Did The Moon Play A Role In Sinking The Titanic?
March 6, 2012

Did The Moon Play A Role In Sinking The Titanic?

A team of astronomers from Texas State University is claiming the moon was an accomplice in bringing down the Titanic.

Texas State researcher Donald Olson said the moon may help explain why the icebergs initially got into the path of the Titanic.

“Of course, the ultimate cause of the accident was that the ship struck an iceberg. The Titanic failed to slow down, even after having received several wireless messages warning of ice ahead,” Olson said recently.

The researchers found that the moon and sun lined up in a way that their gravitational pulls enhanced each other, causing a "spring tide."

The moon's perigee was the closest it had come to Earth in 1,400 years, and came within six minutes of a full moon.

Also, the Earth's perihelion, which is the point at which the Earth is closest to the sun, happened the day before.

“It was the closest approach of the moon to the Earth in more than 1,400 years, and this configuration maximized the moon´s tide-raising forces on Earth´s oceans. That´s remarkable,” Olson said. “The full moon could be any time of the month. The perigee could be any time of the month. Think of how many minutes there are in a month.”

The team said that to reach the shipping lanes by April, any icebergs breaking off the Greenland glaciers in January would have to move unusually fast and against currents.  However, the ice field in the area the Titanic sank was so thick with icebergs, responding rescue ships were forced to slow down.

In fact, they said that the icebergs were so thick that shipping lanes were forced to move miles to the south for the duration of the 1912 season.

According to the findings, the reason for the abnormal amount of icebergs is that an unusually high tide in January helped dislodge many icebergs from where they normally plant themselves in shallower water.

“As icebergs travel south, they often drift into shallow water and pause along the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland," Olson said. "But an extremely high spring tide could refloat them, and the ebb tide would carry them back out into the Labrador Current where the icebergs would resume drifting southward.

The research was published in the April 2012 edition of Sky & Telescope.


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


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