Tragedy Of Titanic Can Now Be Avoided Thanks To New Tracking Systems
April 14, 2012

Tragedy Of Titanic Can Now Be Avoided Thanks To New Tracking Systems

This weekend marks a century since the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg while crossing the North Atlantic, taking 1,500 lives down to the bottom of the sea with it.

Now, technology has paved the way for disasters like Titanic to be avoided, such as the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea and the International Ice Patrol (IIP).

The IIP monitors icebergs and establishes an iceberg danger area based on observations that are being fed into drift and melt models.

The Ice Patrol's challenge is to determine the number of icebergs that will drift south towards shipping lanes in the North Atlantic between Europe and the major ports of the U.S. and Canada.

The IIP first used marine vessels to perform routine ice patrols, but switched to aerial surveillance after World War II.

Now, aerial surveillance is the primary way to establish where icebergs are, but IIP wants to replace ice flights and switch primarily to using satellite surveys.

“The IIP currently uses satellite-based radar observations to supplement its aerial iceberg reconnaissance, and expects that satellites will play a greater role in the future,” Dr Donald L. Murphy, IIP Chief Scientist, said in a press release.

He said the planned launch of a new generation of public good satellites will increase the availability of the radar data and reduce the revisit time in the IIP area of responsibility.

“In addition, the new higher resolution generation satellites will improve the ability to detect small icebergs," Murphy said.

Scientists were first drawn by the idea of using satellites to survey icebergs in 1992, when ESA's ERS-1 satellite was launched.

Since 2003, the Canadian research and development company C-CORE has been working with IIP to develop innovative iceberg detection technologies based on satellite radar images.

The Sentinel-1 constellation due to launch next year will provide complete coverage of the Arctic every 24 hours, helping to play an important role in iceberg monitoring.

Data from the current CryoSat-2 and forthcoming Sentinel-3 satellites will also play a role by providing information on extreme sea-ice features.

The European Space Agency's flagship Earth observing satellite, Envisat, was helping check iceberg hazards.  However, it was reported this weekend that the satellite lost communications with ground controllers.

ESA has launched a contingency agreement with the Canadian Space Agency in order to fulfill some of the satellite's responsibilities with Radarsat-1 and Radarsat-2 data.

As the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic comes around, new research from Texas State University published in Sky & Telescope claims the moon played a part in the shipwreck.

As reported previously on RedOrbit, the researchers said that because of the unusual gravitational pulls from both the Moon and the Sun, higher than normal tides forced icebergs breaking off the Greenland glaciers farther south for the duration of the 1912 season.

The unusually high tide in January helped dislodge many icebergs from where they normally plant themselves in shallower water.

A system like IIP could have seen this unusual change, and would have kept the RMS Titanic from choosing to go this route.


Image Caption: RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.