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Was the Titanic just unlucky?

Study says iceberg conditions not unusually severe in 1912

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Bergs, baby!

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Titanic’s fateful encounter with a North Atlantic iceberg wasn’t a result of spring tides, and there weren’t an exceptionally high number of bergs in the North Atlantic in 1912, UK researchers said this week.

With the April 15 anniversary of the ocean liner’s sinking at hand, the University of Sheffield geographers say that, by scrutinizing historic iceberg data, they can dispel the theory that the Titanic was unlucky for sailing in a year with an exceptional number of icebergs. The risk of encountering a berg is actually much greater now, due to global warming.

Using data on iceberg locations dating back to 1913 – recorded to help prevent a repeat of the Titanic – they have shown that 1912 was a significant ice year but not extreme.

We have seen that 1912 was a year of raised iceberg hazard, but not exceptionally so in the long term,” said Professor Grant Bigg who led the research. “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,” Biggs said.

“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 iceberg which sank the Titanic was spotted just before midnight on 14 April 1912 500m away. Despite quick action to slow the ship it wasn’t enough and the ship sank in just two and a half hours. The disaster saw 1,517 people perish and only 700 survive.

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