Acquitting the Iceberg

Titanica!

Prologue : The Greatest Shipwreck of all Time ::

Titanic Iceberg

  • On April 15th, 1912, the White Star liner Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank. More than 1,500 people died.
  • On 29th May, 1914, following a collision in the Saint Lawrence River with a Norwegian collier, the Empress of Ireland sank. 1,012 people died.
  • On May 7th  1915 the Lusitania was torpedoed off the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse and sunk. 1,198 people died
  • On July 25th, 1915, the Great Lakes excursion steamer Eastland turned turtle while loading with too many passengers at the pier in the Chicago River. 1,810 people died.
  • On January 30th, 1945, the Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed and sank. “More than 5,000 people” died.
  • On April 16th, 1945, the Goya was torpedoed and sunk. 7,000 people died.
  • In May 1945, the Cap Arcona was sunk by dive-bombers. 5,000 people died.
  • On 20th December 1987 the Philippine inter-island ferry Dona Paz collided with a small coastal oil tanker. In the resulting explosion and fire, 4,386 people died
  • On 7th April 1990, the Scandinavia Star caught fire (the action of an arsonist). 158 people died.
  • On September 28, 1994, the ferry Estonia (following a faulty door) sank. 852 people died.
  • In September 2002, the overloaded Le Joola turned turtle in a storm. “Over 1,800” people died.

If we judge the gravity of a disaster at sea by the number of people who died, the loss of the Titanic falls short of deserving the dubious distinction of being The Greatest Shipwreck of all Time and yet, somehow, that failed trans-Atlantic liner that never crossed an ocean, and whose career lasted only five days, has captured the imaginations of millions across the world. One might be forgiven for believing there isn’t a single person on the planet who has not heard of the Titanic and who does not know all the facts surrounding its loss.

However, there is a worm eating away at the Titanic apple and it is this …. when most of the "facts" everyone knows about the Unsinkable Ship and the disaster that sank it are scrutinized, it is (quickly) discovered that many of them are not facts at all, but myths and legends and – in some notable cases – outright and very deliberate lies. The Titanic may well be one of the most written about subjects (even if it isn’t the greatest maritime disaster), but it is, too, one about which a vastly disproportionate number of myths and lies have been (and, sadly, continue to be) peddled as “Truth” despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And maybe the most surprising and controversial of all is the fact that the chunk of ice the ship ran into did not sink it.

It is time to acquit the iceberg.

Titanic 1 Empress of Ireland
TITANIC LUSITANIA EMPRESS OF IRELAND
Eastland Goya
EASTLAND WILHELM GUSTLOFF GOYA
Cap Arcona Dona Paz Scandinavian Star
CAP ARCONA DOÑA PAZ SCANDINAVIAN STAR
Estonia Le Joola
ESTONIA LE JOOLA

 

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Peter Elverhøi

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