Modern Titanics face greater iceberg peril, say experts on anniversary of ship sailing

By Culture24 Reporter | 09 April 2014

Modern ships are at greater risk of iceberg encounters than the Titanic, say scientists with an eye on 1912

A photo of icebergs on an Arctic sea
Scientists in Sheffield have studied icebergs in eastern Greenland© Dr Julie Jones
On the 102nd anniversary of the Titanic’s maiden voyage, experts say the scuppered ship may not have been as glacially unlucky as many theories have suggested.

Iceberg sightings were particularly common in 1912, with analysts also speculating that high tides and lunar or solar effects could have hastened the passenger liner’s fate.

A photo of icebergs on an Arctic sea
The findings looked at ice data from a century ago© Dr Julie Jones
Delving through ice data initiated in 1913 – aimed at preventing a repeat of the disaster – investigators from the University of Sheffield have observed a “significant but not extreme” iceberg count during the previous year.
“We have seen that 1912 was a year of raised iceberg hazard, but not exceptionally so in the long term,” says Professor Grant Bigg, who led the National Environment Research Council-funded research.

“1909 recorded a slightly higher number of icebergs.”

A modern day Titanic would be likely to encounter an even frostier outlook.

“More recently the risk has been much greater,” observes Bigg.

“Between 1991 and 2000, eight of the ten years recorded more than 700 icebergs, and five exceeded the 1912 total.

“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.”
The Titanic sailed on April 10 2014, meeting its bane four days later. The iceberg was spotted 500 metres away, leaving the ship too little time to turn away.

Five museums to see Titanic exhibits at:

Seacity Museum, Southampton
Hear the memories of survivors, admire an interactive model of the vessel and see the pocket watch found on the body of a steward aboard the ship.

Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool
A 20-foot long builder’s model of the Titanic is part of a permanent gallery on three maritime disasters on the first floor, while an exhibition, Titanic and Liverpool: the Untold Story, runs until 2017.

Titanic Belfast, Belfast
The birthplace of the Titanic features tours, a plan of the ship, the last luncheon menu on board and a launch notebook.

National Museums Northern Ireland
Artefacts in this collection include a signed photo of a third-class passenger – read our Curator’s Choice.

National Maritime Museum, London
There are loads of Titanic artefacts at Royal Museums Greenwich, but you might find a tour in the learning space, in which you can jump into a scene aboard the ship, even more evocative. Find out more.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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