried this?! He may have just used what is called the dead reckoned position. Their last accurate fix was probably at twilight when a distinct horizon is available and the stars were visible (we know the sky was clear that night). That means they had to rely on their recordings of ship course and speed to compute their position from their last accurate position (which was probably 5 hours old). During that time, they would not be able to account for ship's set and drift. This is usually caused by winds and currents. Since that evening was very calm, this would have been caused by currents only. This could have given them a position which was up to 15 nautical miles off since currents in that area can be quite strong. What Capt Smith probably did was use a combination of the two methods. He probably split the difference between a celestial fix and a dead reckoned position. This is only conjecture.


Q. Other than the RMS TITANIC, what ships have struck icebergs?

A. A large historical data base of iceberg collisions is maintained by Brian T. Hill of the Institue for Marine Dynamics in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Article Syndicated with permission of the International Ice Patrol (IIP)

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