Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mother Nature's deadly mirage sank Titanic

THE blame for the sinking of the Titanic lies not with her lookouts or her skipper, but with an iceberg mirage created by Mother Nature.

British historian Tim Maltin has declared "case closed" on the cause of the disaster after discovering evidence that an optical illusion concealed the iceberg that sealed the ship's fate.

After collating sea and air temperatures taken by ships that passed through the area around the time of the sinking, the Titanic expert found atmospheric conditions conducive to a cold water mirage.

The data indicated that at the time of the collision the ship had been in the middle of a high pressure zone, where freezing waters originating in Greenland met the Gulf Stream.

The lookouts would have been searching for large black objects blocking the stars on the horizon, but refraction of light created by the movement of air currents could have made the horizon seem higher than it was, rendering the attempt ineffective.

He believes the same conditions could also have distorted the Titanic's emergency flares and SOS signals, explaining why they weren't picked up by the nearby SS Californian.

"It's almost as if Titanic sank in a killing zone of nature where all these very dangerous elements combined to make it fatal," Maltin said.

The author and filmmaker investigated ships' logs after reading eyewitness testimonies from survivors who reported a sudden drop in temperature before the collision and unusual observations about the ship's lights and the brightness of the stars.

There were also reports about columns of smoke from the ship flattening out like mushrooms, indicating a thermal inversion.

The presence of the mirage, or "false horizon", would have meant the iceberg was effectively invisible until it was right in front of the ship, making it impossible to avoid. Maltin said the findings vindicated the ship's crew and builders, adding his belief that the vessel would have been safer than any ocean liner in existence today.

"Titanic is so amazing because she represented the best that man could achieve and she represents the best of science and technology," he said.

"People believed that technology could triumph over nature, but what the Titanic teaches us is that the universe is always more powerful."

His theory is put forward in Case Closed, one of three National Geographic documentaries screening as part of the Titanic 100 series, produced to mark the anniversary of the ship's sinking.

Case Closed premiered last week on the National Geographic channel.


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