Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Most disasters have more than one cause. If this hadn’t happened, and then that at the same time... Such was the case on the night of April 14, 1912.

Was the ship traveling too fast? Each day it covered more nautical miles than the day before. Speed had not been its original priority. However, rumors hinted J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, urged Captain Smith to try for a record. Did Ismay do that? Did Smith heed him?

Six Marconigrams from other ships in the area warned of ice. At noon on Sunday, the Titanic received a warning of icebergs. Then, that night, the wireless system went down, and Radioman Phillips spent four hours fixing it. By the time he finished, he was swamped with passengers’ messages. Did that cause him to ignore the iceberg warning messages?

Strangely, there were no binoculars in the crow’s nest, as there should have been. The second officer searched the ship but couldn’t find them.

The night was bitterly cold. Although stars twinkled, there was no moon. Survivors described the sea “as still as plate glass.” No waves splashed up against an iceberg to reveal it. The lookouts saw only a “blue berg,” meaning one which had recently turned over and was dark with sea water.

At 11:40, Lookout Fred Fleet spotted the iceberg. He gave three tugs on the brass bell, picked up the telephone to the bridge, and said, “Iceberg straight ahead.” On the bridge, Officer Murdoch shouted, “Hard a-Starboard,” and Quartermaster Hitchens rang for “Full Steam Astern,” and spun the wheel. Slowly the bow turned to Port and they thought they had missed the iceberg. But its underwater mass scraped along the hull, popping rivets and opening a huge gash in the side of the ship.


In an article in Time Magazine on March 19, 2012, two physicists from Texas State proposed that on January 4, 1912, the sun and moon lined up with Earth in such a way that their gravity led to unusually high tides. The moon made its closest approach to Earth in 400 years, increasing its gravitational pull. On January 3, the Earth made its closest approach to the sun that year. By April, the physicists theorized, the historically high tides might have caused an old iceberg, grounded near Labrador, to break loose and move into the shipping lanes into the path of the Titanic. Was that the possible reason for the disaster?

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