The Liner and the Iceberg

On April 14, 1912, sightings of large icebergs were radioed ship-to-ship in the North Atlantic. Little was generally known about icebergs except that they could damage a ship and the navigational strategy of the day was to avoid them. Moved by ocean current and wave action, an iceberg floats with up to 90% of its bulk below the surface. Without the imaging capability of modern technology, it is impossible to predict the depth or breadth or shape of the submerged ice structure.

Although it was neither the first nor the last ship to collide with a North Atlantic iceberg, RMS Titanic, however, was the largest to that date – a celebrity ship on its maiden voyage with state-of-the-art luxury and naval safety. State-of-the-art was no match for the submerged iceberg mass.

International response to this maritime disaster was swift. For the rest of the year, as over a dozen maritime countries negotiated an international maritime safety treaty, US Coast Guard ships patrolled the North Atlantic to issue icefield warnings to shipping.

In 1912, ship navigators still used celestial navigation to determine course and direction, along with the watchful eyes of men in the ship’s crow’s nest. Today, over 100 years later, North Atlantic navigators have access to radar, sonar, GPS systems, real time satellite observations, and both trajectory and velocity predictions of icebergs from observation coordinators like the Canadian Ice Service.

Although we have since learned much about icebergs, we continue to observe and learn about these floating ice islands in environmental science.


B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage


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