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  • Writer's picturePaul Amirault

The Iceberg that Sank Titanic

You've probably seen lots of pics online of "the iceberg that sank Titanic." But are any of them "the real deal?" Find out here!

Here's an interesting blog article from Scientific American about the science of icebergs. It includes photos of three different 'bergs thought to have been THE ONE that sank Titanic. Sharp eyed readers will notice I chose Suspect #3 for my book's cover art (pictured above).

My reasoning for this was two-fold.

First, the photo was taken by one of the initial ships on the scene after the disaster. The Russian steamer Birma arrived just as the rescue ship Carpathia was picking up the last Titanic survivors. And after Carpathia steamed off towards New York, the Russian ship resumed its east-bound journey, while specifically trying to locate the navigational menace that had sent Titanic to the bottom.

The Birma Iceberg

Birma's first officer took photographs of several icebergs in the area, although particular attention was paid to this one—it was photographed from both the front and the back. And since the general consensus of Birma's crew was that it had been the one that caused the disaster, these photos were later released to the press. (The British paper, the Daily Sketch, published the picture accompanying the Scientific American article, while another paper, the Daily Telegraph, printed the photo taken on the opposite side—which is the view the east-bound Titanic would have had of it.)

Another Clue?

Also—and although I'm certainly no expert—the right side of the iceberg in the Daily Sketch photo—the side that would have been closest to the passing Titanic—appears asymmetrical and "shaved down”—which could perhaps be evidence of the collision.

The Same Iceberg Was Also Photographed From The Rescue Ship, Carpathia

As further evidence of the Birma crew's contention, the same iceberg was photographed at the scene of the sinking by two different Carpathia passengers. The first photo was taken by Louis M. Ogden at dawn on the morning of April 15th, while the rescue of Titanic passengers was still underway, and presumably, the memories of survivors were still fresh. Later that morning, the same iceberg was also photographed by Mabel Fenwick, although the 'berg in Fenwick's shot is farther away and less distinct.

Titanic Eyewitnesses Corroborate

Additionally, Birma’s selection of the probable culprit dovetails nicely with Titanic survivor accounts. The crewmembers who’d gotten a good look at the iceberg consistently described it as having two prominent peaks—the tallest of which was nearest the ship. In fact, Titanic's ’s lookout Frederick Fleet (pictured, photo courtesy of Library of Congress), who was the first to sound the alarm from the crow’s nest, later personally sketched the ‘berg for Titanic researchers. His drawing depicts a similar shape to the one found in the Birma photo.

Another crewman, Joseph Scarrott, didn't witness the collision itself, but thereafter rushed to Titanic's starboard railing to get a glimpse of the deadly mountain of ice as it retreated behind the ship. He described the 'berg's highest peak as resembling a smaller version of the Rock of Gibraltar, when viewed from a specific place (Europa Point). One only has to do a quick Google Maps search to see the dramatic angle of the peak Scarrott was referencing.

And while several other candidates for THE Titanic iceberg have surfaced over the years (other ships arriving later fingered different 'bergs), Birma's is the only one that even comes close to both matching Scarrot's description*, and also approximating the dramatic, angular peak so clearly visible in Google photos from Europa Point. For that reason alone, it should be considered above all others

However, for me it basically boils down to another key factor…

Location, Location, Location

As a TV documentary producer who’s spoken to lots of cops (and worked on a number of crime shows over the years), I keep coming back to that well-established principle behind any successful homicide investigation. In order to solve a crime, cops must answer a crucial question: Did the prime suspect have the motive and opportunity to commit the crime?

And although motive is clearly not relevant in the case of the Titanic iceberg, "opportunity" certainly is. What opportunity means to cops is basically, can it be proven that the suspect was at the scene of the crime?

And the truth is, every other suspected Titanic iceberg falls short of this criteria.

Except Birma’s.

*One contender iceberg from the Scientific American article, the so-called Prinz Adalbert, has a similar peak to Gibraltar's, although the very evidence used by its promoters—a supposed streak of red "paint" at its base (presumably the result of the collision with Titanic)—rules it out because Scarrott insisted that the White Star Liner had hit the iceberg's highest peak, not its lowest.

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Paul Amirault is a television producer, writer, and long-time Titanic buff. His first book, The Man Who Sent the SOS: A Memoir of Reincarnation and the Titanic, details his past-life memories from 1912.

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