The word ‘iceberg’ doesn’t conjure up the same picture as the Estonian word "jäämägi" (ice mountain). Icebergs are chunks of ice that have broken off from the edges of glaciers or ice shelves. Icebergs range from small ‘growlers’ and ‘bergy bits to over 75 metres in height and hold 87% of its mass underwater. They range in colour from virgin white, blue, green to striped ones with streaks of black, grey or algae-green and are highly unstable rolling in the ocean, breaking apart and emitting a variety of eerie noises.
One of the tallest bergs on record was spotted in 1958 in the north Atlantic at 168 metres (551 ft.) above sea level or the height of a 55 storey building. ‘Ice shelves’ are enormous floating platforms of ice found in Ellesmere Island, Canada, Greenland and Antarctica ranging from 100 to 1,000 metres in thickness and can be thousands of square kilometres in area. The Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica is bigger in area at 487,000 sq. km. than the island of Newfoundland (405,720 km.). Glaciers cover 10% of land on earth and store 75% of the world’s freshwater. In Iceland many glaciers lie on top of volcanoes.
About 40,000 mid to large size icebergs calve off Greenland annually. The West Greenland Current carries icebergs northward hugging the coastline of Baffin Bay before descending into Davis Strait and the Labrador Current, obviously a route that can only be travelled when the sea isn’t frozen and why it may take an iceberg 2 years to arrive at the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Only a few hundred would make it to the Grand Banks and the average iceberg weight for this area is 100,000 - 200,000 tons - picture a cubic 15 storey building. Polar icebergs have been seen on rare occasions as far south as Bermuda, a distance of 1,373 kilometres south of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Whether originating in the Arctic or Antarctica most icebergs melt away by the time they reach 40 degrees north or south latitude.
Many ships have had collisions or near collisions with icebergs but no shipwreck is as legendary as the Titanic sinking and the loss of 1,517 lives, including the life of Captain Edward Smith in the early hours of April 15, 1912. The Titanic is a grand story about an opulent vessel grazing an iceberg and being plunged into the abyss of darkness. Question is how could it have gone so wrong: Captain Edward Smith a safety-conscious navigator ignored iceberg warnings; it was a moonless night; disorganization in the radio operators quarters; no passenger safety evacuation drills; a shortage of lifeboats; how could an unsinkable vessel sink?
Harland & Wolff’s meeting Minutes (the shipyard in Belfast that built the ship between 1909 - 1911) state time-constraints pushed it to purchase rivets of wrought-iron to secure the bow and stern haul seams from uncertified suppliers rather than steel ones, those used in the centre haul. Metallic evidence from forensic diving expeditions proved the rivets to be substandard and suggest they were pried loose when the Titanic scraped the side of the iceberg. This theory alleges that sturdier rivets in the bow’s haul seam might have at least reduced the number of compartments that ripped apart and filled with water. (What Really Sank the Titanic - Jennifer Hooper Mccarty & Tim Foecke)
After the Titanic sank an International Ice Patrol was organized in 1914 and working together with Canadian Ice Services it issues a daily analysis of iceberg activity in the North American area. Much has changed in marine navigation and safety over the past 100 years, changes borne from the Titanic disaster.
On March 31, 2012 in Belfast, Ireland on the Titanic’s shipyard site, an elaborate building ‘Titanic Belfast’ opened affording visitors the opportunity to relive the entire Titanic story.
Moon not to blame for Titanic sinking - Part II