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Was the Titanic sunk due to a 'mirage' caused by freak weather?

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As we near the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, there is an Interesting theory being put out by Tim Maltin and soon to be featured in a documentary, "Titanic: Case Closed", being screened on the National Geographic Channel, at 8pm on April 10:

One of the world's foremost experts on the doomed passenger liner has discovered evidence a "mirage" was the cause of the famous crash.


Tim Maltin spent six years scouring previously unseen records and the results will be shown on television in an upcoming documentary, Titanic: Case Closed.

He believes a "haze" created by air currents caused the optical illusion - similar to the blur seen on a road during a warm day.Mr Maltin analysed previously unseen weather records taken from more than 75 ship's logs from the week the liner sunk on 15th April 1912, killing more than 1,500 people. He found that a unique set of weather conditions caused an abnormal bending of light known as "super refraction."

Despite the absolutely clear conditions that night, the mirage horizon camouflaged the iceberg and caused the lookouts to spot it too late on the ship's maiden voyage from England to New York. Historian and author Mr Maltin says the illusion would also have disguised the emergency flares sent up by the ship's doomed crew from the vision of the nearby SS Californian.

He said: "For years Titanic's lookouts were not believed when they said the iceberg came out of a haze on that clear night, but now we know they were telling the truth. "My research reconciles much previously unreconciled testimony and reveals that Titanic sank at the centre of a perfect storm of atmospheric conditions.


"In the past there has been various theories, such as the captain was drunk or the ship's steel was not good enough, but they have all been disproved. "It's nice to know that so many lives were not lost simply as a result of avoidable human mistake, but that it was a set of circumstances so peculiar that the crew were caught out." The theory was first raised during a British government enquiry in 1992, but the possibilty was never fully explored.

Mr Maltin, 39, travelled all over the world to analyse weather records, survivor accounts, and ship logs from 1912. He found that the cold water of the Labrador Current had only recently arrived at Titanic's crash site, cooling the warm air of the Gulf Stream, from the bottom up. This created a strong thermal inversion, where warm air lies above cold air and causes light to bend.

To the Titanic's lookouts, the horizon would have appeared higher than normal and disguised the iceberg's outline. Mr Maltin, from Marlborough, Wilts, added: "Several of the log books I found recorded miraging and abnormal refraction, which are common in cold water areas, such as the Labrador Current. "The warm air higher up also caused Titanic's distress rockets to appear low to the SS Californian and scramble the Morse Code signal, adding to the confusion about what was seen."

The documentary, Titanic: Case Closed, will be screened on the National Geographic Channel, at 8pm on April 10. Mr Maltin's latest book, A Very Deceiving Night, sheds new light on the disaster and claims to reveal the true cause of the tragedy.


Unusually high-pressure weather also played a part in the tragedy, according to Mr Maltin. ‘A weather chart of the North Atlantic from April 1912 reveals that the Titanic actually sank right in the centre of a 1,035-millibar Arctic high. ‘To put that into context, that is the highest pressure anywhere in the northern hemisphere. ‘So this menacing Arctic high which built up over the North Pole swung down and zeroed in on Titanic's crash site. ‘It's almost as though the Titanic sank in a killing zone of nature where all these dangerous elements combined to make it fatal.’



Location of the sinking:


According to the Meteological service of Canada the Titanic tragedy is also ranked as the third-biggest weather story of the 20th century and has caused meteorologists like David Howells of England to understand what happened "weatherwise" on that fateful trip.

Howells found from studying maps that along most of its route, the Titanic's first and only voyage probably had fine weather. The passengers probably enjoyed light winds and mild temperatures on their first three days. But on its last night, the Titanic hit a cold front coming off Canada. The temperature dropped from about 43 Fahrenheit to near freezing. The northwest winds behind the front also helped to steer a giant ice field toward the ill-fated ship.

Finally, at 20 minutes before midnight, the ship hit an iceberg that might have weighed up to 300,000 tons. The ship's hull was torn open. There were too few life rafts for all of the people on board and the temperature of the water, owing to the salt in it, was very cold. Salt helps lower the freezing point of water, and the North Atlantic Ocean that night was a frigid 28 degrees-- 4 degrees below freezing.

More than 1500 people died as the ship sank, but one good thing happened later that year. An international ice patrol was formed to scan the seas and help keep other ships from the icy fate that doomed the Titanic.



During the entire voyage the weather was clear, with the single exception of 10 minutes of fog, and the sea was calm throughout the voyage, with sunshine the whole of each day and bright starlight every night. No untoward incident marred the trip. Greetings were frequently exchanged with passing vessels by appropriate signals.


On the third day out ice warnings were received by the wireless operators on the Titanic, and the testimony is conclusive that at least three of these warnings came direct to the commander of the Titanic on the day the accident, the first about noon, from the Baltic, of the White Star Line. It will be noted that this message places icebergs within five miles of the track which the Titanic was following, and near the place were the accident occurred. The message from the commander of the Baltic is as follows

STEAMSHIP "BALTIC," April 14, 1912.

Capt. SMITH, Titanic:

Have had moderate variable winds and clear fine weather since leaving. Greek steamer Athinai reports passing icebergs and large quantity of field ice today in latitude 41.51 north, longitude 49.52 west. Last night we spoke German oil tank Deutschland, Stettin to Philadelphia, not under control; short of coal; latitude 40.42 north, longitude 55.11. Wishes to be reported to New York and other steamers. Wish you and Titanic all success.



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