Tackling Titanic Icebergs
International – This week sees the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, during which the mighty vessel sank at the mercy of a massive iceberg seeing 1,514 souls perish. 100 years on scientists report that shipping is still threatened by icebergs, despite progress in shipping technology.
In 1912 the odds of hitting an iceberg were around 1 in 1,000 – today the odds are reduced to an estimated 1 in 2,000, according to the National Research Council of Canada. However, scientists report that more icebergs are forming, and at a faster rate than previously, possibly due to global warming. Nevertheless, Jeremy Bassis of Oceanic and Space Sciences, College of Engineering at the University of Michigan explains that iceberg calving is unpredictable by nature and it is not easy to relate any such changes to global warming.
The International Ice Patrol (IIP), formed in 1913 — a year after the Titanic disaster, patrols an area of 1.7 million sq. kilometres of the Atlantic’s northwest. Michael Hicks of the IIP says the danger from icebergs is due to their drifting and the fact that high waves may occlude them from a ship’s radar making them invisible, easily camouflaged by heavy seas, poor light and fog.
At least two collisions involving icebergs occur each year. In 2007 the cruise ship MV Explorer sank after colliding with an iceberg off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Astoundingly, all 154 passengers and crew survived.
IIP’s ‘patch’ includes the notorious ‘Iceberg Alley’ – shipping lanes off the Great Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador’s east coast where icebergs, calved from Greenland, threaten from February to July; IIP has attempted, via various means, to track the intruders, all with little effect.
Now with radar-equipped Hercules aircraft deployed and collating information from passing ships and satellites IIP is proud to report that ‘not a single skipper who heeded IIP’s warnings has hit an iceberg’.
According to the scientists, even with advances in technology over the last 100 years, ships’ crews still use an old, tried and tested method of detection: the human eye.
The MS Balmoral is following Titanic’s original route on a commemorative 12-night voyage and is currently underway across the Atlantic. The ship is carrying 1,309 passengers, identical to the number aboard Titanic, and will hold a memorial service in the north Atlantic at the site of the Titanic disaster on April 14 and 15. All modern-day, iceberg-detecting technology is accessible to MS Balmoral, the powerful tools which Titanic was not afforded.