Opinion

MITCHELL'S MUSINGS: Meanwhile, 100 years later

I’ve been reading about the Titanic lately, which is curious because I haven’t sought out the subject on purpose by any means.

The subject first surfaced in a Reuters story in The Vancouver Sun on Wednesday and then again in an Associated Press story on Thursday.

It made me wonder why such an ancient subject would get such attention and then it struck me. The Titanic went down on April 15, 1912 so the 100th anniversary of its demise is right around the corner, prepare for the media onslaught now, in fact as I found out this week, it’s already underway.

The AP story was about yet another mapping of the Titanic’s resting place 375 miles south of Newfoundland, apparently the results of the sonar exercise will be shown on the History Channel on, you guessed it, April 15.

The Reuters story I found much more fascinating. It was stating, after all these years, 100 of them apparently, that a scientific study is pointing to a new culprit in the search for who to blame for the sinking of the unsinkable ship on its maiden voyage.

It’s the moon.

The cruise ship industry, which has been having a bit of a string of bad luck lately, might want to check into this theory a little closer.

Now the moon’s a familiar culprit for falling in love, acting crazy when it’s full, and having some kind of strange allure and pull on us that isn’t totally explainable, but sinking ocean liners? Isn’t that a bit much?

Well, possibly, not so much.

You see, a team of forensic astronomers (I’m not totally sure what they do but I picture that they would have similar characteristics to the guys on Big Bang Theory) at Texas State University have studied a speculation that in January of 1912 the moon had made an unusually close approach (happens every 1,400 years apparently) to Earth causing much higher tides than normal.

So what? – you might be saying.

Well, apparently, at the very same time the moon and sun were lined up in an odd way that increased the gravitational pull – throw in a full moon in close proximity and you apparently have an astronomical anomaly of historical proportions that would have the potential to cause massive tides that could conceivably dislodge and carry much more enormous than usual icebergs from Greenland into the shipping channels of the day.

Still with me?

This, say the scientists, could explain why Captain Edward Smith, a most experienced and knowledgeable seaman who knew the North Atlantic route as good as anyone, apparently disregarded iceberg warnings. He’d been there, done that, well, plus, you know, this was the Titanic and it is unsinkable.

Right.

But, according to these calculations, the captain would have no reason to believe that the moon and the sun and the Earth had decided to gang up on him and his ship by sending, well, Titanic-sized icebergs to greet him and his doomed passengers.

Fascinating stuff. It kind of lets the captain off the hook, albeit a few years late, but to me the other more interesting thing is that we’re still studying this larger-than-life tragedy 100 years later and, perhaps, it’s taken that long, and maybe longer, to get to the full truth.

It makes you wonder what’s still to be discovered about more recent tragedies, and conspiracy theories aside, just how long it will take to get to a more complete version of the truth. Maybe a mere 100 years.

- glenn@vernonmorningstar.com

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