On April 14th, 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg, and began a descent into the sea that would leave over 1,500 people dead. Today we take a look back and see how much you know about the most famous shipwreck in history.
What Role Did the Weather Play in the Iceberg Going Unseen That Night?
The crew aboard the Titanic realized they were headed straight for an iceberg only 37 seconds before impact, too late to avoid the crash. It was a famously calm night, and most have dismissed the lookout crew's claim that the iceberg just came out of the haze, as though appearing out of nowhere. After all, how could an iceberg go completely unseen on a totally clear night?
Well new research now indicates that that's likely exactly what happened. In fact, it was the calmness of the weather that was likely the problem. After years of research into weather reports and logs, Titanic expert Tim Maltin came to the conclusion that the Titanic that night was actually passing through a combination of rare weather elements that would have caused light to bend and to make it appear from the ship's lookouts that the horizon was higher than it was, thus hiding the iceberg from view. In other words, it now seems likely that the Titanic was passing through a set of atmospheric conditions that means, yes, the iceberg did appear as though out of nowhere.
What Did David Blair Accidentally Take in His Pocket When He Left the Titanic?
The atmospheric conditions weren't the only problem that night for the lookout crew. They also were lacking a very standard and important tool: binoculars.
David Blair was the second officer aboard the Titanic as it traveled from Belfast to Southampton, and was scheduled to keep that job for the ship's famous voyage. But at the last minute, he was replaced to make room for an officer with more experience. In his hurry to leave the boat, he accidentally took with him the key to a locker that many now believe contained the vessel's binoculars to be used by lookouts in the crow's nest. So it was that the lookout crew was working only on the strength of their eyes that night. One lookout who survived later testified that he believed a set of binoculars would have allowed him to see the iceberg far enough in advance to avoid it altogether.
How Much Longer Is the Titanic Expected to Last? The Titanic has been underwater for over 100 years, but it may only have another 15 or 20 left. A species of rust-eating bacteria called Halomonas titanicae has been discovered steadily devouring the ship's 50,000 tons of iron. According to Dr. Henrietta Mann, a professor involved in the bacteria's discovery, "I think Titanic has maybe 15 or 20 years left ... Eventually there will be nothing left but a rust stain on the bottom of the Atlantic."
What Conspiracy Theories Surround the Sinking? Titanic conspiracy theories are a niche market; the population that believes the theories isn't as big as those that dispute more recent tragedies. However, some of the theories are certainly creative. One claims the ship was deliberately sunk because it was a hit. Three of the passengers were financial scions who supposedly didn't support forming the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States. All three died in the disaster, and the bank was established in 1913, leading some to believe the sinking was meant to get those three out of the way. Another theory is that there was a cursed Egyptian mummy in the cargo hold. There's no concrete evidence to support these theories, but the fanfiction is probably awesome.