What doomed the
Titanic is well known, at least in outline. On a moonless night in the
North Atlantic, the liner hit an iceberg and disaster ensued, with 1,500
Hundreds of books, studies and official inquiries have addressed the
deeper question of how a ship that was so costly and so well built — a
ship declared to be unsinkable — could have ended so terribly. The
theories vary widely, placing the blame on everything from inept sailors
to flawed rivets.
A century after the liner went down in the early hours of April 15,
1912, two new studies argue that rare states of nature played major
roles in the catastrophe.
The first says Earth’s nearness to the Moon and the Sun — a
proximity not matched in more than 1,000 years — resulted in record
tides that help explain why the Titanic encountered so much ice,
including the fatal iceberg.
And a second, put forward by a Titanic historian from Britain,
contends that the icy waters created ideal conditions for an unusual
type of mirage that hid icebergs from lookouts and confused a nearby
ship as to the liner’s identity, delaying rescue efforts for hours.
The author, Tim Maltin, said his explanation helps remove the stain
of blunder from what he regards as a tragedy.
From the start, reports and inquiries said that the ice in the North
Atlantic was unusually bad that year. The New York Times, in an article
shortly after the sinking, quoted US officials as saying that the winter
had produced “an enormously large crop of icebergs.”
Recently, a team of researchers from Texas State University-San
Marcos and Sky & Telescope magazine found an apparent explanation in the
The team discovered that Earth had come unusually close to the Sun
and Moon that winter, enhancing their gravitational pulls on the ocean
and producing record tides. The rare orbits took place between December
1911 and February 1912 .
The researchers suggest that the high tides refloated masses of
icebergs traditionally stuck along the coastlines of Labrador and
Newfoundland and sent them adrift into the North Atlantic shipping
lanes. NYT NEWS SERVICE