A Study Has Found: Is the moon to blame for sinking the Titanic?

The Titanic leaving Belfast to start her trials, pulled by tugs, shortly before her disastrous maiden voyage of April 1912.

Presenting the first installment of Metro’s brand new roundup of the day’s pop-science news, A Study Has Found. Stick with us for all of the sensationalized science you can handle!

The sinking of the Titanic in the freezing Atlantic Ocean is one of the most well known events of the 20th century. A massive iceberg went undetected by the ship’s crew until it was too late — causing a disaster that claimed the lives of 1,500 people.

But was there something other than human detection and a natural-occurring iceberg? A new report published in Sky & Telescope magazine suggests the moon could have played a major role in the events of that night, according to astronomers from Texas State University-San Marcos.

Apparently, a unique lunar event took place on Jan. 4, 1912, the night the Titanic sank. An extremely rare “spring tide” was happening, causing the moon to move unusually close to the Earth — the closest it had been in 1,400 years (and coming within six minutes of a full moon). Additionally, the Earth’s closest approach to the sun occurred just the day before — an coincidence so rare, it’s baffled astronomers.

Now, to the iceberg: Researchers found that the higher tides caused by these happenings led to icebergs traveling at a faster rate from Greenland. Typically, icebergs become lodged as they move, unable to drift on until they melt. However, the high tides let icebergs dislodge and move into southbound ocean currents, possible putting them right in the path of the Titanic.

“As icebergs travel south, they often drift into shallow water and pause along the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland. But an extremely high spring tide could refloat them, and the ebb tide would carry them back out into the Labrador Current where the icebergs would resume drifting southward,” said researcher Donald Olson. “That could explain the abundant icebergs in the spring of 1912. We don’t claim to know exactly where the Titanic iceberg was in January 1912—nobody can know that–but this is a plausible scenario intended to be scientifically reasonable.”

Of course, it’s well documented that the Titanic moved full speed ahead, despite warnings of ice in front of it. But this new research could prove that a critical lunar factor was also at play, making the sinking a truly fateful event.

In other science news…

  • Psychologist have found that women don’t find men with beards as attractive as clean-shaved men. What do our facial-haired friends have to say about this?
  • The urban legend that a penny dropped from a skyscraper could kill whoever it lands on turns out to be a myth! A ballpoint pen, though, is another story.
  • Researchers found that certain types of music could influence racism in students. Bruce Springsteen was one artist whose music led students to favor white people over other races. Find out the other musicians are here.


  • Science proves
    that women enjoy seeing men upset — but only because they’re glad they’re sharing their feelings. What’s love without communication?


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